Monday, November 01, 2004

The Voting Booth Project

If you're exasperated already with the election, but you can't quite tear yourself away from thinking about it, have a look at The Voting Booth Project, hosted by the Parsons School of Design. The artists and designers involved began with actual Votomatic booths from the 2000 Florida election, and transformed them into reflections on democratic processes. The exhibition is on display from October 8 to December 5 at Parsons's West 13th Street gallery.

As curator Chee Pearlman writes,
The idea that designers can be outspoken about social issues might come as a surprise to some. While designers are often seen as fixers and problem solvers, they are rarely regarded as political critics or activists. It is that misperception, in fact, that makes the opening of THE VOTING BOOTH PROJECT all the more compelling. Forty-seven designers, architects, and artists have contributed to this exhibition, showcasing their response to the Votomatic punch-card voting machine — the very object that sent the 2000 presidential election in Florida into a tailspin. Each participant was sent a metal valise containing the collapsible booth, a design that has changed little since it was introduced by Votomatic in the early 1960s and that for a time was the most widely used voting machine in America. Entirely self-contained, its case opens to form a small table with side wall flaps, screw-on legs, a florescent light, and a tiny stylus for punching chads out of perforated voting cards. (Many of the booths participants received had chads still in them.)

For instance, in the creation by artist Rick Finkelstein (above left), entitled "Be Suspicious of Anything Unattended," "Yellow caution tape cordons off a locker containing the attaché case that holds the voting booth. Inside the locker is the text of the Fifteenth Amendment, which secures the right to vote."

Robert A. M. Stern Architects adorned a voting booth with rear-view mirrors (above right): "While the rearview mirrors on our voting booth invite each voter to discover his or her inner Narcissus, they are intended to mean much more: They put the voter in the driver’s seat; they demand a moment of reflection before a ballot is cast; they suggest that the phrase 'hindsight is 20/20' is often used unfairly by critics on all sides."

And the piece called "Pollwatcher I" by artists Nancy Chunn and Mark Rosen (below) "turned the voting booth into a spaceship carrying alien voting poll observers to oversee the 2004 USA presidential election. They landed in Florida."

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