Art exhibit explores political messages with humor
How minorities have figured prominently in the current political landscape is the subject of a new art exhibit hitting the downtown Phoenix art walk tonight.
Debuting at Bragg's Pie Factory, as part of First Friday, "A Bunch of Crock: Politicians, Pundits & Minorities" is the latest handiwork of ASU staffer Safwat Saleem, local artist and director of visual communication and innovation in ASU's Office of University Initiatives.
Saleem has spent the past week preparing for the show, but he was able to set some time aside to discuss what exactly viewers can expect from a project that encompasses a website (viewer discretion is advised), audio and video installations, and a collection of posters, and has "bunch of crock" in the title.
Q: "A Bunch of Crock: Politicians, Pundits & Minorities" appears to be an attempt to make meaning of political messages that pervade mainstream media. This exhibit is personal as well. What is your hope for this project?
I hope people laugh at a joke or two. That's about it. The whole project started as a result of frustration with the current political landscape. I watched and heard a lot of political ads this past election season and the things that stood out to me were: 1) these politicians and pundits think that people are too stupid to tell fact from fiction; and 2) painting minorities as the bad guys is good politics. The unfortunate truth is that these methods work. And my exhibit is a reaction to that.
The exhibit isn't an attempt to introduce rationality into the debate. Sure, I'll present some facts and statistics, but I feel rationality has failed. So my exhibit is more along the lines of over-the-top propaganda – like many recent political campaigns. Although the difference between this exhibit and political campaigns is that I am not making anything up. All posters and installations are based on some legit news story, poll or a fact I've come across in the past few months.
Q: This is an exhibit / project about politics. Would you classify it as "political"?
The exhibit is more entertainment than anything else. My focus wasn't to try and change anyone's mind or bring about change. I don't think I would be able to change anyone's mind even if I tried. The exhibit is simply an opportunity to laugh at things that don't make sense.
Q: Satire and snark often are used in the mainstream media – Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, for example – in response to current politics. In your opinion, what is potent about using humor as a tool in which to examine political messages?
Humor makes it an easier pill to swallow. It is almost impossible for me to watch news about politics without wanting to yell profanity at the television. But people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert present things in a way that makes me feel that I am not insane – that there are other people out there who agree that most politicians are irrational and incompetent. Their principles change based on opinion polls. Humor helps convey that message without having to take yourself so seriously. Coming across as sanctimonious is a huge turn-off in any discussion and humor helps with that.
Q: Finally, the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 is on the horizon. The challenges that were left in the wake of this horrific event have been more complex than maybe anyone could have predicted. What kind of change would you like to see happen, before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 is here?
It is difficult to imagine any significant change occurring in the near future because change takes time. I think we are impatient people. Be it foreign policy or local issues, focusing on quick fixes leads to even more complications in the long run. I can only hope that in 10 years there are policies in place that focus on long-term solutions. When border security is the issue, then let's focus on how we can encourage people to come here legally versus making life difficult for those who are already here. When societal integration is the issue, then let's focus on long-term policies that ensure immigrants are able to do that, versus banning bilingual education so immigrants' kids can't go to school. Similar policies would help when dealing with terrorism and national security. The list goes on.
"Bunch of Crock" will mark Saleem's second art appearance downtown. His 2008 film "And Everything Was Alright" was a joint project with collaborator Robert Kilman, and was the 2009 official selection of the San Francisco International Children's Film Festival and the ASU Art Museum Short Film and Video Festival, among others.
Tonight's exhibit opens at 6 p.m., at Bragg's Pie Factory, located at 1301 W. Grand Ave., in downtown Phoenix.