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A Look Into the Past: Hindsight is Always 20/20 Exhibit at the Weisman


I visited the Hindsight is Always 20/20 exhibit which was displayed in the Weisman Museum The exhibition was during the Republican National Convention, held in St. Paul before the 2008 National Election. The exhibit was adjacent to What Do You SAY, AMERICA?, both exhibits offered a window into the United State’s political history.
When I first entered the Hindsight is Always 20/20 exhibit, I was surprised to find two large rooms linked by large doorways and white walls.. Forty-one eye charts were hung at eye level around the room, one for each of the forty-one U.S. president’s State of the Union Address. The prints hung in chronological order from George Washington to George W. Bush, grey arrows marking the path. The State of the Union Address was originally a report written to Congress, but is now an annual speech which is delivered to Congress and televised. The speech outlines the president’s intent for political action in the years to come, and by selecting sixty six unique words from each speech, R. Luke Dubois was able to capture each era based on the presidents ideas for action. R. Luke Dubois was inspired to create the exhibit when he worked on The University of California Santa Barbara’s online American Presidency Project. He had access to coded and organized presidential documents, and wanted to use each State of the Union address to determine the focus of each president. Doing so very effectively, Dubois works let us view how our leaders viewed current issues during their presidency.
Dubois’s work reminded me of artists we studied in the second week of class, using text in place to display political messages as well as many others. The way he used lists and ordered the information was different though, the messages being displayed were vessels of information from the past instead of provoking change or action for the future. His art claimed that an artist has a right to be political, the art is their form of free speech.
Of particular interest was George W. Bush’s print. At the end of the trail of grey arrows and years marked by each president’s print, it hung like all the rest; in a white frame a few feet in width, eye chart numbers framed the words, which shrank in size from top to bottom. In bold black letters, ‘Iraq’, ‘Iraqi’, ‘Terror’, ‘Al Qaeda’, and ‘Homeland’ topped Bush‘s list, followed by words relating to the war on terror and focus of Bush‘s presidency. Looking back into the past eight years, we can see how those words fit into our history.
Though the art was not compelling like a traditional painting or statue, it captured history. Political enthusiasts and Joe Six-Packs alike would benefit touring the exhibition. His works efficiently outline America’s political history.

-Emily Larson