Renée Ridgway / Amsterdam

/ 2008

Audacity to Vote (Part I, II, III)

In collaboration with Jean-Ulrick Désert (Berlin/New York)

Somewhere between the mass media and the ordinary observer lies personal opinion, wisdom comprised of years of experience and knowledge culled from information. Where does this ‘information’ come from and how is it disseminated? American/Dutch artist Renée Ridgway vicariously followed the American election of 2008, where issues of race, gender, ageism and wealth all converged ‘on the campaign trail’.

During August 18-25 2008, the week before the Democratic convention in Denver, Colorado, Ridgway set up a stand on the local market and interviewed the inhabitants of Gropiusstadt. Using a variety of props, signage, American campaign paraphernalia, and a ‘fake’ talking parrot, Ridgway addressed the citizens of Gropiusstadt with some simple questions: If you could vote, whom would you vote for and why? Shouldn’t we all be able to cast a vote in the American elections in our globalized world? Concomitantly with another ‘expat’ and colleague Jean-Ulrick Désert, Ridgway approached shoppers at the mall (Gropius Passagen) and asked them these same questions.

The respondents voted. Simultaneously they were immersed in another dialectic – questioning political engagement in the public sphere, knowledge of current events and how they interpret different forms of media. Many inhabitants were not certain which candidates represented which political parties and their respective issues. Some stated historical precedents and made comparisons to former American presidents (Kennedy) and contemporary German political dilemmas. Though overwhelmingly supportive of Obama, a few feared for his life, even after attaining office. Others wanted to support the American military domination and even expressed their distaste for a democratic and tolerant approach to issues such as globalisation and immigration, especially in Germany.

Audacity to Vote is a series of single-channel videos that documents these vox populi interviews, although the questions have been edited out. Ultimately, Audacity to Vote discerns manifold perspectives of political participation while attempting to answer the question whether our vote actually counts.

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