Political propaganda enshrines the tradition of manipulation and language as a pillar of government and mass media. əˈmɛrəkə is a critique of contemporary American politics and the fabrication of structured political personas. ƏˈMƐRƏKƏ denotes that phonetics of a word that has had a complicated history of ownership and highlights the centrism of the United States.
By focusing on the word ‘America’, the subjects reclaim a word with a complicated history of ownership. The full title of the United States is ‘the United States of America’, and parsing it down to the colloquial ‘America’ highlights the centrism of this country. This work is also a studied nod to the continents of North and South America, both of which experience repercussions of the United States’ selfish self interests and global narcissism. It is a country that was built on inequality and oppression all while brandishing “All men are created equal”. The hypocrisy that existed in the 1700s continues today.
əˈmɛrəkə becomes a video installation of hopeful, mildly innocent individuals, each separated from the expectations of the American politician. Dressed in a plain black blazer and a white button up, these individuals are coached through the word ‘America’, finding a robotic rhythm that becomes a deadpan critique of the patriotic American politician. Each subject differs from the others, highlighting a complicated system that prioritizes a traditional hierarchy in relation to individual identifiers. Within the project, there are American citizens, DACA recipients, green card holders, and non-citizens. Each of these individuals identify with parts of the American experience and the complexities of a nation that is foundational to violent exclusionary tactics. Their participation in the system that directly excludes their voices allows for a confronting and assertive performance of falsified and exaggerated happiness.
To think about citizenship in this current administration is to consider the humanity of American politics and its contemporary failings. There are valuable visuals that have been denied publicly and thus taken nervously and illegally in detention centers for children, where migrant children are kept in horrible conditions and cages.
As the gridded smiling faces become choruses of ‘America’, it brings into question the rigidity of country as well as fabricated personas. The system, one that uses a specific visual language, benefits from a uniform photographic method. I thus incorporate this uniformity in the video, but I disrupt it by placing in subjects that thus disrupt the traditional notions of political power. The ‘men’ that were not created equal.
These are voices that are being purposefully excluded on a national stage, and əˈmɛrəkə seeks to reimagine the narrative with these voices as central and vital parts of the political process. Being a country reportedly founded on the ideals of immigration that ran concurrent with slavery, how can this nation purposefully make space for a deepened critique of the lack of diversity in contemporary politics and thus power structures? How can the audience be included in a conversation about national identity and political power?
The performance is lead by voice coaching, which attempts to rewire accents and perfect an illusionary standard of speech. In the wake of the contradictory ideology that “In America, we speak English,” the coach in əˈmɛrəkə is unseen and unknown, asserting the forcible assimilation of the subject. This creates a complex and silent dialogue between the coach and the subject, exposing the current importance of American dialectical politics. There are desired speech patterns that are often replicated in an effort to show class, education, and an effortless universality. This also translates to a constrictive methodology that places identifiers like accents and dialects within controversial and political expression. The policing of accents and languages is intertwined with white supremacy, enacting a type of cultural control over the immigrants in the United States.
əˈmɛrəkə also considers the framework and resources required to train for campaigning. Behind each candidate is an immense network of individuals, organizations, and communities that have participated in the creation of their image. It is a carefully curated persona that is navigated by the political interests of each participating resource. The self becomes tangled with political ideologies, corporations, and soundbites, reducing the complexities of an individual’s humanity to a robotic, systematic expression.
Contemporary American politics provides high stakes entertainment, using reality television stars and former actors to create political spectacle and making celebrities out of marketable candidates and elected officials. By placing this project in a studio setting, the work references a long standing conversation between art and politics. This conversation is art’s unpoliced confrontation of politics and politicians, which has become increasingly important as news outlets are specifically targeted for one sided presentation tactics and the judicial system is wrought with partisan expectations. Art can be a form of checks and balances, an outlet to expand knowledge about a particular political climate. The truth is elusive, but art can react with an emotional intensity that traditional news outlets are not afford. Art has historically encouraged movements, allowed for the formation of alternative modes of thinking, and this work is in conversation with this lengthy and impactful history.