‘We’re Interested in Your White Horse’ is a conversation between three artists and three curators that discusses the implications of the information architecture of the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention websites. The artists observed and commented on the sites as they were projected, in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The conversation was organized by Creative Time and took place during their national public art initiative ‘Democracy in America’.
Shane Brennan, Marisa Jahn, Rachel Mason, Nato Thompson, Siebren Versteeg and Nicholas Weist.
NICHOLASWEIST: So here we go. We’re here to talk about how the Republican and Democratic National Committees organize their information, and what impact it has on their respective audiences. This is the Republican National Convention Web site. It starts with a huge party. A party, party, if you will.
Courtesy of the Republican National Committee.
SIEBRENVERSTEEG: I could never help but think of country first, as in country music.
NATOTHOMPSON: There’s the elephant. Does a Republican elephant always have such enormous tusks?
RACHELMASON: Yeah, that looks a little vicious.
NW: He’s got crazy eye, too. So our aim specifically is to look at images of the convention. And I was looking around the Web site a little while ago and if you’ll notice, it’s extraordinarily difficult to find them. Like there’s no real place for you to just look at straight images; there’s just video and audio. But you can find it with difficulty here. Notice also that the Republicans are represented by text first, which I think is really weird. And then they have, you know, convention pictures. And then ‘Home For Our Troops’ at the bottom. Which is—
NT: What’s that mean?
NW: I don’t know, but it takes place three months before the convention.
NT: So I guess they were building homes for veterans or something?
RM: Right, that’s the program where they’ve built veterans homes.
SV: Oh, that’s like that show. Extreme Home Makeover.
RM: No, they do it for injured troops. And they also remake their homes—like if they need ramps now.
SV: And they sink like $4 million in the production of one home for one person. One lucky lottery winner gets an extreme makeover and everyone else gets nothing. (laughter)
NT: Just to back up, why would you go to this site? So you’re like, ‘Oh, I wonder what’s going on at the RNC?’. Over to the Web site.
SHANEBRENNAN: I think most people would probably go to this before the convention, to see the schedule, so the pictures may not be as important at that point.
NT: Yeah, right. It’s more about information to get there, right?
NW: Well, here’s the home page again.
NT: I am so impressed with this party atmosphere. I guess they’re really trying to say, “Hey, this is a party.”
SB: Right. We have reason to celebrate.
RM: Did you notice when McCain got caught up in way too many balloons? And he was like punching them (laughter) like he was getting disoriented. I wondered if he was having like a flashback to Vietnam.
SV: Is that why they didn’t do fireworks this year?
NW: Should we see if that’s represented anywhere?
(Balloons fall at minute 55 of video)
NT: It’s this kind of overwhelming force of — show of force of confetti and signage.
NW: Hey, did you notice how much that podium looks like the throne in Star Wars?
NT: Like he’s up on the Death Star?
RM: The point. That is one thing that I did notice when I was in there. All candidates do the point. But it looks like, ‘Hey, I recognize you,’ but it’s kind of just like they pretend like they’re pointing at somebody.
NT: It’s effective, because I know when I watch them, always like — these guys know everybody. They show up, and they’re like, “Rachel.”
RM: Right, right.
NT: What? Do you know him?
RM: Yeah. (laughter)
NT It would be nice to do the lineage of the point.
SV: From David Lee Roth on. He used to point out people to give backstage passes to.
RM: Oh, here’s where the explosions and the balloons get to be too much.
NT: God, it’s insanity. I guess video projections of fireworks are pretty nice.
SV: (laughter) Economical.
RM: Oh, and one of those big balls almost hits him. One of the huge ones.
NT: Look it. Palin’s totally distracted.
RM: Yeah. It’s too much now.
NT: They’re both. They’re both just in awe of the balloon clutter. Who are the folks on the stage besides McCain’s wife? All his family?
NW: That’s Palin’s husband, right, and her 16 children.
NT: Do people get drunk at these things?
RM: They do.
SB: Oh, I’m sure they do.
