Antoni Muntadas and Marshall Reese

Antoni Muntadas and Marshall Reese: Political Advertisement VII (1952–2008)

"By running these spots back-to-back without commentary, Muntadas and Reese allow their all-star cast (Eisenhower! Nixon! Ford! Reagan! Bush!) to dig their own graves (and ours) in primetime." San Francisco Cinematheque

Los Angeles Premiere | 2008
Jack H. Skirball Screening Series

With each presidential election since 1984, Antoni Muntadas and Marshall Reese have compiled a new edition of Political Advertisement, a historical survey of television campaign spots from 1952 to the present. This compelling anthology, updated to include advertisements from this year’s presidential campaign, charts the selling of the American presidency in the media age. Muntadas and Reese weave a revelatory social and media history that shows the ways in which campaign advertising has become political strategy and manipulative marketing technique. Muntadas’s works, extending from video to publishing to multimedia installations, have been internationally recognized for their biting examinations of the media as an instrument of socialization and normalization. Reese is a video artist and poet who, in addition to his collaborations with Muntadas, teams up with artist Nora Ligorano as the duo Ligorano/Reese.

In person: Antoni Muntadas, Marshall Reese

The Jack H. Skirball Screening Series is curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud

Production Notes:

The artists began their project when Spanish media artist Antoni Muntadas met MIT political scientist Edward Diamond, who was then working on The Spot, a book about the history of political advertising. Some material in Political Advertisement 2008 comes from Diamond’s own collection.

Marshall Reese joined the project in the early 1980s, when Muntadas showed him some old political ads. The American video and installation artist became immediately enthused when he recognized a 1968 ad commissioned by Hubert Humphrey attacking Richard Nixon. Using humor and irony, this ad created by Tony Schwartz marked a new trend in political advertising, contrasting with the straightforwardness of earlier ads.

While Edward Diamond describes and analyzes the evolution of political ads for his readers, Muntadas and Reese decided to let the material speak for itself, without commentary. What emerges is a social and media history demonstrating how campaign spots have become a political strategy and manipulative marketing technique.

"Political advertisement has changed," Muntadas notes. "At first ads gave information. With the evolution of advertising, ads give less information about the product, and they are more about strategy. What they want is to get people to buy the product — the candidate."

"I see," Reese continues, "the development of political marketing to fuse marketing techniques with sophisticated political messaging. For me, it’s very much the creation of a new political class of mandarins, whose background is as much communication science as it is consumer marketing." Indeed, the spots in Political Advertisement reveal just how much techniques have evolved from an Eisenhower trying to make his stances clear to his viewers to a Reagan playing to the dreams of his audience.

Political Advertisement, like many of the other works of its editors, is a hybrid piece, blending European and American perspectives. It is both a work of art and a piece of media criticism, even though the artists don’t claim to be media analysts. "We try to be as objective as possible," says Muntadas. "Well, objectivity doesn’t exist. Yet, we try to keep some distance. There are choices to be made, and you have to build a discourse from these choices."

So, while the piece does not produce a theory of how political ads influence voters, it will inspire its viewers to look critically at both political advertising and politics. After being bombarded with political advertising for an hour, you are left with the impression that candidates are offered to consumers/voters in the same way that beers, fast food or candy bars are.

Today’s candidates are increasingly similar. They use the same gestures, the same metaphors, the same type of language, the same graphics, the same music in their campaign ads. The result is the continued erosion of public activities and public space as media consultants flatten political discourse and the polling station increasingly begins to resemble the checkout aisle at the grocery store.

Antoni Muntadas, born in Barcelona, Spain in 1942, has lived and worked in New York since 1971.His work addresses social, political and communications issues, the relationship between public and private space within social frameworks, and investigations of channels of information. He works in different media such as photography, video, publications, internet and multi-media installations. He studied at the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Ingenieros Industriales in Barcelona and the Pratt Graphic Center in New York. He has received several prizes and grants including those of the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Arts Electronica in Linz/Austria, Laser d'Or in Locarno, Switzerland and the Premi Nacional d'Arts Plastiques de la Generalitat de Catalunya.?He created works commissioned by the Centre Nacionale des Arts Plastiques in Paris, the Fonds d'Arts Publics in Marseille, the Public Art Fund in New York.

Muntadas has taught and directed seminars at the UC San Diego, the MIT, the San Francisco Art Institute and Cooper Union (USA), Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, Grenoble and Paris (France) and the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), and many other institutions; he has been resident artist and consulting advisor in a number of research and education centers in North America, Europe and Australia. His works have been exhibited throughout the world, including the Venice Biennale, Documenta Vl and X in Kassel, the Sao Paulo Biennal, la Biennale de Lyon et La Havana and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Berkeley Art Museum in California, the Wexner Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio, le Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, le Capc de Bordeaux, France, the Museu de Arte Moderna de Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the Ludwig Museum in Budapest, Hungary and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain.

Marshall Reese is a poet and video artist. In 1978, he received an NEA Creative Writers Fellowship for his poetry. He studied classical languages, classical art and architecture at Pomona College in California. He has collaborated with Nora Ligorano as Ligorano/Reese since the early 80's on installations, limited edition multiples and artists books. Their work has been exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum fur Angewandte Kunst (MAK) in Frankfurt, Germany, MIT MediaLab, Museum of Arts & Design, the Neuberger Museum of Art, the Rotunda Gallery, Schroder Romero Gallery, The Kitchen, the Sculpture Center, and Lincoln Center. They have received fellowships and funding from the Jerome Foundation, NYFA, NYSCA, the NEA and Art Matters. Marshall Reese has collaborated on the Political Advertisement" series with Antoni Muntadas since 1984.

Funded in part with generous support from Wendy Keys and Donald Pels.

Associated Images: 

MON 10/21
8:30 pm

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff