Democracy was Fun
Curated by Juan Puntes and Raul Zamudio
November 19 – December 11, 2004
Artists: Vito Acconci / Conrad Atkinson / Carlos Amorales / Art + Language / Melanie Baker / Jane Benson / Robert Boyd / Tania Candiani / Michael Estabroook / Solange Fabiao / Coco Fusco / Rainer Ganahl / Kendell Geers / Mariam Ghani / Zhang Huan / Les Levine / Scott Lifshutz / Dominic McGill / Arnoldo Morales / El Perro / Christy Rupp / Rikko Sakkinen / Eduardo Sarabia / Seric Shoba / Ray Smith / Javier Tellez / Momoyo Torimitsu / David Wakstein / Hans Winkler
Democracy Was Fun is an exhibition that addresses the myriad contexts of democracy and the public discourse. This realm consists of diverse circuits where discourse is articulated including, for instance, the media, the community, “the town hall,” as well as the streets. Democracy Was Fun investigates forms of public engagement that rub against accepted conventions as to what is or what is not democracy. For example, in El Perro’s video that tropes TV sports advertisement a young woman in a designer jogging suit lights a Molotov cocktail and throws it. Before it reaches its intended target, the frame freezes and a text appears that states “what is important is participation.” Participation, which is the bedrock of democracy, is contextualized in this work in ways that interrogate the limits of democratic discourse. Some artists take a different approach in appropriating the media in order to highlight the undemocratic and ideological nature of what is purportedly a neutral avenue of information dissemination, while others investigate democracy and the socio-psychological mechanisms that are deployed to work against it: the cult of personality, the oedipal link between leaders and their followers, as well as what the philosopher Theodor Adorno called the “Authoritarian Personality.” Democracy Was Fun explores the culture of complacency and the complacency of culture that fosters blind allegiance and an uncritical spirit; and sees these elements of the American social fabric as norms that foreclose democracy by cultivating the antithesis of the democratic ethos.