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The DART Board: 06.17.2020

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday June 17, 2020

On election day, November 2018, millions of New York City voters showed up at the polls only to be confronted with an almost-three-foot-long, two-sided ballot with print so small it strained the eyes. To cast their vote, they had to fill it out front and back, tear it in half along a perforated line, and then carefully feed both pages into a scanner. The two pieces of paper increased time at the scanner, which increased average voting time, which resulted in hour-long lines snaking around buildings. Plus, paper jams mushroomed.…Then the rain started. People came into the polls dripping wet. Some of the paper ballots started getting damp, which meant even more paper jams.The city’s election system turned into a waterlogged, snarled mess.—Victoria Bassetti

This is just one of hundreds of stories—written and visual—that populate a new book about the ballot: This Is What Democracy Looked Like: A visual History of the Printed Ballot [Princeton Architectural Press 2020). Created by Alicia Yi Cheng, who is a founding partner of MGMT design in Brooklyn, the book is the first illustrated history of the printed ballot. It shows that controversy and confrontation at the polls is nothing new. The ballots offer insight into periods of tectonic shifts in the electoral system, and the fraud, disenfranchisement, scams and skullduggery that have historically plagued the electoral process.

“Printed ballots embody the material history of democracy in the United States: its ideals, its routines, and its abuses. Their typography, their designs, and even the paper they were printed on have a story to tell,” Cheng writes. “They speak to changing notions of what elections are, whom they include and exclude, and the political possibilities they offer.” 

With millions of federal dollars thrown at the problem of paper ballots through the Help America Vote Act [2002], the ballot has seen wide-ranging improvements, such as touch-screen voting booths. Yet as we face the upcoming elections with the Covid-19 threat at large, with no vaccine in sight, mail-in ballots are certain to present ever more controversies to the electoral process. 

With 200 color illustrations culled from libraries and archives around the country, the book is also a vivid history of design, typography and commercial printing. A foreword by Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history at Princeton University, and an essay by Victory Bassetti, fellow of the Brennan Center for Justice, give the story of the ballot a needed perspective as we face a crucial moment in history. This Is What Democracy Looked Like: A visual History of the Printed Ballot will be on shelves June 30th. Info | pre-order


IN OTHER NEWS

Art Daily reports:  The  French street artist JR has unveiled a mural in Paris (above) dedicated to George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis, and Adama Traoré, who died in police custody in France in 2016. The mural was created in collaboration with the director Ladj Ly and students from his film school, according to the report.

In conjunction with Pride Month, Baxter St at CCNY is launching a new Queer Critique Group on Zoom, led by artist Michael McFadden. The seminars will feature group discussion and peer critique of members' lens-based works, exploring topics of subject matter, approach, techniques, and visual references. The seminars will take place on a monthly basis and run approximately two hours, with 20-30 minutes critique per artist, and two to three Group Members per week. The stated purpose:

To obtain critical feedback on your lens-based work.
To provide input and support to other queer photographers.
To learn, grow and share resources with peers.
To develop and provide ongoing support to a community of queer artists.
If you’re interested in joining, email baxterst@cameraclubny.org.


Nana. Paris, 1959. Christer Strömholm Estate/Agence VU

Today The Eyes Publishing highlights a seminal publication on the subject of living Trans: The 2011 re-release of Christer Stromholm’s seminal Les Amies de Place Blanche, which was featured in a 2012 exhibition at  International Center of Photography, curated by Pauline Vermare. Dark vision, poetry, extistentialism and transsexuality with Christer Strömholm. Reissue of the eponymous book published in 1983 around these outsiders of the nightlife of Paris in the 1950s and 1960s.

Father of modern Swedish photography, Christer Strömholm (1918-2002) played a major role in the entire Scandinavian and international photographic scene. His work has long been confusing, as it seemed difficult to admit that a photographer could have been so profitably immersed in the plastic and critical works he encountered and exploited.

From 1956 onwards, he concentrated his efforts and work on transsexuals in the Place Blanche district of Paris: “I had never been interested in them. We met by chance, and I quickly realized that when you wonder about their lives, it becomes difficult not to take a picture.” More in The New York Times

This just in from New York Foundation for the Arts [NYFA]: 

The Joan Mitchell Foundation offers CALL: Creating a Living Legacy Program for Visual Artists. Info

With exhibitions, performances and events on hold, many artists are facing new obstacles in making their work visible. The CALL program, offered at no cost whatever, provides an archive planning workbook and resource guide for visual artists. The Introduction states:

This workbook was created to help an artist, artist’s assistant, Legacy Specialist, family member, or friend of an artist in the process of career documentation.
This workbook will help you to:

- Assess what you have or have not archived.

- Develop and/or improve on an inventory and archiving system.

- Set realistic archiving goals that are comprehensive and sustainable.

For many artists there can be a conflict between the desire to create and the need to concentrate on the “business” side of their art careers. Administrative and organizational tasks can get pushed aside, avoided, or addressed intermittently. It is our hope that this workbook will help you to approach the archiving of your artwork in a systematic way, as a series of steps that can be completed on a day-to-day basis.

The process of career documentation is about valuing your artwork and your career. At any point in an artist’s career, documenting and inventorying artwork can be an immensely personal and emotionally complex process. For emerging artists this can feel like a distraction from making work. For mid-career artists, it can be difficult to look back at what you’ve accomplished and to plan for the future. For mature artists with large bodies of work, it can be difficult to ultimately consider your own legacy. The process requires that you assign value to what can often seem intangible, and the task, in its enormity, can at times be overwhelming and anxiety producing. Keep in mind the purpose of archiving, which is to value your artwork. Ultimately through creating a system of documentation, you will be closer to achieving your art career, life, and legacy goals.

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