Community

Campaign installation finds comfort in absurdity

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Courtesy of Elizabeth Bennett
The latest election signs to sprout in downtown Los Altos provide a cockeyed look at down ballot races.

Los Altos resident Nancy Wolfe spotted election lawn signs last week that demanded a double-take. Taken individually, they pair the rhetoric of the moment with flights of visual and literary fancy.

“Dorothy for Council” sports a yellow brick road and the promise “repave roads, faster commute home.” A stylized mockingbird supports “Atticus Finch, State Attorney General.” “Leslie Knope’s” city council campaign includes her observation that “the Library Department is the most diabolical, ruthless bunch of bureaucrats I’ve ever seen” (this joke relies on a shared understanding that librarians are fearsome only in the world of fiction).

Staged together, the campaign signs reveal a hidden message woven across their boards: the word “Vote.” Wolfe spotted an installation of the signs on Cristo Rey Drive near the entrance to Rancho San Antonio, and said she particularly loved “John Lennon for Mayor: Just Imagine” and “Superman for Supervisor.”

Another array went up at the intersection of Grant Road and Arboretum Drive, but their presence remains as uncertain as so many aspects of this election season – “We’ll see if they can withstand the breeze and the gophers that could literally undermine the entire project,” observed Elizabeth Bennett, the artist behind the endeavor.

Bennett, who lives in Cupertino near Los Altos’ southern reaches, said the idea for the project sprang into life when she was driving around town with her daughter and they noticed “that lawn signs had begun their bloom.” This peculiar season, fecund for only a few months every few years, struck them with its potential for fun. They didn’t recognize the names of local candidates – a thought-provoking problem of down-ballot races, in and of itself – and mused on what larger-than-life names would fire up recognition and bring humor to the campaign crop.

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Courtesy of Elizabeth Bennett
Not on your ballot, but coming to a lawn near you: election art of the absurd.

“It has primarily been a fun project, but there is a more compelling side to what I hope comes across: Vote. The word is a subtle design element when the signs are placed together, and the deeper motivation behind my efforts,” Bennett said.

Bennett’s work has a long-established interest in what it means to be a “socially engaged trickster,” as she puts it. She’s interested in how we search for meaning through fairly arbitrary acts of ordering in our everyday life – how do we feel when we confront disruptions to everyday expectations, whether it’s a traffic cone, a campaign slogan or a no-parking sign? Perhaps an artistic injection of the gently absurd can bring pleasure and maybe even a moment of excitement about voting, during a month when non-fiction news of the voting experience itself sways toward the absurd.

 

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