Proclamations and Paraphernalia

In the new issue of journal Media-N, ‘Forking Paths in New Media Art Practices: Investigating Remix’, Roopa Vasudevan (Alum ’20) contributes an essay on ‘the Art of Remixing the Political Document.’

For Vol. 17 No. 1 (2021) of Media N journal is a special issue on contemporary approaches to remix. The issue “was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’s short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths,” a recurring point of reference in the development of media culture. Prior to terms such as new media, digital art, media art, and remix, Borges’s narrative exploration of bifurcation as a means of reflecting on the possibility of multiple simultaneous realities with no clear beginning or end has offered a literary and philosophical model for creative uses of emerging technology throughout the twentieth century. The essays included in this special issue provide a glimpse into the relation of Borgesian multiplicity and remix as an interdisciplinary methodology.”

Proclamations and Paraphernalia: #Bellwether, Editor’s Notes, and the Art of Remixing the Political Document

The essay by Vasudevan (titled above) is explained as:

In 2016 I created an installation entitled #Bellwether, which was a visual exploration of social media content surrounding the 2016 United States presidential primaries, focused specifically on voters in Ohio. Over the course of a year, I collected more than 14 million public Twitter posts that referenced the candidates by name, and repurposed the design of their campaign merchandise to reflect voter sentiment, replacing the curated messaging that they were pushing into the political sphere. After the election, I collected public data from Trump’s administration—including tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account, executive orders and memoranda and transcripts of interviews and news conferences—and edited the text of the US Constitution from his perspective, using the data to justify changes I made to the original text. I presented the final work in the form of a Presidential Executive Order, mirroring everything from typography to paper choices to the leather holders in which Executive Orders are publicly presented after signing.

This creative study explores the lessons learned from these two projects; specifically, I examine the appropriation of political design and its signifiers. I argue that by manipulating and subverting this visual language, the work attempts to counter monolithic narratives perpetuated by dominant political systems, while illuminating the effects of media, technology and the Internet on our perceptions of the government and those who serve in it. By employing alternate historical narratives, the speculative nature of these works also offers a way of imagining a more nuanced approach to current political analysis and meaning-making.

The full issue of Media N is available here.

To see each essay, visit here. And to jump to Vasudevan’s contribution, go here.


About Roopa Vasudevan

Roopa Vasudevan is an American visual artist, computer programmer and researcher currently based in Philadelphia.

Roopa’s work uses data and technology in order to interrogate or subvert social and cultural practices, focusing on issues of human identity and agency in the digital era; power relationships and how they manifest through technology; and coming up with more creative and ethical practices for tech-based art and design. She has exhibited internationally in Belgium, China and the United States, and been featured on Reuters, Slate, Hyperallergic, Jezebel, Complex, The FADER, PBS NewsHour, Public Radio International, and more, as well as on American, French and German television.

Roopa’s work has been supported by the Philadelphia Area Creative Collaboratives (Haverford, PA); SOHO20 Gallery (Brooklyn, NY); the Arctic Circle Residency (Svalbard); China Residencies; SPACES (Cleveland, OH); and Flux Factory (Queens, NY). She is currently a member artist at Vox Populi, a 30+ year old collectively run arts space in Philadelphia.