Hanging with Obama

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THE White House in Washington DC is often seen as a symbol of American democracy, yet ironically the president’s home is increasingly an impenetrable fortress out of reach of most voters.

Once noted for the 20,000 citizens who crammed in to celebrate the 1829 inauguration of president Andrew Jackson, the White House’s open days were axed after the 9/11 attacks, the surrounding streets blocked off after the Boston Marathon bombing and just last year public tours were canned during the fiscal shut-down.

But Melville artist Steven Tapping is attempting to bring some of the democracy back, giving visitors to his latest exhibition the opportunity to live out their White House fantasies—even if it is just in the virtual world.

Co-opting Google’s cultural institute project, which takes the search engine’s street views inside famous museums and buildings, Tapping will project images of the interior of the White House onto a green screen, allowing people to interact with the space and “realise their ideas through performance, direction, installation, 3D modelling, sound and media”.

“The White House is the centre of democracy but the actual open space is as undemocratic as you get,” Tapping told the Herald. “So it’s about democratising that space.

“It started out because I was looking at how political campaigns were being funded and I stumbled across the Obama web store for the 2012 campaign.

“And I realised as someone that doesn’t live in the United States you can’t purchase anything from the web store because you are financially contributing to the electoral campaign. So I found a third party internet service that purchased those goods for me.

“So I was financially contributing to the campaign, subversively I guess. So that got the ball rolling about spaces and how these space can be used.”

Tapping’s show Chroma Key Aesthetics will run side-by-side with artist Claire Bushby’s TL;DR (Too late; didn’t read) at the Heathcote Museum and Gallery in Applecross until February 23.

Bushby held workshops where participants were given tweets and had to embroider them before sending them back to the original author.

Bushby said that, like Tapper, she wanted to explore how social media “enables everyone to be a creative content producer”.

“The [workshops] centred around issues about internet communication and internet privacy, so it’s not just a project about cross-stitching,” Bushby said.

Social media

“I was interested why some people feel really isolated by social media, yet for others it’s really liberating and they feel like they have much bigger social circles.

“It was also interesting that the majority of people don’t have a twitter account, so I wanted to know what the fascination with it was.”

Both artists say they want people to engage with the works, which will continue to develop once they’ve left the gallery space.

“How we approach art has changed,” Bushby says. “The gallery space—the paintings on the wall—it’s different to how people experience visual information now.

“With this exhibition there is more of a platform for people to come to and take part and this exhibition isn’t the finished work. Through online, it will go wherever people take it.”

“My intention is to take my hand off it and lose control,” Tapping chimes in.

“People around the world can keep contributing content and I have no control over it.

It can keep becoming this content-generating machine that keeps producing work,” Bushby says.

by BRENDAN FOSTER

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