Proclamations and Paraphernalia: #Bellwether, Editor’s Notes, and the Art of Remixing the Political Document

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Roopa Vasudevan


In 2016 I created an installation entitled #Bellwether, which was a visual exploration of social media content surrounding the 2016 United States presidential primaries, focused specifically on voters in Ohio. Over the course of a year, I collected more than 14 million public Twitter posts that referenced the candidates by name, and repurposed the design of their campaign merchandise to reflect voter sentiment, replacing the curated messaging that they were pushing into the political sphere. After the election, I collected public data from Trump’s administration—including tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account, executive orders and memoranda and transcripts of interviews and news conferences—and edited the text of the US Constitution from his perspective, using the data to justify changes I made to the original text. I presented the final work in the form of a Presidential Executive Order, mirroring everything from typography to paper choices to the leather holders in which Executive Orders are publicly presented after signing. This creative study explores the lessons learned from these two projects; specifically, I examine the appropriation of political design and its signifiers. I argue that by manipulating and subverting this visual language, the work attempts to counter monolithic narratives perpetuated by dominant political systems, while illuminating the effects of media, technology and the Internet on our perceptions of the government and those who serve in it. By employing alternate historical narratives, the speculative nature of these works also offers a way of imagining a more nuanced approach to current political analysis and meaning-making. 

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