The AV: The Politics of Hysteria

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The AV is TKO’s occasional foray into politics via multimedia.

When we watch the debates is there a certain personal truth about the candidates that is relayed to us? Do their mannerisms, rhythm of speech, and of course, the content of their speech itself, bring us closer to understanding the candidates as human beings? Or is the spectacle of the debate so shrouded in faux-objectivity that we can’t go a second without keeping our hands on our wallets, feeling like the objects of skillful manipulation?

To put it another way, is the viewer’s desire for an emotional connection with a politician naive? When we hear phrases like ‘binder full of women’ or a witty retort, we grab onto these small instances as glimpses behind the veneer of production. What a robot that Mitt is! I could definitely see myself getting a beer with Barack, what a funny guy. What does Romney really mean when he says that ‘he loves teachers?’  It is this compulsion for intimacy that was behind New York based artist, Liz Magic Laser‘s project ‘I Feel Your Pain.

In the modern era, politicians want to reach out to the viewer, clasp their shoulder, and whisper in their ear, I am the guy for you. Laser takes this gooey core of American politics and pushes it into absurdity. By transferring the emotional energies of the politician to that of the actor, Laser collapses their distinction. The art of politics is reduced to emotional pornography.

A photo from J. R. Eyerman’s iconic 1952 series. Are we living in a society of the spectacle?

Laser’s piece is provoking, but does it treat intimacy with too much condescension? Isn’t our desire for a connection with those who will govern our country natural? Shouldn’t we want to be connected? The inclination to understand our politicians is a healthy civic duty and showmanship is nothing new to the political stage. But the desire to see our politicians bare it all is arguably a new phenomenon. Such a desire is partially predicated on willful ignorance since the ‘common man’ is a rhetorical construction that awkwardly groups together individuals that might have nothing in common with one another but the numbers on their paycheck. But there is also a component of deep cynicism. We want to poke our politicians in the flesh. Are you real? Do you feel what I feel? As Laser says, “what is your real agenda, Mr. President?” We have so little trust in the political process that we grope for any hint of authenticity. A snicker or a wink is a treat, an emotional breakdown is catnip. Reverence is for suckers. To crave authenticity is tantamount to rolling our politicians in the mud. Dirty them up, we say, make them seem just like us.

3 comments on “The AV: The Politics of Hysteria”

  1. Pingback: Work | Gabriel Rom

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