Carrot-Bomb Art Project Bombs in Sweden

Not the best idea:

The carrot bombs had been placed around the city at the request of a local art gallery, as part of an open-air arts festival.

They had only been in place for an hour before police received their first call.

"We received a call ... from a person who said they saw two real bombs placed outside the public library," Ronny Hoerman from the Orebro police force, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

"It was hard to tell if they were real or not. We find this inappropriate," he said.

Mr Blom described it as a harmless stunt.

"After all, it is just carrots with an alarm clock and nothing else... this is just a caricature of a bomb," he said.

Posted on June 17, 2009 at 6:49 AM • 62 Comments

Comments

a.nonJune 17, 2009 7:47 AM

This actually strikes me as very interesting. Dunno if it was the artist's intention, but the reactions of people to the clearly cartoonish faux-bombs should be considered art in and of itself.

Not only was it a caricature of a bomb, but the "audience participation" nicely created a caricature of our fear-crippled society.

Frank Ch. EiglerJune 17, 2009 7:50 AM

Perhaps someday the "artists" and fans like "a.non" will grow up and stop creating mean-spirited disruption for its entertainment value.

A nonny bunnyJune 17, 2009 7:50 AM

Unless explosive material can easily be made to look like carrots, I don't see the problem. Carrots do not generally explode.
And anything that looks remotely like a bomb probably isn't anyway; because terrorist try not to draw attention to their bombs and disguise or hide them.

McDuffJune 17, 2009 8:05 AM

The reaction of the Swedish police seems to be much more tempered by reality than other police forces. It seems they know they're not real bombs (and are not trying to prosecute anybody for spurious terrorism charges) and are simply annoyed that they have to devote investigative resources to something obviously fake.

QerJune 17, 2009 8:12 AM

Well, Sweden hasn't had a terrorist attack for about 100 years so there's really no need for panic. That people react this strong over a bunch of carrots is, I think, more the result of the news trying to enhance the terror threat to sell more rather than any rational reason for fear.

So I definitely find the public response more interesting than the art itself. Clearly, someone wanting to blow something up doesn't put a Hollywood caricature bomb in plain sight like this.

Nick PJune 17, 2009 8:23 AM

I guess its another example of how the public really have no idea what a real bomb looks like.

So when presented with a cartoonesque movie version - sticks of something with wires and a large timer - they instantly assume the worse.

Pete HillierJune 17, 2009 8:37 AM

This is a social commentary project, disguised as an art project to protect the participants, nothing more. They should be held accountable.

AelricJune 17, 2009 8:43 AM

The problem is the people are told repeatedly to report anything suspicious or unusual. Well, a bunch of carrots with wires and clock would qualify for the unusual part of that.

It's kind of like when a user reports a possible virus on their computer. You can't just ignore it; you have to take the time to look at it. Normally it's a waste of your time, but you still have to look because a small percentage of the time it's a valid concern.

GeorgeJune 17, 2009 8:43 AM

It had a very sinister appearance, it had a battery behind it, and wires.

AnonymousJune 17, 2009 9:02 AM

@George

It looked like a cartoon bomb. If that is sinister then I think we finally know why WB stopped making those funny cartoons with animals being blown up/shot/poisoned/etc.

In hindsight, perhaps panic is driving history.

BryanJune 17, 2009 9:03 AM

The artist isn't the one who wasted the police's time, the caller is. When will society learn to stop fearing and misidentifying everyday items such as batteries, wires, LEDs, clocks, tape, electronics, cd players, tape despensers, hot dogs and watches as explosives?

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/09/...
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/02/...
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/07/...
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/02/...
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/09/...
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/01/...

It's obvious people's ideas of what a bomb looks like come strictly from cartoons and movies. The only thing they probably won't recognize is a real bomb. I think those of you trying to blame the artist are living in irrational fear and you're the type likely to waste resources by reporting these non-threats.

Magnus ReftelJune 17, 2009 9:04 AM

According to the Swedish Radio web site (http://www.sr.se/cgi-bin/orebro/nyheter/artikel.asp?artikel=2902205 , in Swedish), the police had been informed in advance.

I think the carrot bombs was a good idea. It shows that the terrorism reporting has made people so scared that they even fear carrots.

