Unconventional voices

Would it be a protest to display a melting ice sculpture of the word “democracy,” to perform gay liberation art, to speak out on a soapbox or parade down Nicollet Mall for liberty? Not exactly. The UnConvention is not about protesting. It is a collective umbrella — bringing together nonpartisan alternative art and media — with a mission to project the voices of the public.

With nearly 20 projects and events planned during the Republican National Convention, The UnConvention is certainly going to be noticed. 

Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., will be the hub of The UnConvention activities. Marlina Gonzalez, programs manager of Intermedia Arts, says, “our building will be transformed into the gathering place for local and national artists, educators, alternative journalists and the general public to interact around issues related to participatory democracy.”

Every inch of the space will be spewing with alternative political voices. Even the air will be transmitting new types of media; photographs, video loops, and audio/visual art will possess the gallery walls and screens. 

The UnConvention is in no way part of the assembly that plans to protest in front of the Xcel Energy Center.

Jason Barnett, director of The Uptake, says the stereotypical protest is ineffective, “you know- rah, rah, rah, bore me to death, here’s my old sign, boo. It’s like an old ‘’60s hangover. We need to reinvent protesting.”

The Uptake is an online media source, based out of Minneapolis and Denver, which projects the footage of citizen journalists. With the coordination of online tools, The Uptake will train anyone with access to a basic camera how to be a citizen journalist. Barnett says journalism is changing and citizen journalists are part of the solution.

“A million cameras will be pointing at the boring protests at the Xcel, while our citizen journalists will be capturing the more interesting ways that people are showing and expressing their opinions,” Barnett said.

As part of The UnConvention, The Uptake has teamed with the Walker Art Center on a project called “I Approve This Message.” The UnConvention is accepting citizen-approved video messages to the delegates. These messages will be screened in the entrance of the Walker, at Intermedia Arts and on a jumbotron outside the Xcel, during the RNC.

Un-scripting the political process

Justin Heideman, a new media designer for the Walker, says that The UnConvention is about un-scripting the political process. “Conventions are highly devoid of any real content.”

The public is not allowed to interact with the candidates during the convention.

“It is basically a big media event that is projected on TV, teaching us that the only way to take part in the process is to vote,” Heideman said.

In order for democracy to work effectively, it begins with the people. Big change starts in little places. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, that means getting quirky with yard signs.  

For The UnConvention, The Walker has been working on a project called “My Yard, Our Message.”

In May, local artists submitted more than 300 yard sign designs for the competition. “During the convention, the Dayton’s Bluff and West Side neighborhoods in St. Paul will become outdoor galleries of artist designed yard signs,” Heideman said. The 50 winning signs are available for online purchase.

Many of these signs encourage voters to use their voice. A winning sign by designer, Bluefield, says: “Majority Rule? Only 55% of eligible voters decided the President for all of us in 2004. Not This Time.”

If voting is the only way the public can have a say in political change, voters definitely showed their power during the 2008 Primaries.

Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese will be recreating an ice sculpture titled “The State of Things” as part of Brushfire Provisions Public Art during The UnConvention events. The sculpture will be a 15-foot-wide installation of the word “democracy” carved in ice. During the 8 to 12 hour period of the installation, the idea that our country was founded on will vanish as ice chunks collide, crush and melt into a puddle of political interpretation.

The events of The UnConvention are meant to be compellingly visual and interactive, promoting peace and sparking public reaction and expression. Some of the art speaks for itself, but most of the mediums are designed to be interactive. Everything that is affiliated with The UnConvention is intended to be nonpartisan. “The UnConvention is of course political,” Heideman said, “but it’s not about Democrats or Republicans, it is about the voice of the public.”

From the airwaves to a soapbox

The UnConvention will cover Minneapolis to St. Paul — on the ground, in the airwaves, in galleries and on bikes.

The UnConvention events begin the weekend before the RNC, with spark24 — a 24-hour party Aug.30–31. The festival will fill Peavey Plaza and Orchestra Hall with music, theatre and dance performances for 24 hours. More than 60 restaurants, bars, hotels and retail stores will also remain open, hosting entertainment along Nicollet Avenue.

