Mercifully, few among us can imagine what it is like to look at a human target through the sight of a Heckler & Koch G36 battle rifle, much less what it is like to be that human target. To give us a better sense, Regina José Galindo has set up a room inside Kassel’s Stadtmuseum (City Museum) and has placed, at each of its four corners, a G36 aimed inside the room. During Documenta, the artist is doing regular performances in the space, and visitors are meant to heft the rifles onto their shoulders and view her through the rifles’ sights, where she is framed in red crosshairs. After each performance, José Galindo invites visitors to enter the space themselves and be viewed through those same sights.
The piece is all the more effective—and terrifying—for its placement just outside the portion of the Stadtmuseum that deals with Kassel’s history during Word War II, when its factories manufactured much of the arms that were used by the Nazis. During the war, the Allied Forces summarily bombed the city, killing 10,000 of its residents. Housed in the museums are fragments of bombs, uniforms, and a banner emblazoned with a swastika, from the collection of an American soldier who picked it up in 1945.