German police raided Swiss French artist Julian Charrière’s studio last Wednesday after learning he had a cannon in his possession, Isaac Kaplan of Artsy reports. Titled The Purchase of the South Pole, the one-ton weapon was created for the inaugural Antarctic Biennale, which kicks off on March 17. Even though the cannon was designed to shoot a single coconut, the authorities confiscated the artwork and used a crane to haul it off to a storage facility.
The police were tipped off about the work by a passerby who saw Charrière’s assistant assembling it outside the studio. Charrière said that people in Berlin have been afraid since the December terror attack on a Christmas market that killed at least a dozen people. The raid occurred only hours before the work was going to be shipped to the Antarctic. While the artist is currently trying to recover the piece, it won’t make an appearance in the biennial. Instead, Charrière will exhibit documentation of the police raid.
An 1889 novel by Jules Verne, in which a sinister corporation schemes to fire a cannon from the North Pole that would melt the polar ice caps, served as inspiration for the piece. The coconut that Charrière was going to fire was taken from the Bikini Atoll, where the United States detonated twenty-three nuclear weapons between 1946 and 1958.
Nadim Samman, a cocurator of the biennale, said, “Charrière’s project likens the prospect of climate change to a weapon whose devastating results may surpass even our worst munitions in the long run. In light of the sculpture’s confiscation by the police, it seems that the work also taps into other—more commonplace—security paranoias.”