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Art, politics and the Republican National Convention




"Morning In American" (2011) by Ligorano/Reese
Nora Ligorano/Flickr

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What is truth? This question will be discussed around the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week. And we're not talking about Hillary's emails. This is a philosophical, question posed not by speakers or conventioneers inside Quicken Loans Arena, but by an art project called "The Truth Booth" that's installed nearby. And it's just one of a number of art works with political messages that are on display around Cleveland, timed to coincide with the RNC.

Randy Kennedy is an art writer for the New York Times who chronicled what types of political art are going to be displayed around the RNC this week. He laid out a few highlights for The Frame's Oscar Garza.  

"The Truth Booth" 

"The Truth Booth" is an inflatable booth created by an art collective called Cause Collective.
The Truth Booth

Hank Willis Thomas and some other artists have made this work that has been on the road for years now. It's this inflatable booth that looks like a cartoon word bubble that says "Truth" on in it, which is an extraordinary loaded term even before this campaign. The way it works is they invite people in and they videotape them completing the sentence, "The truth is..."

They took it to Afghanistan, they've had it in Europe, and they've taken it around the United States and recorded more than 6,000 responses to that. I think it's trying to show the complexity of what that means and it's trying to get people to talk. 

"A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday"

"A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday" is a piece made by artist Dread Scott and was inspired by a 1930's NAACP flag titled, "A Man Was Lynched Yesterday."
The Flag

Hank Willis Thomas and an artist named Eric Gottesman, they legally formed a super PAC. The idea was to recruit artists and ask them to make new work or submit old work that is about political discourse and where we are now. Some of them are very open-ended and suggestive, some are very pointed one way or another, but a lot of them are thought-provoking. 

[Dread Scott's "The Flag"] is one work in that project that is extraordinarily pointed and it's making a point about the police. It's an update on a 1930s NAACP flag. It's a black flag with capital letters on it that say, "A Man Was Lynched Yesterday," and this updates that with "A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday." 

The artist knows it's a provocation and it's been flown as all of these tragic events have transpired around the country with police violence and violence against police. 

"The American Dream Project"

"Morning In America" ice sculpture by LigoranoReese spelling out the word "Middle Class" melts before the start of an anti-Mitt Romney protest in Tampa, Florida, on August 26, 2012 as various demonstrations were taking place ahead of the Republican National Convention.
Robyn Beck/Getty Images

Artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese have taken these large word-based ice sculptures to previous presidential nominating conventions and also climate change events, and they essentially take words that have become cliché — or have become so much a part of political discourse — that they have very little meaning anymore. 

The work that they'll be making and putting outside and allowing to slowly melt as a kind of performance this week in Cleveland is "The American Dream." You can look at those as a hit-you-over-the-head [message]: The American Dream is melting down, but I think it's a more complicated thing that they're up to about having people around watching this thing. 

In a way, it's sort of entertaining. You're watching these words melt, which one is going to fall first, what's it going to look like? But these phrases are often: "The Middle Class," "The Economy," "The American Dream," "The Future" — these kind of abstractions that facilitate conversations. 

 "The American Dream Project Cleveland" will be live streamed here beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET on July 19. 



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