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Presidents and Elections

Curated by Video Data Bank

The commodification of the American presidency is examined and lampooned in Presidents and Elections, a compilation of work from the Video Data Bank collection. Interweaving humorous, disquieting, and surreal videos with actual presidential campaign ads, the program highlights the evolving role of television as the driving force of electoral politics. Using appropriated media footage, parodic performance, historical reenactment, and other tactics, the artists represented in this program subvert and disrupt the inanity/insanity of dominant political discourse with their own forms of media manipulation.

Presidents and Elections — Program Listing

1. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000 (Antonio Muntadas & Marshall Reese, 2000): 1952 Eisenhower ad [0:22]

2. Excerpt from Spin (Brian Springer, 1995): Introduction [3:10]

3. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 1960 Kennedy “It’s Up To You” ad [1:00]

4. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 1960 ad of Jacqueline Kennedy speaking Spanish [1:00]

5. Excerpt from The Eternal Frame (Ant Farm & T.R. Uthco, 1976) [4:00]

6. Excerpt from Spin: “Making up the President” [2:55]

7. Perfect Leader (Max Almy, 1983) [4:00]

8. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 1968 Nixon ad [1:00]

9. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 1976 Ford “Feeling Good About America” ad [1:00]

10. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 1976 “We Need Jimmy Carter” ad [0:40]

11. Decision 80 (Jim Finn, 2003) [10:00]

12. The Speech (Doug Hall, 1982) [4:00]

13. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 1980 Reagan ad [0:30]

14. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 1984 Reagan ad [0:55]

15. Excerpt from Spin: “Making the News” [7:00]

16. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 1988 Dukakis “The Packaging of George Bush” ad, two 1988 George Bush ads [2:00]

17. Excerpt from Political Advertisment 2000: 1992 Pat Buchanan ad [0:30]

18. Excerpt from Stoney Does Houston (Bob Hercules, 1992) [4:10]

19. Election Collectibles (Bryan Boyce, 2000) [4:00]

20. Excerpt from Spin: “The Democratic Make-Up” [5:10]

21. Excerpt from Political Advertisement 2000: 2000 George W. Bush ad [0:30]

22. State of the Union (Bryan Boyce, 2001) [1:43]

Total running time: 58:43 minutes

# Title Artists Run Time Year Country
1 Perfect Leader Max Almy 00:04:15 1983 United States
2 Decision 80 Jim Finn 00:10:00 2003 United States
3 The Speech Doug Hall 00:03:39 1982 United States
4 Election Collectibles Bryan Boyce 00:04:00 2000 United States
5 State of the Union Bryan Boyce 00:01:43 2001 United States
6 Political Advertisement 2000 Antonio Muntadas, Marshall Reese 01:05:00 2000 United States
7 Stoney Does Houston Robert Hercules 00:15:00 1992 United States
8 Spin Brian Springer 00:57:30 1995 United States
9 The Eternal Frame Ant Farm, T.R. Uthco 00:24:16 1976 United States

Perfect Leader

Max Almy
1983 | 00:04:15 | United States | English | Color | | 4:3 | Video


A satire of the political television spot, Perfect Leader shows that ideology is the product and power is the payoff. The process of political imagemaking and the marketing of a candidate is revealed, as an omnipotent computer manufactures the perfect candidate, offering up three political types: Mr. Nice Guy, an evangelist, and an Orwellian Big Brother. Behind the candidates, symbols of political promises quickly degenerate into icons of oppression and nuclear war.

This title is also available on Presidents and Elections.

Decision 80

Jim Finn
2003 | 00:10:00 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 |


Appropriated network-TV footage of Jimmy Carter’s "I see risk" speech from the 1980 Democratic Convention meets Reagan’s gloomy inaugural ride through D.C.: "If you succumb to a dream world, you’ll wake up to a nightmare."

This title is also available on Presidents and Elections.

The Speech

Doug Hall
1982 | 00:03:39 | United States | English | Color | | 4:3 | Video


This tape grew out of my fascination with Ronald Reagan and his uncanny ability to demonstrate what I called the 'Signifiers of Americanism'. Through gesture and intonation, he seemed to suggest many of the virtues that Americans hold dear. Although not directly about Reagan, The Speech suggests some of these issues, while remaining purposely ambiguous. The tape is really a speech about speeches.

— Doug Hall

This title is also available on Presidents and Elections.

Election Collectibles

Bryan Boyce
2000 | 00:04:00 | United States | English | Color | Mono | |


In this faux-recreation of a home-shopping network, Al Gore and George W. Bush offer you a 'super-premium' collectible lamp commemorating the 2000 presidential election.

“Ever wonder if politicians aren't just cheap evangelists pimping packaged politics to a bleary-eyed electorate too tired, transfixed or dumb to change the channel? Apparently you're not alone. In the hilarious short Election Collectibles, San Francisco's Bryan Boyce uses his patented "stunt mouth" technique to superimpose infomercial blowholes on Bush and Gore, candidates as "factory-sealed" as the products they endorse.”


