Political Art Now
Constance Hockaday’s “Artists-in-Presidents: Fireside Chats for 2020” is a remarkable example of transformative art. While the project looks like it was designed for this moment, it was originally supposed to happen on the USS Potomac, FDR’s retired Presidential Yacht, docked in Oakland.
Hockaday envisioned an immersive site-specific performance space that would feel “both like a press conference for the working class and a raucous wedding reception.” The voices of fifty artists would be piped through loud speakers as they responded to the question: “what would it be like for you to take on the voice of a leader you’d like to hear?”
When the pandemic hit, Hockaday took the fundamental ideas and values of the project and created a virtual art exhibition. The artists were invited to write and record a five-minute presidential address, along with their own presidential portrait. The title, “Artists-in-Presidents,”is Hockaday’s sly smile at the traditional notion of artists-in-residence. Her own portrait is hilarious, as she sits in the oval office morphing into various versions of herself.
Hockaday’s process embodies the democratic values that inspired the project. Instead of inviting 50 artists herself, she invited a few and asked each of them to invite other artists, “sort of like a chain letter,” so that the group would represent widely divergent points of view.
Their addresses to the nation are being released during the final weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign. Originally intended to be heard by visitors to the USS Potomac, their voices are now reaching a much wider audience. You can see and hear them over the radio, in weekly podcasts, through social media, and in a virtual gallery on her website.
Hockaday says that “nobody knows what an equitable world looks like.” Artists-in-Presidents gives us multiple glimpses of that picture.
Mary Edwards, Ph.D
Career & Life Coach for Artists
“Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”
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