Within the framework of the programme Intervalos, Museo Reina Sofía screens Political Advertisement IX 1952–2016, an audiovisual project by artists Antoni Muntadas and Marshall Reese, to be shown in the run-up to the U.S. presidential elections. The film spans six decades of the relationship between rhetoric in democracy and advertising techniques by virtue of a montage compiling a broad archive of campaign ads for TV, stretching from their emergence in the 1952 Eisenhower-Stevenson election to the present 2016 campaign between Clinton and Trump.
The U.S. electoral machine is often associated with more sophisticated and perverse mechanisms of global spectacle. The ideological competition for power is played out in complex battles of representation and hegemony in the mass media with audiences and spaces that are ever more fractured. In 1984, at the height of the neoconservative shift in international politics, Muntadas and Reese embarked upon Political Advertisement, a film they conceived by exploring the discursive landscape of the mass media in diverse spheres – installation, photography, video. After producing nine editions, the project formed one of the most expansive and complete audiovisual archives from which to study the evolution of televisual propaganda across the second half of the 20th century and the troubling coincidences and reciprocities between marketing and politics.
Some of the themes put forward in the film, still pertinent today, materialise from the fallout of Cold War psychosis: militarisation as a geopolitical strategy; civil dilemmas between security and privacy; the imposition of a model based on the values of a universal leader (soldier, father, successful businessman or citizen); the connection between politics and religion; the appearance of negative publicity driven by intimidation and fear; the forming of power groups linked to ideological choices established through endorsement; the appearance of the primaries, and the growing of the anti-establishment as a value.
Political Advertisement IX 1952–2016 will be shown in parallel across a number of art centres in the United States and Europe. The aim is to encourage public debate on an international scale, whereby different specialists will interpret this political archive from highly divergent focal points and contexts. It will also serve as a space to critically reflect on citizen responses to the electoral spectacle of democracy. In Madrid two sessions have been scheduled: the first with an intervention by film historian Román Gubern, and the second with journalist Andrea Aguilar, who has been involved in the media coverage of recent U.S. election campaigns.
Román Gubern is a professor of Audiovisual Communication in the Department of Communication Sciences at the Universidad Autónoma of Barcelona. He has also worked as a guest researcher at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), a lecturer at the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology, and the director of Instituto Cervantes in Rome. His noteworthy publications include: Historia del cine (1969), Comunicación y cultura de masas (1977), El simio informatizado (Fundesco Award, 1987), La mirada opulenta. Exploración de la iconosfera contemporánea (1987), La caza de brujas en Hollywood (1987), Patologías de la imagen (Ciudad de Barcelona Essay Prize, 2004), El universo fantástico del cómic (with Luis Gasca, 2015), among others.
Andrea Aguilar is a journalist with a degree in History and Politics from the University of Kent. She also has an M.A. in Journalism, Art and Culture from Columbia University. Since 2002 she has worked as a contributor for the Spanish newspaper El País, and between 2007 and 2014 she lived in New York, widely covering political news. Since 2015 she has been part of the editorial team of the supplement Ideas, from the aforementioned newspaper, and her work has also appeared in magazines such as The Paris Review, El Malpensante, El Estado Mental, Reading Room Journal and Revista Anfibia.