During these uncertain times, SMoCA has invited artists and staff to utilize our blog Inspire as an outlet to make meaningful connections by sharing personal reflections and insight into their practice.
Artist Nina Katchadourian and SMoCA assistant curator Lauren R. O’Connell discuss the creative thought process behind ‘s Monument to the Unelected (2008 – ongoing), the role of humor in the artist’s practice, and the importance of remembering America’s forgotten past.
Monument to the Unelected
2008 – ongoing
Created specifically for the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art’s 10th anniversary exhibition Seriously Funny, Nina Katchadourian’s installation Monument to the Unelected takes the form of signs resembling those typically displayed on street corners during political campaigns. The 58 signs display the names of all the candidates who have lost an American presidential election.
Monument to the Unelected traces a forgotten or potentially alternative historical lineage. The work’s temporary nature calls attention to our short-term collective political memory and the irony of promoting failed presidential candidates. Katchadourian points out that “there are many names on the signs that will be utterly unfamiliar; there are also candidates who are very well-known because they did become president later, or because they had been president but ran again unsuccessfully. In many different ways, the project plays with the blank spots in our knowledge of American history.”
As the work honors the “could have beens,” it also reminds us of the huge role advertising plays in election campaigns today and calls attention to the unique design style and language typical of signs like these. Working with graphic designer Evan Gaffney, the artist explains that “collectively, the signs communicate something about our aesthetic and our understanding of what is implied by a certain kind of font or typeface.” Contemporary graphic treatment and catchy slogans, such as “Adams in ’92!” (1792 that is) and “Re-elect Herbert Hoover: Prohibition, Optimism,” cleverly transport the presidential candidates of bygone days, creating an experience of a time warp. Katchadourian aims to get viewers to do a double take, to catch themselves taking for granted these forgotten names and maybe learn a little something about American history in the process.
At the moment when the country is deeply preoccupied with a major national election, Monument to the Unelected presents a view, and a reminder, of the country’s collective political road not taken. Monument to the Unelected has been exhibited during every presidential election cycle since 2008—both on public sites as well as in museums and galleries—and always spanning the time both before and after the election. This year, after the election results have been determined, the 59th loser’s sign will be added to the group.
Our advance thanks to visiting patrons for their respect to the property, neighbors and surrounding neighborhood, and works included in the installation.
SMoCA’s installation is located at 2506 North 13th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85006 in the yard of a private residence near the cross streets of Thomas Road and 12th Street. Share your experience with us, tag @_SMoCA and #SMoCA on Instagram or Twitter.
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