Vol 36(2) - 'Alert but Not Alarmed'
This issue’s cover image comes from Shaun Tan — artist, illustrator, animator and theatre designer. Shaun has been honoured many times, including presentation of an Academy Award for best short film, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s literature. He is well-known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. Here, Shaun explains his cover painting
This is an illustration for a story, first published in an anthology Tales from Outer Suburbia, describing a government program that encourages every suburban family to look after an intercontinental ballistic missile in their own backyard (washing, waxing, checking oil levels and other easy maintenance). The official intention is twofold: to relieve pressure on arms storage facilities and offer the tax-paying public an opportunity to feel directly involved in national defence. Unexpectedly, people begin to subvert the program over time, gradually at first by painting the missiles in personally-appealing colours, and later converting them into kennels, cubby houses, wood sheds and pizza ovens — or nesting spots for wild parrots, as we see in the painting.
This idea was actually inspired by a story told to me by a Lebanese taxi driver in Auckland, recounting how a dud missile fell in his neighbourhood, in the middle of the street, unexploded (he claimed this was not uncommon). Locals towed it away, cut it up and made a fair bit of money out of the parts and scrap metal. This got me thinking more broadly about how the ambitions of a government and those of its citizens can often be completely at odds, particularly when it comes to matters of war.