NW: I feel like it’s kind of it’s like the political equivalent of the Olympics.
SB: Yeah. Mixed with a little bit of country music concert.
RM: Who played at this one? Shania Twain?
NW: Do you think we’re ready for the Democrats?
SB: Yeah, compare and contrast.
Courtesy of the Democratic National Committee.
NT: He is a good looking man.
SV: This is a significantly more CNN-looking.
NW: Okay, so right up here it brings it right up here immediately, photos, videos, speeches. Much more clear information architecture, I would say.
NT: Well, I guess the way they made it look like Obama up there, it’s almost like he already is President.
SV: Where the Republican one was like the end of the year party. The end of the world party.
NT: The Democrats really got a gang’s-all-here kind of thing. What is this?
NW: This is Michelle. This is the first image that you see when you click open the photos.
NT: I want to see that Michelle just one more time.
SV: Yeah, that’s a pretty wild picture. Like “‘Born in the U.S.A.‘
NT: She is the tallest woman—
SV: What’s she wearing there?
NT: No, how tall is she? She’s like six foot.
NW: You guys, I am so excited to have a glamazon in the White House.
RM: Is she taller than Barack?
NW: So this just keeps going and going and going.
NT: Eww, what’s that gross Biden picture? (laughter)
NT: Why is his face so big?
NW: There’s a lot of those actually.
NT: It looks like Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
RM: It looks like he stuck his face into some Jell-O or something.
NT: Putting the party back in the Democratic—
SV: The Jell-O party. (laughter)
Marisa Jahn: But this is interesting, I mean, that it feels so contemporary, so flickr-y, you know?
SV: Can we look at the desecration of the flag by it being backwards behind Barack Obama’s picture?
RM: Oh, whoa. You’re right.
SB: The flag is backwards.
SV: Oh, my God.
NT: It’s like 666.
NW: Here’s their party.
RM: I think there was some reason they didn’t use balloons, wasn’t there like an environmental reason?
NT: Look at that. That is like a web. How do you even make your way through that? Everything looks— Oh, wait, there’s a concert—
NW: This I thought was kind of funny. It seems to be the only image of the video screen on the first page.
Courtesy of the Democratic National Committee.
NT: Why is — it looks like the seating is empty. Like he just blew them all away. (laughter)
NW: But don’t these people up on the top — don’t they look like sharpshooters?
RM: Snipers. Snipers. That is frightening.
NW: I like the monument up here.
NT: Oh. Oh, because this is the Broncos. This is Bronco Stadium.
NW: Well, so this, of course, is just the first page—
SV: Wow, yeah. Does every new page start off with the photo of Michelle?
NT: I don’t understand, is Michelle Obama wearing a jogging suit? What?
SV: She doesn’t really look that dressed up. That’s kind of confusing.
NT: What is that outfit? It’s a tee-shirt and jeans?
NW: So we’re progressing through all the pictures, and although clearly it’s not everything, it’s still plenty. It’s a little haphazard.
SB: And I guess they’re chronological.
NW: So this is one of my favorite suites of images. This was — I didn’t — I never saw this, but apparently the convention was—had a Native American blessing.
SB: That’s so cool.
NT: I don’t under—that looks like the best party ever.
SV: Yeah, that felt—it really needs the title.
SB: What is this picture of?
NT: That makes no sense. Is this the Pepsi Center, or did they build the convention for it?
SV: Well, yeah, why are they showing — well, you gotta do a lot of stuff. You gotta put in carpets.
NW: Yeah, that’s true.
NT: They document the hell out of this thing.
RM: It is a little too much information.
SB: It is.
SV: TMI. This is not at all relevant to the convention. Let’s see what the last page looks like.
RM: That’s the photographers taking pictures of each other in the parking lot.
RM: They really put everything up there. They’re just testing out their cameras. (laughter)
SV: They wanted it to have the feel of like being a totally open source, like non-edited — you know, Wiki-style photo blog. And it’s less maintenance.
NW: But do you think they really let interns do this? Or was there a publicist hand-tagging each of these?
