Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The Republican National Convention featured a relentless backdrop of a waving American flag, a patriotic screen saver. In an earlier posting, I contrasted this modernist image to the Democratic National Convention's use of classical architecture. Realizing how fierce the television ads have become in the last few weeks, I decided to consult The Living Room Candidate, a website discussed in Alessandra Stanley's, "On the Web, a Nonpartisan Look at Those Partisan Campaign Ads,"(New York Times, Sept. 11, 2998). The Living Room Candidate is produced by the Museum of the Moving Image (located in Astoria, NY) and features a fascinating history of political advertisements in U.S. presidential campaigns. My favorite ad comes from 1968, where Richard Nixon paints the Civil Rights movement as an issue of domestic violence. "The First Civil Right" is a psychedelic commercial that employs dislocation to scare the viewer into the need for order.

I had noted McCain's visual attacks on Obama in Architecture Wars. Out of curiosity, I started browsing through the ad war. While doing so, I picked up another feature that supports my modernist interpretation of the new Republican aesthetic. The feature is simply some billowing smoke that floats through the screen. Its movement is similar to the omnipresent billowing flag, but it is quite surprising given the negative associations attached to smoking (health, drugs, etc.) You'll see this smoke in "Sacrifice" (posted Apr. 17, 2008). The flag wavers, the sun shines in yellow over McCain's handcuffs, the clouds float over the Statue of Liberty and lights dazzle through the telling of McCain's personal history. And then for about 30 seconds (min. 1:55-2:30), the most beautiful yellow/red smoke weaves through heroic still images. The smoke makes another appearance behind the words Honor, Courage, Beauty, Perseverance and Leadership in "Character Forged by Family" (released also on Apr. 17, 2008); note min. 0:21-0:27. It's nothing major, but it's highly minimalist, if not trippy. Like the flag, it employs modernist strategies of purity, clarity, transparency and beauty, like the fabrics that Christo draped through the landscape or the smoke of surrealist photography. It's a small thing, but like the aesthetics of the flag, quite distinctive.

In a previous posting, I made reference to the kitsch-inspired wax figures of Duane Hansen. A doll company out of Oxford, CT, has produced some very topical figurines, including a Sarah Palin School Girl doll. The company is called Hero Builders. My niece is turning 4 in just two weeks. Celina and I got her a doll and shipped it in time for her birthday. I haven't thought about dolls for years, but we certainly didn't get her a Palin doll. We went with a sweeter girl, Vanilla Redhead by Corolle. We figured that the pigtails will go well with Kristina's role model, Pippi Longstocking (a Swedish character from `1945).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that stupid smoke image is the angel of death like the one in the Ten Commandments sweeping over our land if these guys win in November! Very sinister. V.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States