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Installation view, Nina Katchadourian: Monument to the Unelected, Sep 18 – Dec 12, 2020, Pace Gallery, New York ©️ Nina Katchadourian

Essays

Monument to the Unelected

Insights

By Nina Katchadourian
Sep 18, 2020

Nina Katchadourian shares insight on her ongoing work Monument to the Unelected, which has been exhibited during every presidential election cycle since 2008.

Concurrent with the presentation at Pace, Monument to the Unelected is also being exhibited across six other locations: Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, AZ; Grand Central Art Center, Orange, CA; The Transformer Station, Cleveland, OH; MoCA Cleveland, Cleveland, OH; and on the lawn of a private residence at 2012 Wauwona Road, Madison, WI, in collaboration with the Abrahamson Family Trust.

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 was a response to an invitation by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008 to create a new work for their 10th anniversary exhibition, “Seriously Funny.” My site visit to Scottsdale/Phoenix occurred a few weeks before the presidential election year and I took notice of the plastic election signs that sprouted up on front lawns, in vacant lots, and at busy intersections. These markers tend to crop up only during a limited time window before an election, after which they disappear, with some of the names going on to take office and others being largely forgotten. The signs also struck me as a particularly American phenomenon, and one that was worthy of closer investigation.

Starting from this observation, I worked with designer Evan Gaffney to create a series of signs bearing the names of every major-party candidate who ever ran for the office of president and lost. Each sign was made in a contemporary design vernacular, even if it advertised a candidate from a previous century. Many of the signs borrow directly from the designs of signs that I documented in Scottsdale; others were sourced from images taken in other parts of the country. All the signs are printed on corrugated plastic using the same commercial production methods as common election signage.

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.

Essays — Monument to the Unelected: Insights from Nina Katchadourian, Sep 18, 2020