December 16, 2006

Faked mortar attack on the Humanities Building.

These aren't offered as decent photographs, but just as a record of what seems to be a sort of art (or film) project worked out on the Humanities Building, here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Faked mortar attack on the humanities building

Faked mortar attack on the humanities building

At the area at the top, where there is a pedestrian walkway, there are fake sandbags piled up. Behind the "sandbags" is some sort of (fake) mortar firing device. In front of them, on the sloping wall, is a fake mortar sort of thing, given the appearance of penetrating into the building. There are various chalk markings on the wall to make it look as if there had been an attack. I have no idea what the point of this is. I just saw it and photographed it. As you make your interpretations, take into account that there have been various fool-the-eye chalk drawings on this building, which houses the art school.

IN THE COMMENTS: Is that a mortar or a rocket? Those who seem to know say rocket. I realize I don't know the difference. And I did try to figure it out before posting, so it just goes to show that you can't get all your answers from the internet. But I did find this book, a fun book for kids, which contains instructions for making a "tennis ball mortar," which involves PVC tubing and lighter fluid in a tennis ball. I love the instructions, which tells you to be very careful, be sure to have adult supervision, and know that there is absolutely no way you can sue the author or publisher.


Paul Zrimsek said...

In order for those bricks to work your oeil would have to want very badly to be tromped.

SGT Ted said...

ACtually, the "mortar" looks like a dud rocket that has stuck in the structure; the 3 fins on the end are not what a mortar has.

Anonymous said...

They're not very good at it, are they? How much does it cost to send your children to art school at UW? They should get that guy you showed before with the chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

It's just not that difficult.

altoids1306 said...

Hey, and let live. They're art students. For most of them, this will be their last chance to feel and act superior.

Dick Eagleson said...

Before we get all down on the supposed art students, let's make sure this wasn't done by, say, some J-School students practicing for deployment to Lebanon or Iraq.

Just saying.

nvittal said...

It's clever - though it's far from the real ones out there killing hundreds of people!!
God bless America!

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Drill SGT said...

as SGT Ted said, your headline should be

Faked Rocket Attack. The sort of thing that happens in Northern Israel.

Trust me. a mortar round produces a hole in earth about 6-12 inches deep with a 4-6 each tail fin laying near the hole. 82mm mortar that is. On concrete like that, you'd get a 1 inch deep scratch and the tail fin somewhere around.

a real rocket would produce a deeper crater, maybe 2 foot, IF it went off. a dud rocker would break up not penetrate concrete. 122mm rockets, called Katyuska's (Soviet in history) were/are the favored artillery of our enemies (NVA) now Hizbollah. very inaccurate when launched even under good conditions, basically a terror weapon.

Of course nobody in your art department ever heard a shot fired in anger, nor are any of their instructors veterans, nor apparently can they use the INTERNET either. Give somebody a poor grade for this one.

The Drill SGT said...

We stumbled on job interviews.

I think it's folks trying to get jobs as AP photographers. The outdoor practicum. Part of the interview process. I bet they're now all inside taking the Photoshop faking exam now. :)

G said...

I hear Kevin Barrett says the attack was a Bush/Rove conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

Drill sgt beat me to it. Those marks look like someone stood 6 feet off the ground and blasted a 12 guage shotgun at the concrete. If they were trying to simulate a mortar or rocket attack all those art students had to do was google for a short while.

As a clarification mortars DO have fins - they must to stabilize their flight or there would be no way to aim them. But sgt ted is right - that thing sticking out of the ground is definitely a rocket, not a mortar.

Common mortar shells:

rhodeymark1 said...

The first thing I thought was "disgruntled Pittsburgh fans".

Ann Althouse said...

On the rocket or mortar question: I actually tried to figure this out before posting. I don't know the difference, but I did check out some pictures and descriptions. What exactly is the difference?

Pogo said...

I think I understand the "war is bad, so let's not be in one" theme. I mean, look, war leaves holes in the art building. It's obvious!

But it is, I suppose, the fact that it is so overtly silly and naive an approach that leaves me a bit angered. It's not an answer or even at attempt at one. It's merely dodging the question, and pretending that the dodge is a solution itself. It's like saying, "I vote against the recent sexual assaults on campus", and thinking that's sufficient.

That is, it's bullshit in the form of art.

Bissage said...

Doesn’t that column support a roof of some kind? How did that dud rocket come straight in, stop, hover, rotate downward nearly perpendicular and then start up again? Maybe this guy could explain it.

Just kidding, folks.

The Drill SGT said...


You have 2 choices, either trust SGT Ted, Myself and Dan that it is the rear end of a rocket, likely 122mm, or the folks that say it's a mortar? (oops, only you think it's a mortar :)


the premise being that several feet would be sticking out of your art dept. If my view of the scale of your photo is correct.

just look at the links here.

The rockets here, and you can see a good image at the bottom of the page are 9 foot long and nearly 5 inches (122mm) in diameter weighing 150 lbs when launched and much less by the time it hits the ground. leaving several feet to stick out of your ground.

The Mortar images shown here:

those things are 10 inches long in total, weighing 7 pounds and are 3.5 inches in diameter. leaving 5 inches to stick out of the ground

I've been shot at and missed by both. I don't tell you how to cross examine a murder suspect. trust me on this.

a rocket is propelled by burning gas escaping from the back end. starts slow and picks up speed. Think Cape Kennedy and Apollo launches.

a mortar is a variant of a gun. BANG, propellant goes off and mortar shell comes out. starts fast and slows down.

tjl said...

