Campaign Fever

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The Italian pavilion has a very funny video installation, called Democrazy, by Francesco Vezzoli, a satire of the American (and increasingly, the world’s) political campaign process. It consists of two sixty-second videos — parody presidential campaign spots — that play simultaneously on large screens facing one another in a darkened space. In one the actress Sharon Stone is candidate “Patricia Hill”. In the other, the French celebrity philosophe Bernard-Henri Levy plays “Patrick Hill”, who naturally is just about indistinguishable from Patricia, though it’s hard to tell because in their simultaneous babbling of political nostrums, with appropriate background music, they just about drown one another out. Which, of course, is part of the joke.

I usually don’t take to video art, like Sleepwalkers, Doug Aitken’s recent outdoor projection at MoMA, that features real movie and pop stars. Their fame tends to overshadow every other meaning. But the last time I checked, there was an actual movie star in the governor’s mansion in California and a TV star gearing up for a presidential run, so Stone feels just right. To cap the joke, Vezzoli designed the profile for each of his candidates in consultation with a real American campaign consultant — George W. Bush’s Mark McKinnon for one of the “Hills”, and for the other, Bill Mulhall, a Bill Clinton spokesperson in the 1996 campaign. Interestingly, the pavilion info-sheet doesn’t say which adviser shaped which candidate — which may be part of the joke.