Political vision: Always clearer in hindsight

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This month, as Americans vet the words of presidential candidates speaking at debates, town halls and interviews, an event and exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum will take a look back at the phraseology of past presidents.


DuBois will be present and perform music with DJ Etones and U of M electronic music students at an Oct. 11 event titled “HearSIGHTED.” The event, 8 p.m.–midnight, features music, dancing, food and drink. Tickets are $5–$10, and reservations are encouraged. Call 612-625-4460 or email joinwam@umn.edu.

The following day, Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. in the William G. Shepherd Room, DuBois and new media curator Steve Dietz will discuss Du Bois’ Hindsight Is Always 20/20, as well as his work as a composer, performer, artist and programmer.

R. Luke DuBois’ Hindsight Is Always 20/20 compiles and presents, in 43 prints, words from each president’s state of the union addresses as a Snellen chart — the wall chart used by optometrists to test patients’ vision. At the top, in the largest letters, are the most frequently used words, with less frequently used words increasingly lower and smaller on the chart.

The prints present an interesting view of not only the presidential lexicon, but the tone of the times and the leaders themselves, while also constituting a sort of random-generated poetry. Ronald Reagan’s most oft-used word, “DEFICITS,” jumps out in capital letters but is juxtaposed with the two following lines: “LET’S BLESS;” and “DREAMS VETO EXCELLENCE.” Clinton’s chart includes the lines “GOT LOT” and “GUN ELSE FINISH LOWEST.”

“The work yields some surprising insights into the power of rhetoric political context,” said Diane Mullin, associate curator at the Weisman, adding that she hopes the “‘eye test’ will provide some insight into the current political race.”

The exhibit, which opened in August, runs through Jan. 4. A version also appeared at the Democratic National Convention in August. The artist, R. Luke DuBois, is a composer, performer, video artist, and programmer living in New York City. See more of his work at www.lukedubois.com.