"With Enough Shovels"
“If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody's going to make it [in a nuclear war].”
In his installation comprised of seven shovels, Brian Dailey parodies a 1982 statement by a Deputy Undersecretary for Defense whose much-ridiculed prescription for surviving a nuclear attack can be summed up by the title of this work, "With Enough Shovels." The official’s solution for outliving an atomic bomb—digging and hiding in holes covered with three-feet of dirt—unmasks the naiveté of misguided officials tasked with planning our country’s nuclear strategy.
In a sly nod to Marcel Duchamp’s famous readymade, In Advance of a Broken Arm, this conceptual piece appropriating seven ordinary, mass-manufactured shovels—one for each continent—interjects a wry wit into iconographies of nuclear warfare and associated discourses. The Duchampian gesture is evident not only through the affinity in form (shovels) but also in Dailey’s creation of meaning through the juxtaposition of selected objects and the assigned title.
Stenciled in black on the vertical shaft of each shovel handle is the population of the corresponding continent, underscoring the need for what the artist points out would be “one hell of a lot of shovels” to accomplish this unorthodox survival plan. The incongruity of the one snow shovel for Antarctica amidst the row of dirt shovels provides an ironic twist, leaving the viewer to imagine how igloo bomb shelters—and those relying on them for protection—would fare under a radioactive fallout. With this installation, Dailey highlights the maladroit and facile manner in which some politicians and policy makers deal with such serious issues as nuclear strategy and, in this context, civil defense and “preparedness.”