America Now: DNC Artist in Residence
McColl Center for Art and Innovation
August - November 2012
In the summer of 2012 I was invited, along with Imminent Disaster (aka Robyn Hasty), Greg Haberny, Chris Stain, and Ben Wolf, to take up residence at the McColl Center for the Visual Arts in Charlotte, NC. Our residency was to conclude with an installation of American Now, an exhibition timed to coincide with the Democratic National Convention, occurring in Charlotte that year. My response was Polling Station, an exhibition in two parts, both of which were working out questions about the nature of citizens’ sense of agency within our democratic system, and the physical mechanics of voting. I started with the question of why voter turnout was consistently in the low 60% in this country, and whether that was due to the representative nature of our elections. What would happen if everyday people were invited to literally write the determinant language of the ballot? Could something like a ballot initiative be a place for creative intervention? And as the U.S. debated a switch to computerized voting machines, what narratives might be contained within the printed ballot and the old school ballot box?
I invited seven artists, writers, and activists to each design a ballot that would pose a question to the audience, and then I added a blank write in ballot. All eight ballots were deployed during the exhibition and visitors were encouraged to vote on any or all of them in exchange for a take-away poster depicting all eight ballots. As people voted, the ballots around the installation were changed to reflect the trending voter response. The changing colorway of the installation could be quickly read as a living information graphic.
Emily Abendroth, Philadelphia, PA; Salem Collo-Julin, Philadelphia, PA; Brandon C. Cox, Brooklyn, NY; Kenyon Farrow, Washington, DC; Tate Foley, St. Louis, MI; Geoff Hargadon, Boston, MA; R.L. Tillman, Baltimore, MD
Ballot and poster design completed in collaboration with Neil Cleary-Trask, Providence, RI.
Installation design completed in collaboration with Harry Murtha, Philadelphia, PA.