On Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, a new addition was made to Nina Katchadourian’s Monument to the Unelected. Each presidential election cycle, a sign of the unelected presidential candidate is designed, printed, and added to the installed artwork. During this uniquely challenging time, the artist and her gallery decided to host a first-ever livestream sign placing event, where all sites of the artwork around the United States would share the placing of the new sign. To make this event even more special, Katchadourian asked first-time voters to place the new sign and talk about what they think will change for them and their communities in the next four years. You can watch a recording of this live event above.
Nina Katchadourian’s Monument to the Unelected (2008/2009 – ongoing) is a set of lawn signs created by the artist featuring the names of every candidate who ran for president of the United States and lost. The piece has been exhibited during every presidential election cycle since 2008—both on public sites as well as in museums and galleries—and always spans the time both before and after the election. For the 2020 iteration, the work was timed to the current election cycle. Monument to the Unelected was presented at eight sites across the United States. Working in conjunction with the participating institutions, Katchadourian identified local public sites where campaign signs are typically found—including residential lawns and spaces adjacent to urban buildings—blending Monument to the Unelected into public spaces at a time when presidential campaign signs become a common part of the landscape. This year, after the election results were determined, the 59th losing candidate’s sign was added to the group.
Katchadourian invited eight first-time voters, one at each location where the work is being exhibited, to add the 59th sign to the installation. The addition of the newest sign took place live via Zoom on Saturday, Nov. 14. The live webcast was co-hosted by Pace Gallery, Catharine Clark Gallery, and all five of the presenting institutions: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, AZ; Grand Central Art Center, Orange, CA; The Transformer Station, Cleveland, OH; moCa Cleveland, Cleveland, OH; and in collaboration with the Abrahamson Family Trust.
Monument to the Unelected was originally commissioned by SMoCA in 2008 for the Museum’s 10th anniversary exhibition. Katchadourian visited Scottsdale and Phoenix during the run-up to the 2008 presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain. The artist was struck by the proliferation of campaign signs that sprouted up on lawns, in vacant lots, and at busy intersections in what has historically been a swing state. “The signs struck me as a particularly American phenomenon, and one that was worthy of closer investigation,” Katchadourian said. “After an election, many of the losing candidates’ names become completely unfamiliar to us. An election sign always carries with it a political opinion, but paradoxically, Monument to the Unelected lets us consider us our collective political road not taken from a peculiarly non-partisan viewpoint.”
During these uncertain times, SMoCA has invited artists and staff to utilize our blog Inspire as an outlet to make meaningful connections by sharing personal reflections and insight into their practice. Explore more entries from our Museum Musings series.