Pass by Nina Katchadourian’s streetfront installation “Monument to the Unelected” and you might wonder what year it is. Instead of Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan, you’ll see campaign signs touting the virtues of some political duos who haven’t been considered in decades or centuries: Alfred Landon and Frank Knox; Adlai Stevenson and John Sparlman; Tilden/Hendricks in ‘76! (that’s 1876, to be precise). And the other Clinton — DeWitt Clinton and Jared Ingersoll, 1812.
This is not a memorabilia exhibit: Katchadourian made the signs — in a uniform generic mid-century graphic style — herself. They’re on display in the Washington Post’s streetfront window, which is a visual joke in itself: From afar, the paper, which holds objectivity as one of its highest virtues, appears to be endorsing candidates. Take a closer look, and their failed candidacies reveal themselves.
Katchadourian, a California artist, said that the project sprang from her interest in the ephemerality of election insignia.
“These plastic election signs that people stick in their front lawns. . . those signs exist for a while and then they’re just gone and you never think about those names again,” said Katchadourian in an interview earlier this year (Style Blog also covered her viral hit “Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style”). “The people who aren’t elected just waft out into nothingness.”
Katchadourian said the portraits were an opportunity to consider “the collective road not taken by this country — a chance to think about what might have happened if the other person had been elected.”
The exhibit might insire regret, anger, or relief. And, depending on how things go in November, it may get the addition of an Obama or Romney sign.
“It’s a politically neutral piece,” said Katchadourian. “You can feel happy or sad about any of the names.”
“Monument to the Unelected,” presented by the Washington Project for the Arts, will be on display at the Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, through Nov. 9