Ligorano/Reese: democracy disappeared


Democracy reshaped in Denver (photo uncredited, on
Democracy reshaped in Denver (photo uncredited, on

What started as an art gallery project in 2006 took on very public dimensions in 2008 when collaborative artist team Ligorano/Reese staged ice sculptures of the word “Democracy” during the Democratic and Republican Conventions in Denver and St. Paul, as well as in New York City.

Initially, the DEMOCRACY ice was linked to audio clips of various George W Bush speeches about terrorism, including the infamous 2004 statement “The resolve of the American people is firm… We will not be intimidated by thugs and assassins. We will win this essential victory in the war on terror.”

You could call it “artivism,” you could call it public art, you could call it straight-up lobbying for people to engage in politics, but whatever you call it, Ligorano/Marshall propose a straightforward concept: put DEMOCRACY in the pathway of regular people and see how they react.

According to the Ligorano/Reese blog Voices for Democracy, the ice letters had different lifespans in different cities. In Denver, Democracy appeared twice.

August 28/08:

Democracy lasted the night, visited by New York state delegates to the convention. Numerous party goers, posing next to its letters; touching it, kissing it. Clearly cherished and adulated.

but on August 30/08:
The final letter cracked at 9:11 AM, 19 hours after it was unveiled.
Of the nine letters making up the word “Democracy,” at least half met their demise at the
hands of bystanders, crashing to the ground after being swatted or pushed from their base;
the rest disappeared due to the weather.
Does this bode well for the state of things?

Another Ligorano/Reese ice sculpture commented on the economic meltdown – you can see it coming – on October 29, 2008, the 79th anniversary of Black Tuesday, the stock market crash that caused the Great Depression in 1929. 

Economy preparing to melt in Foley Square, in front of the New York Supreme Court (from Art Daily, Oct 29/08, photo uncredited)
Economy preparing to melt in Foley Square, in front of the New York Supreme Court (from Art Daily, Oct 29/08, photo uncredited)

On the one hand this visual statement is blunt, not terribly nuanced – ice meltdown = economic meltdown – but the sculpture would have had an eerie presence as it was 15 feet long and 5 feet tall, and weighed almost 1,500 pounds. I imagine the size and mass bulk of the ephemeral ECONOMY provoked a visceral response for people who shared its physical presence.

US artists Ligorano and Reese have collaborated together since the early 80’s. Their work examines contemporary trends in society and the media through the manipulation of images and sound from print, television, internet, and radio sources.

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