As the race to the White House consumes our nation's collective attention, let's take a look back to the 2004 election and celebrate the unique spirit of that year when the art world in New York and across the country took up the mantle of this country's great activist tradition.
Many artists who make political work do so regardless of their calendars, but the high stakes of '04 yielded contexts for agit-prop art and performance unseen since the late 1960s. Initiatives like Downtown for Democracy and the Imagine Festival united New York's artist communities against the Bush administration as the RNC rolled into town. The Internet matured as a critical venue for countercultural action in attempts to revise standard models of protest. Audiences and critics, eager to experience their own distaste for the current state of affairs distilled into forms of art and entertainment, gave greater voice to explicitly political work. Guerrilla theater filled the streets at every opportunity for nose-thumbing, resulting in countless arrests, while cellphone cameras rolled to create a new kind of folk-documentary. Culture and politics collided in vivid and memorable fashion.
This collection of work from four years ago offers itself as something of a time capsule, although not enough time has passed for true nostalgia to set in. Yet the 2008 election is playing itself out very differently than its predecessor. Without a concrete enemy to inspire rage, Americans--artists included--seem to be placing their faith in the system and its candidates. But how different is our country's situation? Aren't we even worse off than four years ago?
Artists include Cory Arcangel/Jonah Peretti, Carbon Defense League, Imaginary Company, Institute for Applied Autonomy, Pauline Oliveros/Ryan Junell, Saul Levine, Jen Liu, Taylor Mac, Laura Parnes, Pink Bloque, Wynne Greenwood, Julie Atlas Muz, Seth Price, Guy Richards Smit/John Pilson/Lou Fernandez, Suicide/Punkcast, Tigger, Aldo Tambellini, Aaron Valdez, and Patrick Lichty/The Yes Men.