SV: Yes. I mean, I would assume the latter. But, you know—
SV: I’d like to see how it ends. Because it looks like it’s getting less and less relevant.
RM: This is a cowboy on the street. (laughter)
SV: Oh, look. Now, look at the titles. He’s got the stock counter titles now. HBIM 5207 19APG.
NT: You know, of course, we’re going to get the photographer visiting some friends down the street.
SV: Oh, wow, look at that. Somebody went nuts on that horse.
RM: That’s true, 20 pictures of that horse. (laughter)
NW: No, this is probably the—isn’t that the mayor of Denver or something? There was the New Yorker profile.
Courtesy of the Democratic National Committee.
NT: What? What do you mean? That’s what he looks like? That’s what they relegated him to, a mascot?
RM: (laughter) He’s wearing his own mascot suit.
NT: It’s curious what they mean by mascot. (laughter)
SV: Mascot. Isn’t it totally incorrect to have a human being as a mascot?
NW: Okay, so there’s six pages of photographs, right? And there’s almost an entire page of this particular parade.
RM: And that horse.
NW: Which means that what, like 18 percent of all photographs on the Democrat National Convention Wseb site are of this horse.
NT: Yes, of that horse.
NW: What does that imply?
NT: ING 3608?
NW: Let’s look at this one on the last page of photos.
RM: I think the photographer accidentally fused his own pictures with the Convention ones.
NT: It doesn’t even have a title anymore. Multiracial kids on the playground. Check, check. Do you think they’re saying—?
NW: The Democratic party embraces drama queens?
RM: And after the convention, he went to the zoo.
SV: Yeah, this is like, yeah, the convention through one shutterbug’s eyes. Can we see who made the site? Is there anywhere to—?
NW: Well, you have down here, I mean, paid for by—
SV: Look, a phone number!
NW: Should we call one of the numbers right now? Here, I’ll call one.
NT: Yeah, put it on speaker.
SV: And ask who did the Web site.
RM: And then all the way up the chain of command.
NW: So it’s 720—
SB: DNC 2008.
TELEPHONERECORDING: The number 362‑2008 has been—
SV: It’s over! (laughter)
RM: That’s telling.
TELEPHONERECORDING: —changed to area code 202–863-8000.
RM: It’s Barack Obama’s office!
NT: What if we’ve solved the mystery? Is there a mystery?
SV: (laughter) We’re making one. We’re going to make Ann solve it.
RM: What are we asking them? Why are there so many extraneous pictures?
NT: No, who did the pictures.
NW: Hi. My name is Nick Weist. I’m calling from an organization called Creative Time. And we were just looking through your Web site and had a quick question about the photographs on it.
RECEPTIONIST: Okay. Let me transfer your call. Hold on, please.
NT: Huh. Oh, my God, we’re making progress on something.
RM: We’re in!
VOICEMAILRECORDING: Please leave a voice message for Matthew Ortega.
RM: Oh, leave a message?
VOICEMAILRECORDING: At the tone, please record your message.
VOICEMAILRECORDING: When you are finished recording, hang up or press # for more options.
NW: Hi, Matthew. My name is Nick Weist. I’m calling from an organization called Creative Time. I had a couple questions about the Flickr account that’s on the DNC Web site. If you could shoot me an e-mail back to me, that would be great. It’s nick w at creative time dot org. Thanks so much.
NT: What are you going to ask him?
MJ: Well, you know, you need to ask him when he calls back and say, ‘We’re doing a Web site. And we also want to have the look and feel of this kind of like raw, gritty, very interactive, people just uploading their photos. And we want to know how you guys did that.’ (laughter)
NT: Maybe it was—
NW: Joe the Photographer?
NT: It should be like, We’re really interested in your white horse.
Nicholas Weist is a freelance curator and the head of marketing and communications for Creative Time. Shane Brennan is an associate curator for Creative Time. Marisa Jahn is an artist living in Boston and New York. Rachel Mason is an artist living in New York. Nato Thompson is a curator and producer for Creative Time. Siebren Versteeg is an artist living in New York.