In America, we love our advertising. So much so that when a vessel that's ordinarily used to assault our eyeballs with neon-colored laundry detergent advocacy suddenly stops trying to sell stuff to us, we immediately assume that the terrorists are finally at our door.
Hyperallergic reports on the sadly unsurprising public outcry surrounding artist Daniel R. Small's billboard art project Pending Cipher for the Open Present, for which he installed images of the biblical Ten Commandments written in "a fabricated language derived from Cypriot Greek and a form of paleo Hebrew" overlaid on stills from The Ten Commandments, the 1956 film. (Small's work was part of a larger multi-artist collaboration called the Manifest Destiny Billboard Project.)
"I've seen the billboards," said Las Crucen Craig Melton, who delivers business supplies to Lordsburg, Silver City and Deming as many as three times a week. "It's pretty weird. I've been trying to figure out what it is, what it means.
"I was beginning to wonder if it was some kind of threat or warning. You never know, we're close to the border and you think that ISIS or some other subversives might be trying to get at us."
(To be fair, another resident who identified as a "huge fan of contemporary art and contemporary art projects" said the billboards are "absolutely fabulous.")
Small told Hyperallergic that when one billboard was being installed, a group of locals surrounded the workers, "shouting obscenities and claiming that the billboards were either Satanic or Islamic."
Another commenter wrote that the art makes him "feel like I'm back in Afghanistan when I see it," and suggested an alternative: "How about putting up the ten commandments all over the US..."
Which, of course, is exactly what the artist was doing.