Goodbye Bush!

Today marks a new era for American politics and for international relationships. But before we move forward, I suggest we look back to art produced during the Bush administration. Over the past eight years, media artists have sought to subvert and interrogate the policies and machinations of this administration from a myriad of perspectives. A quick jaunt through Rhizome's Artbase reveals this trajectory. In this post, I selected a few my favorite "Bush-era" projects from the ArtBase in order to situate where we're coming from, but also to remind everyone that democracy is an ongoing project, and that the years to come will require the same degree of engagement.

Note: Projects that are over a year old require a Rhizome Membership to view. For details about our access and membership policies click here. To sign up for an account click here.

ASCII BUSH (2006) by Yoshi Sodeoka

Artist's statement: ASCII BUSH is an ascii video rendition of two State of the Union addresses one delivered by George W. Bush on January 12, 2003 (just before the current Iraqi war); the other by his father, George H.W. Bush, on March 6, 1991 (right after Operation Desert Storm).

The basic goal of this project is to make art from the debris of our culture by recycling these dreadful and painfully long presidential oration. The speeches are not edited—just digitally filtered. And like I said, they are very lengthy. ASCII BUSH is definitely boring enough to be interesting!!!

bushSpeech (2004) by max Min

Artist's statement: at you can create a speech for george w. bush. make him say the things you always wanted him to say. as in real life, he just says what others tell him to. now it is your turn. you don't need to be a multinational company or vicepresident to make him say YOUR things and make your own definition of truth.

Demo (2004) by Davis & Davis

Artist's statement: This work explores the unholy alliance between Diebold Election Systems and the Bush Whitehouse.

Terminal Air (2007) by Institute for Applied Autonomy

Artist's statement: Terminal Air is an installation that examines the mechanics of extraordinary rendition, a current practice of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in which suspected terrorists detained in Western countries are transported to so-called “black sites” for interrogation and torture. Based on extensive research, the installation imagines the CIA office through which the program is administered as a sort of travel agency coordinating complex networks of private contractors, leased equipment, and shell companies. Wall-mounted displays track the movements of aircraft involved in extraordinary rendition, while promotional posters identify the private contractors that supply equipment and personnel. Booking agents’ desks feature computers offering interactive animations that enable visitors to monitor air traffic and airport data from around the world, while office telephones provide real-time updates as new flight plans are registered with international aviation authorities. Seemingly-discarded receipts, notes attached to computer monitors, and other ephemera provide additional detail including names of detainees and suspected CIA agents, dates of known renditions, and images of rendition aircraft.

oil (2006) by Tyler Adams

Artist's statement: 'oil' is a means for visualizing the on-going civilian death toll resulting from the united states' military intervention in iraq. a small white cube receives real-time, up-to-date reports of civilian casualties. For each new civilian death reported, the plastic cube is softly illuminated for one second while oil spurts from the top of the box, cascading down the sides, creating messy, pungent puddles.


Artist's statement: "The anti-war project is a computer game that reveals the mechanics of the "war against terror" through a classic nineteen eighties computer game called wall breaker."

Baghdad Skyline (2007) by Mark Skwarek

Artist's statement: Despite the rapidly escalating violence in Iraq, daily stories of horror are often pushed to the back pages of the paper. Baghdad's Skyline is a grim reminder of the death and devastation the Iraqi people face on a daily basis in the wake of America’s misguided invasion. Baghdad Skyline transforms New York City with augmented reality into a war-torn battle ground that parallels Baghdad. The aim of this piece is to increase awareness of the daily violence faced by the Iraqi people.

During the work, plumes of smoke unfurl through the skyscrapers and trail across a projected panorama of NYC. The explosions causing the lingering smoke will be scaled to inflict a proportionate level of damage upon the city of Manhattan as in Baghdad. The explosions and trailing smoke are dictated by information parsed from the Internet related to violence in Iraq. One weeks worth of violence will overlay Manhattan in the projected image. The size of the included explosions will be scaled to match those taking place in Iraq. The project does its best to take into account the population densities as well population movement according to the time of day in both cities.

New York City was chosen for the project because of its location and charged historical ties to the Iraq conflict. New York City, as a project site, lets Americans see their own land under constant attack. The horrific events which took place on September 11 left everlasting wounds in the hearts of New Yorkers and the rest of the world. Sadly, these tragic events were intentionally manipulated and used to lead America to war. Baghdad Skyline hopes to serve as a reminder of the consequences of our nation's actions and the daily horrors faced by people of Iraq.