The SaintJune 17, 2009 9:04 AM

This art project was carried previously in other cities like the Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. The artist has a web site for "The Bunny Project" http://www.connyblom.com/bunnyproject.html

Here's a quote from the about page:

"In “Bunny Project” I use the rabbit as symbol for subversive activities, activities outside the reach of the control system. The rabbit has an almost unmatched ability to reproduce and spread uncontrollably and given the right conditions it can be almost impossible to stop."

Sounds like the image we have of terrorists all right.

JohnJune 17, 2009 9:39 AM

The stunt strikes me as stupid, not funny and not art.

Would that our own police showed the good sense of the Swedish police to this bit of nonsense provocation.

Gosh. How dumb can people get?

Pun BunnyJune 17, 2009 9:47 AM

I must lament the lack of puns here. Here's some obvious ones to choose from:

* Exploding with flavour
* Digestible pyrotechnics
* Dynamite eating

One might also muse that such a device might be useful when facing a killer rabbit while short on Holy Hand Grenades.

kangarooJune 17, 2009 10:05 AM

Oh Noes!!! Someone's time's been wasted! How terrible...

My time was wasted by reading the humorless comments here. I think that's much worse than distracting a cop from one more donut run.

Clive RobinsonJune 17, 2009 10:19 AM

@ Nick P,

"I guess its another example of how the public really have no idea what a real bomb looks like."

I sincerly hope the public do not have an idea of what a bomb looks like as it is a preconception that could cause them to dismiss a real bomb as it does not look like their preconception.

Also the point of most IEDs is to hide them, so a bomb could look like anything...

Even,

"a cartoonesque movie version"

In N.I the Provisional IRA used to hide anti personel devices under bits of army issue kit like water bottles. This was hoping that a squadie new to the province would make the false assumption that one of their fellow soldiers had droped it and would pick it up and thereby detonate the device.

DavidJune 17, 2009 10:25 AM

@Pete Hillier
I'd describe it a self-promotion project, disguised as a social commentary project, disguised as an art project. We tend to have conventions about what's acceptable in public art, and tasteful, thoughtful art doesn't demand attention from people not inclined to grant it. Same is true of social commentary.

Tacky.

bomb detectorJune 17, 2009 10:42 AM

It must have been a real bomb. The media blew it up, all out of proportion.

Davi OttenheimerJune 17, 2009 10:51 AM

Oh, so many more puns to this story. Perhaps "Witnesses called for help, but police said they couldn't carrot all."

The problem clearly was the clock. A bundle of carrots alone wouldn't have alarmed anyone. It's time we ban those clocks. That should give authorities a hand with this ticking problem.

And so on...

EdT.June 17, 2009 10:51 AM

A nonny bunny: "Unless explosive material can easily be made to look like carrots, I don't see the problem. Carrots do not generally explode."

OTOH, if the devices had used brussel sprouts...

~EdT.

Charles DeckerJune 17, 2009 11:09 AM

Is it true that people can no longer tell a carrot on sight? I mean if it was road flares wrapped in electrical tape with a clock and some wires I'd be giving this a pass. Carrots? Even with the overriding urge of self-preservation to remove myself from an area where what appears to be an explosive device straight from Wylie Coyotes Acme catalog is my curiosity would cause me to at least look at it well enough to provide a description. I'd like to think I'd know a carrot when I see one. Gods have mercy...

Clive RobinsonJune 17, 2009 11:31 AM

@ A nonny bunny,

"Unless explosive material can easily be made to look like carrots, I don't see the problem. Carrots do not generally explode."

Take one block of plastic explosive a knife, an apple corer, cocktail sticks and a large carrot with greenery still attached.

1, With knife slice top off of carrot, about 1cm (2/5s in) from top.

2, With care and the apple corer remove woody center of carrot.

3, With the knife cut off a plug of plastic explosive to fit de-cored carrot, and insert in carrot.

4, Using two or more cocktail stick pushed through the top of the carrot, reatach to the rest of the carrot.

5, Make a few more.

Voile you are the new Vegi-bomber.

SMJune 17, 2009 11:43 AM

I think anything could be used to hide a bomb. The clock is big enough to be filled with explosives or a detonator, also a cilindrical hole could be done along the carrots and filled with explosives. I presume that the damage caused by this kind of explosive will be reduced by the absence of shrapnel. But enough to kill or mutilate like a letter bomb.


