When I first heard a description of Jenn Berger’s new animatronic sculpture Hillary Clinton as a Child (2016) I laughed out loud. When I finally saw it, I was still amused, but also a little spooked, in the classic uncanny sense — that dissociative self-reflective identification that underlies our fascination with robots, automatons, and TV morning talk show hosts. This was a work of considerable psychological depth, in addition to it’s humor and topical currency.
As anyone who has been within earshot of me for more than a couple of minutes knows, I consider Firesign Theatre’s 1971 “comedy LP” I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus to be one of the greatest artworks of the 20th century. That complex fable centers around a near-future everyman who hacks into the OS of the Nixonesque Robo-POTUS and thereby brings about the collapse of the Matrix-like digital kenoma. And who’s not for that, right?
But Jenn Berger’s Hillarybot occupies a more ambiguous domain — for one thing, Hillary isn’t president yet. And although I’m sure there will be a plethora of selfies generated by the entity’s weekend residency at Monte Vista Projects (5442 Monte Vista St, Los Angeles, CA 90042; Saturday Oct. 22 from 5-9pm and Sunday Oct 23 from 1-5pm), this is a manifestation of Ms. Clinton that makes no promises, but peers out at us through a convoluted warp in time, conflating innocence and world-weary skepticism in singular multi-media narrative mashup.
“Combining half of a child size doll, drawing replacing the doll’s front, and video eyes sourced from the Benghazi hearing,” reads the PR in the Facebook announcement, “Hillary Clinton As A Child speaks to the construction of a larger than life identity over time. The mention of just the name Hillary Clinton brings an immediate response. From where do we form an opinion of our politicians? Based on a childhood photo of Hillary, HCAAC stands as a reminder of Hillary’s history, that she was not always the Hillary Clinton we think we know today.”
This is followed by a quote from Neil Postman’s prescient 1985 scree Amusing Ourselves To Death, in which he observes that “on television the politician does not so much offer the audience an image of [herself], as offer [herself] as an image of the audience.” So now I’m supposed to be a creepy robotic girl with shifty eyes? What’s the deal? I decided to track down the artist and get a few straight answers.
Less Art: So, where do you get all your crazy ideas?
Read the rest of L’il Hil Gives Me a Chill at LESS ART: the Blog!