The Walker Art Center and NY’s Creative Time present New York-based artist, Sharon Hayes, who has put together a project that will bring gay liberation to light. Hayes has recruited more than 75 citizens that will recite a controversial text on the relationship between political desire and romantic desire. The public performance will take place over a two-hour period during spark24.

During the Sunday afternoon of spark24, the Liberty Parade will promenade down Nicollet Mall and then into Loring Park where there will be political speakers and live music.

At 7 p.m. Sunday evening, the crowd will head to Intermedia Arts for the unveiling of several political exhibitions and satirical performances.

An “American Politics Sideshow: Weird and Wild” will be held from 10 a.m.–8 p.m. at the Weisman Art Museum during the final day of the convention. Speakers, discussions, performances and a live feed of the RNC will be aired along with an exhibition dealing with political issues. Visitors will be encouraged to speak up about any issue for five minutes on “An American Soapbox.”

Art on Wheels will be around Minneapolis during the convention as well as at Thursday’s Weisman events. It is a project that brings projected digital art and sustainable transportation together as one. Mobile Broadcast Units allow bicycles to turn generators, computers and video projectors into mobile media. The bikes can literally go anywhere, reaching a broad audience on a large scale. Inspired by Graffiti Research Labs, the bikes allow temporary public art a way to interact with the community.

Events and projects of The UnConvention will continue into the November election, filling Minneapolis and St. Paul galleries with art, photography and video that expresses the political messages of Americans. Is it all preaching to the choir? Only November will tell — when the voices will be heard. As one of Dave Brynestad’s yard signs reads, “My red-neck, sexist gun-toting, racist brother-in-law is voting. Are you?”

UnConvention events


When: Aug. 30–31, 5 p.m.–5 p.m.

Where: Orchestra Hall / Peavey Plaza, 11th Street & Nicollet Mall

Description: A nonstop marathon of free music, performances and entertainment.

UnConvention opening reception

When: Aug 30, 6:30–8:30 p.m.

Where: Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S.

Description: Will feature interactive performances by Politaoke, Nonsense Company/Prince Myshkin and  the unveiling of several gallery installations, including “Political Science 101” (Fang Lin, New York); “The Citizen” (John O’Brien, Minneapolis); “The New Station Project” (James Leal Case, New York); “My Yard Our Message winning entries”; and “I Approve This Message” (YouTube PSAs).

Solutions Volume 3

When: Aug. 30, 9 p.m.–12:30 a.m.

Where: Intermedia Arts

Description: A celebration of ideas from the Twin Cities most cutting edge designers, artists, activists and progressive thinkers. Real world solutions to real-world challenges.

Liberty Parade

When: Aug. 31, 1 p.m.

Where: Nicollet Avenue-Loring Park

Description: The parade signifies a celebration of shared values, rather than a protest, put on by Minneapolis and St. Paul. Parade will continue into Loring Park, which will be set up with beer gardens, music, speakers and other events that will last into the evening.

Translating Politics Exhibit

When: Sept. 1–4

Where: Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson St. NE

Description: 13 local artists who offer their perspectives on global politics.

“The State of Things”

When: Sept. 1

Where: St. Paul Capital Grounds

Description: New York-based artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese will display a 15-foot temporary public ice sculpture of the word “democracy.”

Party in a Tweety Land b/w This Republic of Suffering

When: Opening Reception Sept. 6, 7–9 p.m., exhibited Aug. 28–Oct. 4

Where: Form + Content Gallery, 210 2nd St. N.

Description: An exhibit depicting America’s consumer driven society, which lives in grief and self-absorption.

American Politics Sideshow, Weird & Wild

When: Sept. 4, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.

Where: The Weisman Art Museum

Description: Speakers, discussions, performances, exhibits, live feed from the RNC, digital art displays by Art on wheels. Five minute opinions on An American Soapbox.

Peace Island Picnic

When: Sept. 4, 1 p.m.–8 p.m.

Where: Harriet Island, St. Paul

Description: A collective picnic, live local music with a mission for peace, civil, social, and environmental justice, kite flying, artistic activities, peace drum jam.