Davi OttenheimerJune 17, 2009 11:47 AM

"if the devices had used brussel sprouts"

haha, raw or steamed?

i'm not all that surprised this prank upsets people.

why make people figure out if something meant to look like a bomb is in fact a vegetable? what obvious characteristics could distinguish this thing from a bomb from a safe distance...

i mean is the first step in discovery to take a taste? or does smell and touch go first? what incentive would anyone have to do anything other than stand far away and report it as a suspicious item or a nuisance?

if this was meant to be art, the artist should have had bunny rabbits chewing on the things, or at least people in bunny costumes nearby to answer questions. that would have made the statement more clearly and without the unnecessary alarm.

ChazJune 17, 2009 11:58 AM

@Clive "the new Vegi-bomber"

This might really take off. Green peppers are easier to hollow out. If you want to stick with root vegetables, I'd be much more afraid of a rutabaga than a carrot.

I agree with those who say this is questionable as art, partly because it wasn't displayed as art. In an art museum, properly labeled, such things would cause no comment.

nartJune 17, 2009 12:32 PM

@David at June 17, 2009 10:25 AM

"We tend to have conventions about what's acceptable in public art, and tasteful, thoughtful art doesn't demand attention from people not inclined to grant it.
Same is true of social commentary."

Not all art intends to be tasteful and undemanding of attention. When it is, we call it "decoration".

Social commentary that is tasteful and undemanding of attention is called "ignored".

Just look at the 20th century's history of social commentary and art.

peroniJune 17, 2009 12:36 PM

In every time period, there are some people, sometimes described as artists who are trying to make people decide where the line is that separates art from something else. In some cases they do this by being shocking. The current climate of fear about terrorist attacks makes shocking and scaring people absurdly easy. The perpetrators of "art at the edge" have always been subject to the disaproval, demonstrated in various ways, by the authorities. This is merely today's example

nartneighsayerJune 17, 2009 1:28 PM

What some call art, others call trash. Since art is completely subjective, art is not real.

But this was just a dumb stunt and said more about the person doing it and the people that appreciate it than anything it says about anyone else.

derfJune 17, 2009 3:07 PM

Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffian police can arrest you for a bomb hoax simply because you left something "suspicious" unattended in a public space.

Suspicious items, according to the police who should know better, include backpacks, LED lit advertising signs, and basically anything connected to an alarm clock (digital or analog). Anything with the following words (or abbreviations of those words) would probably also be on the list: ACME, C4, dynamite, explosive, bomb, or boom.

You could make CNN just by accidentally dropping a bottle of Kaboom in a parking lot.

MartinJune 17, 2009 3:25 PM

@Aelric: for as long as I can remember, we (in Sweden) have never been told to report anything suspicious or unusual. You won't find the same kind of paranoia in Sweden as in the USA depicted by this and many other blogs.

I did not see the carrot bombs in question, but would expect a great majority of people in Swedish society who see such a thing to simply smile to themselves and continue with whatever they were doing.

DavidJune 17, 2009 3:44 PM

@nart
You, and a heck of a lot of 20th century activists who've accomplished little more than making noise, missed the crucial word: "public".

In public places, we compromise on expression for the good of the commons. Making stylized bomb threats is not good public art. Decent artists understand the importance of context, and the contract between the artist and the public involves either an explicit or implicit invitation. If the artist isn't invited, it's not art, it's harassment.

ElseJune 17, 2009 5:19 PM

I think this is incredibly funny. Especially the line "It was hard to tell if they were real or not". Because bombs usually do look like they were designed by Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote.

LucitheRJune 17, 2009 5:19 PM

'Not the best idea'.... au contraire, i find it rather illuminating, how some 8 years change the perception of some 'Bugs Bunny'-Bomb (clearly Bugs Bunny...who else would use carrots for it?). And to the Comment somewhere above: 'social commentary' yes...Art is Political...everything else would be feeble kitsch.

mooJune 17, 2009 5:34 PM

@Aelric: "The problem is the people are told repeatedly to report anything suspicious or unusual. "


You've hit the nail on the head, here. We should stop telling people to report anything suspicious or unusual. All it does is DDOS our police forces with bad reports from citizens who can't tell the difference between a couple of carrots and a genuine threat.