This title is also available on Presidents and Elections.

State of the Union

Bryan Boyce
2001 | 00:01:43 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 |


Baby Bush meets Tubby-land. Completed in August 2001, this project was initially just a simple comic skewering of George W. Bush and his defense policies—but after September 11th, it took on a whole new meaning. State of the Union now has a surreal documentary quality that is genuinely disturbing.

"George W. Bush is reimagined as Teletubbies' giant baby-in-the-sky for Bryan Boyce's uproarious short State Of The Union; Daddy's boy makes the same gurgling sounds, though his eyes launch smart bombs at the small, defenseless bunnies who hop around the countryside (one hauntingly devoid of Teletubbies)."

—Village Voice

"Bryan Boyce's hilarious Bush-meets-Telletubbies spoof, State of the Union garnered some of the most enthusiastic and raucous audiences of this, or any, festival."

—Paul Power, in the 42nd Thessaloniki Film Festival program

This title is also available on Presidents and Elections.

Antonio Muntadas, Marshall Reese
2000 | 01:05:00 | United States | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 | Video


Antonio Muntadas and Marshall Reese have been documenting the selling of the American presidency since 1984, and have expanded and updated the series with every election. Political Advertisement 2000 features ads from the 1950s up to the 2000 campaign. As Muntadas and Reese trace the development of the TV spot, what emerges is the political strategy and manipulative marketing techniques of the American televisual campaign process. Political Advertisement 2000 includes many rare spots, some never before seen. Edited without commentary, there's an endless stream of candidates, from Eisenhower to Al Gore, who are sold like commercial products.

"Sometime in the early 1950s Madison Avenue's hucksters realized that they could sell political candidates like any other product, a throat lozenge or facial tissue. Guided by the cooing come-ons of the thirty-second TV spot, campaigns were soon reduced to photo ops, televised debates, and sound bites. Out was the whistle-stop tour and the scrappy convention, in was the instant poll and the attack ad. Artists Antonio Muntadas and Marshall Reese have created an anthology of presidential campaign spots spanning almost fifty years. Including spots from the present campaign, Political Advertisement 2000 is a compendium of the ideological, tactical, and stylistic transformations that have unerringly altered the electoral process. Eleven presidential elections are unfurled: from Eisenhower's minimalism equals sincerity, through Kennedy's up-tempo youthful image, to Reagan's cynical Morning in America pabulum, and beyond. The artists avoid commentary, allowing the prodigious stream of TV spots to reveal their own truths. You'll see revealed the utter sophistication of media campaigns, the ever-evolving techniques of marketing, and, occasionally, something about the candidates themselves."

—Steve Seid, Fifty Years of Campaign Spots (Berkeley: Pacific Film Archive, 2000)

An excerpt of this title also appears on Presidents and Elections.

Stoney Does Houston

Robert Hercules
1992 | 00:15:00 | United States | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 | Video


In this irreverent and hilarious videotape, renowned street performer Stoney Burke leads us on a subversive tour of the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston’s Astrodome. Burke disregards the traditional terms of “political debate” offered by the network news establishment, and zeroes in on the questions that never get asked, confronting such Republican luminaries as Oliver North, Neil Bush, Pat Robertson, Jack Kemp, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, and Rush Limbaugh (among others), on issues that are glossed over during the convention. Hercules’ and Burke’s unobtrusive recording allowed them to take advantage of the on-stage/off-stage character switches of successful politicians, illuminating the murky space between public servant and celebrity.

Produced by Tom Weinberg and Joel Cohen for the PBS series The '90s, the tape's more controversial face-offs were censored by Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW before feeding it to the satellite for national broadcast.

An excerpt of this title is also available on Presidents and Elections.


Brian Springer
1995 | 00:57:30 | United States | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 | Video


Pirated satellite feeds revealing U.S. media personalities’ contempt for their viewers come full circle in Spin. TV out-takes appropriated from network satellite feeds unravel the tightly-spun fabric of television—a system that silences public debate and enforces the exclusion of anyone outside the pack of journalists, politicians, spin doctors, and televangelists who manufacture the news. Spin moves through the L.A. riots and the floating TV talk-show called the 1992 U.S. presidential election.

An excerpt of this title is also available on Presidents and Elections.

The Eternal Frame

Ant Farm, T.R. Uthco
1976 | 00:24:16 | United States | English | Color | Mono | | 1/2" open reel video


Irreverent yet poignant, The Eternal Frame is a re-enactment of the assassination of John F. Kennedy as seen in the famous Zapruder film. This home movie was immediately confiscated by the FBI, yet found its way into the visual subconscious of the nation. The Eternal Frame concentrates on this event as a crucial site of fascination and repression in the American mindset.

"The intent of this work was to examine and demystify the notion of the presidency, particularly Kennedy, as image archetype...."

— Doug Hall, 1984 

This title is also available on Surveying the First Decade: Volume 2, and an excerpt of this title (4:00) is also available on Presidents and Elections.