Would You Watch Election Night Returns with a Bunch of Strangers from the Opposite Party?

November 6, 2012  |  

via Contemporary Arts Museum Houston , Martin Yaptangco

Add this to your list of watch party options. Tonight, some museums across the country are hosting Election Night viewings in connection with the exhibit “Your Land/My Land: Election ‘12”—inviting impassioned online debate across all 50 states.

Conceived by New York-based artist Jonathan Horowitz, the installation simultaneously on view in seven museums around the nation features blue and red carpets divided into opposing zones to reflect the Democrat-GOP divide. Monitors suspended above the carpets simulcast a live feed from liberal leaning news network MSNBC on one side and a live feed from conservative-friendly outlet Fox News on the other.

President Obama’s portrait hangs on an adjacent wall while a photograph of Governor Romney waits on the floor, only to replace Obama’s hanging position if he wins.

Horowitz told Madame Noire he designed the installation as “a location for people to gather, watch coverage of, and talk about the presidential election.” He added, “Aesthetically, it depicts an electorate and media that have become polarized like never before.”

Polarization is safe in the museum setting says Bill Arning, director of Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, one of the museums exhibiting “Your Land.”

“We don’t have the type of social spaces we used to,” Arning explains, citing the shortage of public forums where people can physically congregate for the express purpose of deep civil debate. “[These days] the only place we’re used to seeing 40 people at once is a shopping mall,” he quips. “The social role of museums as being the safe place to discuss dangerous ideas is getting more and more important.”

But you don’t have to share your personal political views with strangers to share the “Your Land” experience. Allison Agsten curator of public engagement at Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum says visitors have already been flocking just to watch the debates with a group. “For the final presidential debate, when the rest of the museum was closed,” she says, “nearly forty visitors came.”

Turnout could be even higher on Election Day, if not after says Agsten which is the exhibit will remain on view for two weeks after the polls close. “We all know that MSNBC and Fox won’t stop churning out the coverage!“ With pretty much every poll predicting a statistical dead heat between the candidates, and Hurricane Sandy damage potentially impacting voter turnout on the East Coast, a nail biter of hanging chad proportions could be in store.

Flashbacks from 2004 aside, Dominic Molon, curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis where “Your Land” greets visitors in the lobby, says the exhibit ironically offers voters a detox from election fever. “Jonathan’s work is very much about this kind of intersection of the mass media, popular culture, and politics,” he observes, “[and] the way that they kind of cancel one another out.”

Molon adds, “Like [the] viral video of the little girl crying about ‘if I hear about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney anymore…’ I think we’re almost all kind of at that point right now.”

Tell us how you feel on YourLandMyLand.us and #YLML. “Your Land/My Land: Election ’12” is currently on view at the museums listed below.

Contemporary Art Museum St Louis – on view till November 11, 2012

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston – on view till November 11, 2012

Telfair Museum (Savannah) – on view till November 11, 2012

Contemporary Art Museum (Raleigh) – on view till November 12, 2012

Hammer Museum (Los Angeles) – on view till November 18, 2012

New Museum (New York) – on view till November 18, 2012

Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (Salt Lake City) – on view till November 24, 2012

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