I think this thing is brilliant -- it shows how fearful people have become due to media and government hype about the "ever-present threat of terrorism", and at the same time it also shows how useless it is to ask everybody to snitch on everybody else.

bobJune 17, 2009 6:32 PM

I wonder exactly which parts of the carrot-bomb contribute most to it being considered suspicious.

If I saw a bunch of carrots wrapped with twist-ties or white tape, I'd think someone dropped a grocery item. Black tape, and that might change.

Also, would a digital clock have made a difference? What if it were actively counting down?

What if there were a bunch of carrots and some loose wires, but no clock? What if the wires are white (look like twist-ties)? What if the wires are red or green (like movie-plot bombs)?


Tangerine BlueJune 17, 2009 7:45 PM

@George -

I love that sinister batteries and wire quote. I use it often, too.

Thanks for the memories.

Dave GoldbergJune 17, 2009 10:22 PM

@LucitheR Bugs was known for hiding a stick of dynamite in a carrot on occasion. Or was that Elmer trying to blow up Bugs? Time to dig out the old videos.

And, surprised I haven't seen this yet, but YAY it's not just us Bostonians anymore

GweihirJune 18, 2009 12:32 AM

The real lesson here is that ordinary people cannot identify bombs. It should be very easy today to disguise real ones as something harmless, if you indeed want to blow something up. It seems for a scare, you can just rely on the general incompetence and fear of people.

sammyJune 18, 2009 3:05 AM

I think it would have looked funnier if the artist had left the green leaves still attached. Definitely a good and funny hack - reaction from the public was part of the game. One article stated that it was hard to distinguish these carrots from real bombs. Perhaps they should have tasted them?

Clive RobinsonJune 18, 2009 6:45 AM

@ sammy,

"Perhaps they should have tasted them?"

Perhaps you should look up what an "NG Headache" is before you try munching on explosives...

Oh and get used to saying "be still, oh my wildly beating heart".

Nitro Glycerin or "blasting oil" is not just used in dynamite etc, but also in medicine for certain heart conditions.

One of the reasons dynamite was wraped in waxed paper was to stop those handeling it getting NG on their hands. Oh and if you see dynamite or other similar explosive and it has oily beads on the outside that makes it look like it's sweating, best to be somewhere else a long distance away with a degree of urgency but remember don't run, or stamp your feet otherwise it might be the last thing you do...

BF SkinnerJune 18, 2009 7:04 AM

@Larry Seltzer "Diverting first responders is not a harmless stunt"

In order to survive I remember that first responders are the people things happen too...NOT emergency services.
Statistically more people survive when they respond to what happens.


@nartneighsayer - your entire sensory cognition and perception of the world is subjective. Doesn't that make nartneighsayer not real?

DavidJune 18, 2009 10:08 AM

@Dave Goldberg
But in the case of Boston, that was a case of guerrilla advertising and devices planted all over the place that could only be mistaken for a bomb by an overactive imagination. In this case, the devices could be mistaken for a bomb by anyone who didn't get a close look, because they were *supposed* to look like archetypal, cartoon bombs. The only similarity is that both parties were advertising, one impishly, one recklessly.

EdJune 18, 2009 8:36 PM

@clive

I cant really see anyone going to the effort of making carrot bombs like that then blatantly wiring them up to a clock and batteries, surely you would just leave them in a shopping bag with the stuff underneath it or something.

Clive RobinsonJune 19, 2009 3:13 AM

@ Ed,

"I cant really see anyone going to the effort of making carrot bombs like that then blatantly wiring them up to a clock and batteries"

I would agree with your statment as a whole, but IED's can be put in many many things.

A number of people have made comments along the lines of "people should know what a bomb looks like" or "they should know it's a fake bomb".

The point is a bomb can look like anything be in just about anything and if you dismiss it because "it doesn't look like" what you think a bomb should look like then you could be hurt.

Whilst I'm not saying people should see bombs in every object, they should be aware that they can be and use "situational awareness" or what Bruce calls "thinking hinky".

Often a bomb is discovered not because it looks like a bomb but because an object is "out of place" or "doesn't look right".

As an example a black rubbish bag (bin / trash / garbage whatever your local name for it is), if it looks like it's aproximatly ball or pear shaped but slightly randomly lumpy then it will probably not attract the eye.

