« Studio E response | Main | Studio E »

Patrick Holbrook

One thing I noticed which seems to dominate Patrick Holbrook’s work is his preoccupation with race. Viewing his work, it seems like he may even be exorcising some form of guilt he feels regarding what he refers to as his “whiteness.? This idea of white guilt is especially apparent in his mixed media piece The Ghost Vote.

In the video portion of the installation, Holbrook paints himself with phosphorescent material and walks from his home in Milledgeville, Georgia to the city hall there, poetically casting his “ghost vote.? This act is a means to “exaggerate [his] whiteness in order to deconstruct white supremacist hegemony.? The term “ghost vote,? besides having connotations in this context to the Ku Klux Klan, is also a reference to the practice of rigging elections by placing false votes from people who are dead. Holbrook uses this idea as a metaphor for what he sees as the corruption plaguing the governmental system of today’s America. He tries as hard as he can to alienate himself from this imperialist, racist ideal, but his implementation of himself as the subject of this and other works which deal with race suggests that he still feels a connection to it.
In politically driven art, I have faced the same issue. While much of my work deals with issues concerning my negative views on religion or my observations on the struggle for gay civil rights, I can only delve so far into the conflict before my status as an agnostic, straight white male makes it impossible for me to immerse myself further. No matter how creative and effective the social statements I make may be, I will never know what it’s like to be a homosexual or a woman or a Jew or an African American. So all I can do is play off of who I am.
Holbrook’s negative views toward the governmental structure of which he is a part also have a heavy presence in The Ghost Vote. It seems as though much of his work is actually a series of complaints about the way the United States functions internally and internationally, which isn’t, of course, a bad thing. I think that looking at all of his work at once is actually a hindrance on the overall power of the individual pieces, because I found myself getting bored after looking at his site for awhile. Something about being a guilty white person myself just made it all seem redundant. But, like Holbrook, I’m a bit of a pessimist, so that observation is probably biased somewhat.