Maybe the faux mortar attack is meant as a comment on the aesthetic qualities of the Humanities Building. Here, the students show, is a work of architecture truly deserving mortar attack.

Anonymous said...

The easy way to define the difference between a mortar and a rocket is that a rocket carries its own propellant. A mortar is called a "round," just like a bullet. It is a projectile, like Taco Bell food.

A mortar is a lawn dart with evil intent.
A rocket is a little Saturn Five comin' at you. It's usually filled with something unpleasant besides the propellant, like the last donut in the break room box.

I'm doing this all from memory, but IIRC, the very tip of the nose of a rocket is called a "canard." How appropriate for its use in this scenario, at the current intellectual bivouac of Mr Barrett.

Ann Althouse said...

Drill Sgt: It's pictures like that that made me decide it was a mortar. The portion protruding from the building was about a foot long. All the rocket pictures looked way too big.

The Drill SGT said...

LOL SIP. so accurate, yet so funny.

A mortar is a lawn dart with evil intent.

I've never heard canard used in the context of a rocket.

Canard is used in airplanes to describe planes with the main lifting wing in the rear and the control surfaces up front

Ann Althouse said...

Lawn darts were evil.

al said...

Lawn darts are fun. I still have a set. Anyone else?

Anonymous said...

Ann.. er...Althouse-
A bazooka is a shoulder fired rocket, and another insanely interesting word derivation.

Rockets can be little.

You say lawn darts were evil like that's a bad thing.

The Drill SGT said...


she used the past tense in:

Lawn darts were evil.

because she thinks that because they were banned by the Consumer Products Safety Commission they all vanished. Or that kids don't use a surrogate for manufactured lawn darts.

Lawn darts are a concept, as well as a product. you can ban the product, but as folks should have learned trying to keep little boys from playing with toy guns, you can't eliminate the concept.

The Drill SGT said...

as long as we are in the defining mode, the term rocket derives its definition from the method of propullsion as Sip and I stated.

In military terminology a "missile" is a guided rocket, and the term "rocket" alone is reserved for things that are not guided, hence the bazooka, the MLRS rocket and the Katyushka, as opposed to the TOW missile or the Hellfire missile or the sidewinder missile.

Max Power said...


First off... the pictures you took are very belated. It looked much cooler a few days earlier while it was still completely intact (before the ropes got all messed up).

Second... the Humanities building does happen to be where many Art students have classes, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was some student's "Final" for some class.

Third... for those familiar with UW-Madion, they might realize that it possibly has NO political message at all. Humanities has long been chastised as the ugliest building on campus, and the age-old myth/legend is that it was built to be "bomb proof." It's not true, but It does have this fort-like look, and angled sides that could deflect the blast wave of a bomb. My point is that maybe someone was simply being clever and ironic by making this "bomb proof" or "riot proof" building look a little more like just that. It's actually quite funny if you think of it in those terms... I would give the student an A.

I first saw it an night and it was shockingly realistic... the pictures don't do it justice... and it's big, that's a 20-25 foot wall. There's also a big gun (50mm?) at the top behind the bags you can't see in the pictures.

bearbee said...


garrison said...

I remember a cool spring night in 1970 when hundreds of National Guardsmen were deployed in front of the humanities building in full battlegear and it wasn't an art project.
As for half buried rockets, what about the Statue of Liberty peeking out of the ice in Lake Mendota? Of course that was the student government in action, not artists

Ann Althouse said...

Max: Sorry, I was out of town. And I admit in the post that the photography is pretty bad. It was hard to photograph.

GPE said...

It's a rocket. I know the photo isn't the best, but if you look close you can just make out the faux ambulance below the walkway surface. If you stare long enough, you will see the red cross on the top of the faux ambulance, in the center of which the rocket is planted.

University of Colorado (Boulder) School of Art frequently had art projects on display in an open area next to the arts building. Or at least they did when I was a student there in the early 80's. This UW display reminds me of one at CU where a student hung several dozen body bags from trees. The bags were stuffed to appear as if there were human bodies inside and were hung by the neck.

Ah, yes. Art. If that particular student's goal was to leave a lasting impression, it apparently worked as I remember the display. Unfortunately, that memory is captioned "Huh?"

The Drill SGT said...

One last post on why that clearly is a rocket, not a mortar round.

1. You say the whole part exposed was about a foot. Well an entire mortar round including fuse is no more than a foot long, so this object is too long for a mortar.

2. rocket fins are folding. when launched from the tube, they typically unwrap. they look like the fins shown

a mortar gains its velocity by gas buildup behind the shell and sealed by a ring around the fat part of the body of the round. The tail fins are small, rigid, and rather rugged. The fins on the tail don't extend beyond the body of the round (they sit on a narrow tail portion.

trust us. that is a rocket tail assembly.

Ann Althouse said...

I trust you. I just want you to know that I tried to get it right.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Lawn darts were called "Jarts" in my neighborhood.

SGT Ted said...

There was a dud RPG that stuck into the outer wall at Abu Ghuraib during a fire fight. Yes, THAT Abu Ghuraib. EOD had to come dig it out. What a site.

SGT Ted said...

Heh Just saw the update. We used to use tennisball cans for the mortars. A hole cut in the bottom and then a separate soda can duct taped to that to act as a combustion chamber. You could fire a tennisball about 100 yards. Way fun in the days before ..well... the Coming of the Lawyers. No offense meant btw.

George said...

I think it is a pretty clever installation...a visualization of what an everyday building would look like thrust into an extraordinary situation. Immediately makes you wonder about the change in the world that would lead to the place being besieged.