In essence, OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding is a stage, conceived as a platform for debate, to address some of the following questions:
What does participation mean? What kind of commitment is made in a democratic election—by voters as well as by elected representatives? What is the extent of community, and what form does refusal take? What are the visible and the invisible structures on which democracy is built; who and what gets represented, and who and what doesn’t? Does instant gratification apply equally to the electoral process and the global market economy? And, finally, is true democracy eternally deferred, a condition that is in constant formation and entails speculation?
It examines desires generated and promoted by the brand of American democracy—such as choice, participation, freedom of expression, and the promise of individual success—and looks at how and where these desires find fulfillment, or not. Works dealing with the decor of our homes or our cities are as much part of this discussion as those featuring visual emblems of democratic governments and of material success. A second trajectory investigates both aesthetic and political systems of representation that developed in response to these desires and, in particular, addresses the unrepresented: the voiceless excluded from representation on the one hand and the power structures that run parallel to democratic governments on the other. Works dealing with our media landscape, with secret military units and official government pronouncements fall within this segment of the show.
The exhibition consists of four distinct structures that each feature analytical as well as generative elements.
The first element of the show in the gallery is a central platform designed by Liam Gillick that is the site of lectures, performances, charrettes (solution-driven workshops), and panels. Many works surround this central site where democracy is generated.
On the Web, also accessible through the gallery, are online works that further elaborate on the theme. A second layer consists of interpretative materials that both contextualize the exhibition and create ephemeral brands themselves—a gallery guide, an audio guide with artists’ statements, stickers, and a number of posters, all of which act as vehicles for a self-reflective process.
The third structure is made up of charrettes (or workshops) inserted into existing classes at Parsons that, for the first time, are being held in the actual gallery space, on the platform.
The fourth structure includes public lectures and panels that further illuminate the subject.