It seemed so much funnier when Cady Noland did it.
Maybe not funny, but at least it didn’t freak you out. Noland’s artworks drew from the raw aesthetic landscape of late 20th century built America to shed light on uncomfortable truths about patriotism, violence, commercialism, waste, the American psyche.
But it did it in an art context. Whatever it was, or however dark or unsettling, it was still [just] art. You could walk away from it.
Or wake up from it, like a bad dream.
Now there’s a white nationalist bigot in Florida trolling Muslims, and protesting Hillary Clinton and her treasonous supporter citizens by building a lock-em-up protest cage in the back of his pickup truck. No voter shenanigans, he says on Twitter: Trump landslide or in the cage ya go.
My instant impulse, or maybe it was a coping mechanism, was to make a Noland reference. Then as I got ready to post this thing here, and declare it a work [as one does around here], I got cold feet. The reality of this person and his anger and hatred and poisonous rhetoric and not-idle threats piled up, and I reconsidered. This is literally not-helping, I feared, it is making-worse.
But after a couple of days of looking, and thinking, and seeing this guy’s gesture/threat circulate, I came to see this as important. Or at least real. Relevant. This bigot’s sculptural move was atypical, even perhaps unique, but it is a datapoint in a network, a churning system of political hate. These images are of a physical object manifesting the digital flow of right-wing ideas and imagery across Twitter and Facebook. It’s a post-Internet avatar of Trumpist America.
Looking at it, now I wonder: is this how Noland saw, how she read, how she felt, when she made her works? Did she dream of making toxic, dystopian, American flag-draped cages, only to wake up and find the dream was still there? And wasn’t even a dream?