Hindsight is Always 20/20, the fall exhibition running at the Weisman art museum gave viewers an interesting vantage point into previous presidents and their supposed â€śtop issuesâ€? for their presidency. R. Luke DuBois, an artist, composer and performer has created forty-one prints of each presidentâ€™s most frequently spoken words in their State of the Union. He created an algorithm that sorted the word frequency, showing how technology is used to create art that was then presented as a Snellen chart, the commonly recognized chart seen at optometry offices used to test patientsâ€™ vision. The word regularity determined the size and placement on the chart; higher frequency yielded a larger size. The exhibition moved chronologically from George Washington to George W. Bush following the parameters of three galleries, yet these two end up separated only by a walkway, giving the viewer an interesting perspective into how politics have changed.
It is clear that the overall theme of this exhibition is political rhetoric and how it relates to political reality. Each piece shows a modern analysis on American history and informs the viewer of the concerns of each era. For example, Trumanâ€™s most frequently used word was â€śSovietâ€? and Hooverâ€™s â€śUnemployment.â€? Words used repetitively force a message onto the public, and in many ways can be a signature of a presidential administration. Thus, one word teaches us much about central themes and challenges that our nation has experienced. This reminded me of a piece we reflected on in class, Suzanne Optonâ€™s Soldier Project. With the same concept, one word resonated emotion and sentiment beyond that particular word. Both made a political statement in a simple, non-partisan way.
Though I initially couldnâ€™t grasp the exhibit, I feel after reflection, it holds much more depth and validity than oneâ€™s initial reaction can acquire. My favorite part of the piece consisted of two â€śeye-chartsâ€?: Washington and Bush. The layout of the exhibit worked in its favor here, placing the two near enough to one another to allow the viewer to encounter both at the same time. Washingtonâ€™s word, â€śGentleman,â€? was placed merely feet away from Bushâ€™s â€śTerror,â€? forcing me to examine how the presidential word can go from something so polite to that of fear mongering. The piece itself led me to reflect on how politicians as a whole have exploited fear in the past eight years by utilizing the impact it has on Americans. Clearly, the presidential election this past week has had an impact on the motivation for this piece. But rather than forcing an opinion on the audience, DuBois allows us to create our own opinions.
I would recommend this exhibition to my colleagues, especially those intrigued by history. I feel this piece would have made a larger impact on me if I were not so inept in American history and I knew more of what was going on in the time frames that these presidents held office. So before exploring the display, I would also recommend a quick refresher on some important events in the last 250 years.