Now that the election is over people are starting to discuss the Obama art phenomenon in greater detail. There is a need to examine what occurred, how it occurred, and the implications said info will have in the future. Due to this I'm pleased to know that some fellow art bloggers will be discussing issues concerning the so-called 'Obama art phenomenon.
One could say that Barack Obama has many faces-- some in paint, some in clay, some in collage, and many in the sketchbooks of art students throughout the United States. However, the momentum of this politically driven art phenomenon-- which volunteers and others associated with the Obama campaign have stated as being 100% user-generated with no financial ties to the campaign itself -- was ushered in by a constant bombardment from the press concerning specific individuals who were directly and indirectly linked to the inner circle of the Obama campaign and promotional efforts during the election process.
Maybe I’m being cynical-- but when art and politics mesh on a grand scale concern is warranted. This concern is solidified when one is aware that key figures in this ‘movement’ are employees and clients of a public relations firm that once served as Media Consultants for the Obama campaign. I'm speaking of the PR firm Evolutionary Media Group. Yet the press has predominately portrayed the Obama art phenomenon as a “grass roots” effort born from within the arts community that occurred without direct support from a firm, corporation, or any specific individual with time and resources invested in the Obama campaign.
The connection between art and Barack Obama played an instrumental role during the election. It was indeed an art phenomenon. My concern is that the momentum of this “art phenomenon” may have been fostered by artificial means-- a playing of the system by individuals with the right (in this case left) press connections, controversial funding, and the know-how of implementing a strategic and stealthy art campaign.
With a source of funding-- not counting donations-- and inside media support-- guaranteed press acknowledgment-- political opportunists with a specific agenda could have easily accomplished this. In other words, the attention directed toward the ‘Obama art phenomenon’ and specific artists and individuals involved in the ‘movement’ could have been manipulated in such a way as to create false media buzz concerning the ‘grass roots’ visual impact. In other words, individuals and businesses with a vested interest in the Obama campaign could have spurred the grass roots effort artificially by utilizing stealth PR tactics and funding from controversial sources. Thus making the grass roots effort more than what it would have been otherwise. Furthermore, it may not have even existed otherwise.
To put it bluntly, there is reason to suspect that the art phenomenon surrounding Barack Obama was not as “grass roots” as some people might think. It may have been carefully plotted by individuals-- professionalis-- directly associated with the Obama campaign. If that is the case history, and the public, has been fooled. After all, the media is already portraying Obama’s election as a triumph for the power of user-generated art from within the arts community as a purely 'grass roots' movement fueled by artists who did not have direct contact with the Obama campaign.
Discrepancies involving the origin of the ‘Obama art phenomenon’ and the ‘art movement’ that occurred during the election will eventually come to light. The question is, will it matter to the public, specifically those in the arts community, if it turns out that the momentum was established by artificial means-- corporate means? Will it matter if what occurred was more corporate than grass roots?
If this phenomenon was created and guided by a well-funded PR machine-- with the ever-watchful eye of the Obama campaign observing and directing it-- does it matter? Would it take away from the legitimacy of those outside of the PR machine who were lured into the ‘movement‘ believing it to be a purely grass roots effort-- artists who had intentions other than fostering media hype for themselves... artists who were not interested in establishing the groundwork for a for-profit merchandising empire based on selling hope?
If a scenario like this were to unravel would we see the merit of some of the most influential street artists in the United States questioned? Would the message of their art be tarnished by being associated with the very entities and corruption they speak against? Or would they continue to be hyped as anti-corporation visual revolutionaries? After all, one can be a rebel and still earn a living, right? However, one can’t sustain an authentic dialogue if he or she is subservient to what he or she protests against. What are your thoughts?
My original post on this issue,
The Obama Art Phenomenon: Selling Hope?
Links for research
Yosi Sergant and the Art of Change: The Publicist Behind Shepard Fa...
PAINT MISBEHAVIN' IN TEAM O'S 'STREET ART' -- New York Post
Other link of interest,
Art Law Professionals weigh-in on Associated Press Copyright Infrin...