Sunday, September 7, 2008
RNC 2008: It's Art, Man, And If You Don't Get It You're Just...Wait, Who Is That Supposed To Be?
Photos By John Hoff, September 1
Building on my previous post about meaningful versus just-plain-confusing or pointless protest art, here is an example from much later in the march of something that sorta "works" but was definitely missing some key elements...
One of the figures is certainly Vice President Dick Cheney but the other is...yeah, who is it? It's not Bush. I'm guessing it's supposed to be Donald Rumsfeld. Note how the two performers have the requisite big paper mache masks, but they've neglected their other costume elements, with the exception of the blue frock coat. Yes, it's a very hot day...but their clothing just DOESN'T WORK, except for the frock coat.
Somebody should have thought ahead. What was needed here were costume elements which pulled off the theme yet compromised with the weather. I'm thinking pinstriped shorts, a cotton T-shirt made to look like a tuxedo, SOMETHING. There are certainly simple solutions available which may not have been PERFECT but would have been A LOT BETTER.
So what are they dragging, there? Well, as far as I can tell it's the traditional allegorical figure "Lady Justice." She is blindfolded and dragging a set of metal scales, partially visible in the middle photo. Lady Justice is partially wrapped in some kind of tarp, like a murder victim, and the blindfold fits in with that even though Justice usually wears a blindfold, anyway.
(There are some relatively rare and uncommon depictions where Justice has wide, sightless eyes. Keep in mind the figure of "Lady Justice" has only been depicted as blind since about the 15th Century. Other depictions exist, including those which lack the traditional scales. The evolution of this allegorical figure is a rich, complex area of inquiry for those who care to dig into it just a bit before buying the perfect bronze figurine for their law office. No, that wasn't sarcasm. I totally dig this stuff)
Note the careful, loving detail paid to the breasts. I'm sure while the figure was being made there was a lot of joking about who was the "model" for the breasts.
A lot of effort went into this thing, especially since they were literally dragging the heavy figure through the street. (But not a long ways. They were moving in the opposite direction of the crowd, so lots of people could see but they wouldn't have to move very far. Good thinking) But, all in all, the performance was too hard to interpret. I was forced to explain it to some older ladies in the crowd, who stood and looked at it, uncertainly, because at first glance the scene is simply...well, it would be obscene and perverse if you didn't know it was a political allegory and the problem is the allegory ISN'T OBVIOUS, so many in the crowd are left with two male figures dragging a partially nude, blindfolded female figure.
What this performance needed was an "interpreter" with a voice to "explain" what was happening or, possibly, attached signs which said stuff like: "Cheny and Rumsfeld: The Perpetrators" and "Lady Justice: The Victim."
The Bush/McCain wedding party performance had signs like that, and that performance worked perfectly. This tactic of hanging a sign on the neck of the effigy to "explain" what's being depicted is very old school--circa late 19th Century--but in a political rally, you can't be SUBTLE and say, hopefully, "Oh, I think it will be fine like it is. I think people will GET IT."
No. They won't. Don't engage in wishful thinking just because you don't want to run out and buy poster board at the last minute.