'This chaos of soundbites"
In artist Chad Scott's exhibit He Said … She Said at Winchester Cultural Center, the famously branded and well-groomed talking heads of cable news celebritydom talk simultaneously from 12 TV monitors and three radios. The abundance of chatter and conflicting commentary becomes a nightmare or delirium one has slipped into merely by walking through the gallery door.
While the immersive multimedia installation based on the madness of the 2016 presidential campaign sets out to critique 24-hour news stations operating with “profit-seeking motives,” it mainly questions the ability of viewers to make informed decisions amid the noise and directives.
Scott, an assistant professor at UNLV, considers the exhibit a pedagogical space, but answers no questions. Instead, he uses the show to mirror reality and heighten the dissonant chorus of agenda-driven dialogue so familiar to the American psyche that while some visitors can’t linger long in the gallery, others might find themselves comfortably at home.
Information is parsed, debated and dissected over the “race,” the “battle,” the “match ups” and the “dead heat.” Clips tell us that Donald Trump insists his signature hair “is not a toupee.” He questions Hillary Clinton’s health — the coughing, the “seizing” and the not seizing. Pundits discuss “ISIS’s support of Trump.”
Clinton answers reporters' questions on a plane. Now she walks across a tarmac. There’s been a new development in her email investigation. The candidates spar over national security. There are the “clashing world views,” candidate blunders and Trump and Clinton crisscrossing the country at breakneck speed with fandom and protests in their wake. Third party candidate Gary Johnson says that our two-party system has failed.
“The media covers the same topics, but reports them from a different lens," Scott says. “Where do you even begin? You walk in and there’s no real place to start. You pick and then start navigating this chaos of soundbites.”
This is the layout of He Said … She Said, where TVs mounted on poles and walls are joined by four microphones that record messages from viewers, which are spit out onto another television monitor.
Images of Trump and Clinton are projected in rotation on a curved wall. With these still images, Scott says, “You lose what they’re actually saying because everybody else’s voice is coming to the fore.”
Scott updates the looping content every week to keep up with the ever-changing news cycle and issues that emerge. The driving narrative is that the political landscape is a divisive mess, and pundits are chiming in with expertise or, in some cases, wild bias. Scott has synthesized this perfectly, presenting the endurance of the American campaign season, which exhausts and fuels the emotionally divided electorate with a surreality that can make it seem as if we’re on the eve of our next Civil War.
He Said … She Said
Through October 21. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m Saturday with a Debate Viewing Party at the October 19 closing reception. Winchester Cultural Center Gallery, 3130 McLeod Drive, 702-455-7340.