However if it has a regular shape like it contains a box or a cylinder or some other shape our brains recognise (TV etc) then we stop thinking "rubbish" and start thinking something else.

In all probability it is exactly what it looks like, and sombody has put a bag around it to make it easier to carry or keep dust/rain whatever off of it. But your brain say's hinky and if you are at an elevated threat level then you treat it with suspition and aproach it with caution or give it a wide berth.

A few years ago PIRA put a bomb at the BBC Shepards Bush Center in a London Taxi cab. I know it was driven up from Kew Bridge in the bus lane because I was cycling and it cut me up. I noticed that it had a plate on the back that indicated it was not actualy a 'London Cab' and thought "cheeky git" and cycled rapidly up to it when it had to stop for the round about. I positioned myself so it could not easily get past and looked very deliberatly at the driver. Who was dressed in a funny way with large glasses flat hat pulled low gloves and an odd dearstalker style coat.

My brain screamed hinky at me but I ignored it simply because I remembered that the actor Steven Fry drove around in such a vehical and I thought at the time that most likly it was another actor trying to avoide the paps.

When I got to work in Chiswick I told some of my work colleagues about it (because the Barley Mow area is frequently used for TV and Film production and) I was still steamed up about being cut up.

It was only a few days later when the news said the bomb was in a London Cab of the same colour that I and my work colleages realised who and what I had seen.

SparkyJune 19, 2009 10:42 AM

I think the Swedish police responded exactly the way they should have; they went to check it out, quickly figured out they weren't real without making a big scene, and asked the artist to remove then because they might scare some people, and because littering is illegal.

I'm not whether I feel the artist should be prosecuted; I think it should just be a misdemeanor charge (like littering), but certainly not on terrorism charges.

One could, of course, argue that the bombs couldn't be real, because they were so obviously fake, however, once we start ignoring things that look like cartoon bombs, the best way to hide a bomb in plain sight would be to make it look like one.

averrosJune 21, 2009 3:34 AM

> Well, Sweden hasn't had a terrorist attack for
> about 100 years

Yep, and it would be a very good guess to say that it has something to do with Sweden never sending troops and spooks into remote parts of the world trying to impose democracy on people who don't want it.

What most security experts (especially in military) miss is that the most important step in being secure is to refrain from actively creating and motivating enemies.

RonKJune 22, 2009 12:28 AM

@ averros

Your explanation is so simple! Unfortunate that those Sri Lankans didn't figure it out quicker.....

Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

averrosJune 22, 2009 2:28 AM

RonK -- you may be unaware of the fact that Sri Lankan government is routinely listed by AI, HWS and even US govt among one of the worst where human rights are concerned. They like to have people "disappeared". By hundreds.

While I do not think Tigers of Tamil were pussies or angels, it's hard to argue that they didn't have a cause for their desire to separate.

Terrorism is simply a tactic used by those who are at military disadvantage. Those who have advantage usually resort to slaughtering their enemies with conventional munitions rather than IEDs.

MashiaraJune 22, 2009 6:00 AM

ref Dynamite sweating:

Modern dynamite does not sweat NG like that, I'ts just as safe to handle as any dynamite (which is to say; not very) but you will want to use gloves for reasons stated (NG expands blood vessels, causing drop in blood pressure and depending on you anything from headache to passing out).

A few years ago I did my part (I have a blasters license, specialiced in SFX so I rarely work with dynamite or large charges in general) in disposing of some 60kg of expired polish made dynamite which was visibly sweating, had no problems.

In fact it was rather fun, since the method of disposal was at our consideration (like making chains of 2kg free-air charges with 500ms delay in between) and we have a deal with a quarry so we have a very handy space for all kinds of FX testing and disposal work.

(as a note; there is also an official way of disposing explosives that does not involve detonating them, but it's boring and takes forever. on the plus side: you can do it on your backyard without any special permissions from the Police et co as long as you have the blasters license)

JessJune 30, 2009 10:11 PM

All the comments about IEDs:

If you don't live in Baghdad, you shouldn't make security decisions as if you do. That is, it would be understandable if a PTSD-suffering soldier reacted poorly to such bundles of carrots. It certainly would not be rational for a non-veteran citizen or a police officer to react the way you propose.

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