Currently, the only place at Florida Atlantic University where people are allowed to throw a shoe at a politician is found within the Schmidt Center Gallery Public Space on the Boca Raton campus.
On Oct. 13, the University Galleries opened their newest exhibition, the “Political Sideshow 2016 From ‘Bitch’ to [Big] ‘Nuts’ and Beyond.” The majority of the exhibition consists of election campaign paraphernalia, promoting certain ideas about the candidates of the 2016 presidential election. However, pieces by local artists and video presentations are also featured.
“In 2016, with former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton running as the first female nominee from a major party and reality-TV star and billionaire Donald Trump running as the Republican nominee, many of the same type of issues have come to the fore, including issues of gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, age, class and how these intersect,” Jane Caputi, a women, gender and sexuality studies professor at FAU and a co-curator for the exhibit, said in an email.
The exhibition also includes four pieces by local artists chosen by Adrienne Rose Gionta, a co-curator for this exhibition and an alumna of FAU.
Caputi hosted a similar exhibition at FAU back in 2008 titled “The Political Circus.” Some of the paraphernalia from this past exhibition is also displayed in the sideshow, including the anti-Obama T-shirt depicting him as a monkey.
Initially the 2008 election is what gave Caputi the idea for “The Political Circus” exhibition in the first place.
“I saw on TV news that an anti-Obama t-shirt was being sold that pictured him as a monkey. This is one of the oldest and most violent racist stereotypes, suggesting Black people are not fully human,” Caputi wrote in an email. “Then I saw the Hillary ‘Nutcracker,’ which suggests – and this is a core part of sexist propaganda – that when you have a strong woman, this necessarily diminishes or ‘castrates’ men.”
Caputi, who has worked at FAU since 1997, said she is hosting the exhibition on the Boca campus because it is her academic home and where she was given the support to make her vision a reality.
Students can expect the exhibition to be hands-on considering some of the pieces are interactive. Toward the back of the exhibition there is an art piece, “Vent-o-matic – a cathARTic Public Health Service” by Randy Burman, that allows anyone to pick up a shoe from the provided pile and throw it at the face of any Republican they despise.
Another piece called “Candidates and the President” by Aurora Molina, displays current politicians and candidates as puppets. If an individual gets close enough to the piece, it triggers the puppets to move up and down.
“Students can expect to be interested, not bored. Materials are wide-ranging in theme as well as in the ideas conveyed. Many are humorous; many are vulgar and offensive,” Caputi said.
Despite some of the materials being controversial, Caputi believes students should go to the exhibition because it is a great way for them to be educated.
“This is one way to be informed about the issues in the election,” she said. “The exhibition also include panels with key points from the platforms of Democratic, Republican, Green and Libertarian Parties.”
According to Caputi, she looks at the exhibition from the perspective of her own field, but thinks students and outside visitors are welcome to their own interpretations.
“Everyone is going to find a piece that’s significant to them,” Caputi said.
Caputi said her favorite part of the exhibit is the “Talking Back To The Cap” panel. The piece is a display case containing some of the baseball caps made during the current election in response to Trump’s well known red cap which states, “Make America Great Again.” From the limited caps displayed they range from “Make America Hate Again” to “Make America Mexico Again.”
“The purpose is to further ongoing public discussion about engaged citizenship, civil discourse, democratic values, social justice, community amidst differences, and the past, present and future of what is commonly understood as a shared American dream of equality, freedom and prosperity,” Caputi said.
The “Political Sideshow 2016 From ‘Bitch’ to [Big] ‘Nuts’ and Beyond”, is open for visitors in the Schmidt Center Gallery Public Space from Oct. 14 to Dec. 3. The gallery is accessible Tuesday through Friday 1-4 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m.
Jessica Johnson is a contributing writer with the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @jessangst.