Speculative Column (Modified reproduction of the column from the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, National Archives, Washington, D.C.)
The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. displays the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. These three documents, known collectively as the Charters of Freedom, have set forth the legal rights of the American people for more than two hundred years. My artwork for the Katzen Center for the Arts at American University in Washington, D.C. is a reproduction of one of the columns flanking the documents within the rotunda. The columns boast an eagle as a decorative finial, an enduring symbol of American patriotism and supreme power and authority. An addition to the column is a commonly found surveillance camera. The juxtaposition of these references within the wall painting point to the ongoing challenges to basic rights of American citizens as we produce a hyper-vigilant surveillance state. As technology advances and rights are usurped in the name of national security and corporate interests, and because privacy is linked to freedom of expression and many other rights, the combination of the column and the camera reveal an inherently irreconcilable violation of the Bill of Rights. Like much of my other artworks, Speculative Column illustrates an interest in cross-examining decorative symbolism for contradictions in the face of real and present conditions.
The artwork is 17 feet high and is executed in paint on adhesive-backed vinyl and installed in the main entrance to the museum’s architectural interior. The effect for the viewer is similar to Hans Holbein’s 1533 painting ‘The Ambassadors’, where the anamorphic skull snaps into view in extreme perspective. For Speculative Column, however, the correct viewing perspective is impossible to achieve within the museum architecture.
This artwork was installed in the exhibition The Neighbors, at the Katzen Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C., and curated by Zoë Charlton and Tim Doud.