Mere hours before the much-anticipated vice-presidential debate was set to start, a skinny, bespectacled crowd stood in front of the Storefront for Urban Design and Architecture in Nolita. They were waiting for the opening exhibition of SFUDA’s White House Redux project. The project — co-organized by the sinister-sounding Control Group — was an open call to redesign the “ultimate symbol of power,” the White House. The winner, as selected by a jury, would win $5,000 — however, in true democratic fashion, an online vote was organized as well.
The murmuring within the predictable design crowd did not bode well for democracy. “Where’s the booze?” asked a tan middle-aged man with short white hair and Sarah Palin glasses, slouching toward the tubs of Dos Equis. Another be-flanneled guest explained to a friend, “I was going to do it but I didn’t have time.” Apathy! One wall was dedicated to showcasing the designs, many of which “explored” the meme of the political industrial complex. “Obey Your Thirst and Your Government” advertised one submission called, duh, Sprite House. Another entrant, Brandon Shigeta, had made a White House symbol in the familiar style of the Disney logo. Get it? He received 3,013 popular votes.
The most popular project, Project 655 by Jorge Rocha Antunes, called for encasing the White House in a “bioLogical Protective living organism” or, as Antunes explains, “placenta.” That won 4,263 votes online, but was ominously ignored by the jury. Antunes has to make do with a meager $87.60 estimated prize for the popular vote. Instead, the jury awarded $5,000 to J.P. Maruszczak for a project called “Revenge of the Lawn.” According to the artist statement, it portrays the “luminous, spellbinding environment of those inhabitants of White Welling who live so close to iDeath and must know the sun not only shines a different color each day, but the world needs constants scripts to renew its own meaning.” The winner received only 54 popular online votes, an ironic echo of 2000 and 2004.