In recognition of the presidential election, we dedicated the October 2008 issue of our Meaningful Media Newsletter to the creative ways media were making a difference in this election cycle.
The presidential election produced an unparalleled groundswell of activity within the artistic community. The passion and creativity of musicians, painters, designers, celebrities, comedians, filmmakers and other artists has been directed at raising awareness of key issues like voting rights, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and globalization. Their vision and art have focused on engaging people young and old in the political process. The Internet and online video have exploded the reach of these political media and resulted in millions of dollars raised for the candidates and millions of people registered to vote.
We have gathered information on these efforts for our Meaningful Media Database, which will launch in 2009. Here we present just a snap shot, focusing on art and design, film and music. We hope you will let us know about election-related media you have created and look forward to seeing the impact of this innovative work.
Download a printable pdf version of the 2008 Election Media Report.
Artists have played a great role in this election. The vast majority of this work has been for Obama, as documented here. But it has also raised awareness about the voting process and helped to define the candidates' public images. The most influential images have not been created by either presidential campaign but by a community of underground artists eager to use their skills to increase voter engagement and enrich political discussion. Millions of people have seen Shepard Fairey's Obama "Hope" posters, but many more artists are creating politically-engaged work during this election cycle.
Poster art has for generations influenced the political process and this election has been no exception. San Francisco-based artist, Eddie, has plastered the Bay Area with posters featuring a red and black image of Obama's face. Freelance graphic designer, Ray Noland, has created a series of posters aimed at urban youth. Ryan Lundquist has created images of McCain, Obama and Palin on wood.
Poster contests have helped generate voter engagement as well. The American Institute of Graphic Arts invited visual artists nationwide to submit non-partisan posters and videos to the AIGA Get out the Vote campaign. At the Democratic National Convention the Manifest Hope Gallery Contest, sponsored by Manifest Hope and MoveOn.org, displayed the best art pieces on Obama or themes of hope, progress, change, patriotism and unity. Design/ers for Obama is a community of artists and non-artists that support Obama. Artists can submit Obama posters and other members of the community can rate the pieces and download them as well.
Public art projects have also been influential in encouraging people to become involved in the voting process. Art the Vote is a nationwide contemporary art project that recently displayed seventy pieces of art based on voter engagement on billboards in Missouri. BrushFire is a national public arts initiative that showcases public art projects focused on critical social and political issues. BrushFire is sponsored by Provisions and aims to enrich public discussion about important issues in the months leading to the election. Check out "Reconstitution 2008" to hear a live audiovisual remix of the 2008 presidential debates.
Artists are also using more traditional art forms such as painting, sculpture and photography to express their opinions about the election. The Huffington Post's "Off the Bus" and USC's Center on Communication Leadership partnered this fall to sponsor Maximum Exposure, a citizen photojournalism project that encouraged people to submit photographs of their experiences at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Githinji Wa Mbire, a West Oakland artist of Kenyan descent, created 25 sculptures and five canvasses inspired by Barak Obama. His work uses Obama's quotes, his image and the shape of the African continent to bring the United States and Africa together. John Beebe's "Faces of 2008 Art Impossible" project documented through photography the variety of people who attended the DNC. Allen Spore has also been using photography to document the presidential debates and politics in America.
The mobilization of the artist community has also helped to raise funds. Art for Obama is an online photography auction that was held for one week at the beginning of October. Fifty prominent photographers from across the country donated their work to be auctioned with proceeds going to MoveOn.org and the NAACP Voter Fund, both organizations supporting Obama. BoMA's "Art of Politics" was a one-evening exhibit in Columbus, Ohio for which fifty percent of all art sales were donated to "Campaign for Change," Obama's state level campaign.
Even the fine arts world of museums and traditional galleries got into the election spirit. The DePaul University of Art presented, "1968: Art and Politics in Chicago," an exhibit featuring 42 pieces of art created in response to the 1968 DNC. The Loyola University Museum of Art and the New York Society of Etchers are sponsoring the exhibit, "The Art of Democracy" until just after the election. The exhibit features prints dealing with democracy, social activism and political change. The Irvine Contemporary in Washington, DC is hosting the politically charged exhibition, Regime Change Starts at Home and The Corcoran Gallery of Art, also in Washington, D.C., gathered Avedon's political portraits for the first time in the Portraits of Power exhibit. We are even seeing Andy Warhol's influence during this election. The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire is presenting the first exhibition of all of Warhol's political prints.
The artist community has brought young people into the fold and truly helped shape the way Americans see their role in the political process. Their work has made the most important election in generations even more exciting and colorful.
Written by Elise Wagner
In the past six months, a slew of election-themed or politically-relevant films have hit theaters and the Internet. There have been documentaries on the election process, our divided nation and the role of young people and women in the political process. Feature films have covered real lives and true stories of consequence. All of the films have shaped our views about our democracy.
Some of the films include:
Stealing America Vote by Vote - Employing first-person accounts, extensive research and clips gleaned from the nightly news, Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated social issue filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman shines a spotlight on the gritty reality of the last decade's most egregious incidents of U.S. electoral insecurity.
Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story - The story of Clint Curtis, a software engineer who was asked by a Florida legislator in 2000 to write software to hack voting machines.
Hacking Democracy - This cautionary documentary exposes the vulnerability of computers - which count approximately 80% of America's votes in county, state and federal elections - suggesting that if our votes aren't safe, then our democracy isn't safe either.
Free for All! - With the help of a hip soundtrack and engaging visuals, this movie is about a self-described regular "dude" breaking down the esoteric and complex issues surrounding voter fraud in the 2000, 2004, and 2006 elections.
Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections - This documentary shows how the election fraud that changed the outcome of the 2004 election led to even greater fraud in 2006 - and now looms as an unbridled threat to the outcome of the 2008 election.
Divided We stand: A Road Trip Through An American Election follows the director, Tom Drew, as he weaves his way across the Southwest through a line of 'swing states'.
18 in '08 - A nonpartisan documentary film made by 19 year-old director, David D. Burstein. It is targeted at today's 17-24 year olds, many of whom will be voting for the first time in this presidential election. It features interviews with many of the most influential politicians of today, as well as popular culture figures, political activists, media commentators, and student leaders.
The Youngest Candidate - This feature length documentary follows the story of four teens that ran for public office in America. It is directed by Jason Pollock and produced by David Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants, in partnership with Oscar winner Lawrence Bender (producer of "Pulp Fiction" and "An Inconvenient Truth", etc..) and Balance Vector Productions.
Michael Moore's new documentary, Slacker Uprising, which takes place in the wake of "Fahrenheit 9/11," during the run-up to the 2004 election, as Michael Moore traveled for 42 days across America, visiting 62 cities in a failed attempt to remove George W. Bush from office.
The narratives of W - Oliver Stone's biopic following the career of President George W. Bush - and Body of Lies - Ridley Scott's film about a CIA operative, Roger Ferris, who uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan.
14 Women - An intimate and compelling portrait of the 14 female senators who currently serve our country.
Religulous - A documentary that follows political humorist and author Bill Maher as he travels around the globe interviewing people about God and religion.
There were also two Swing Votes: a feature film starring Kevin Costner about one ordinary guy giving the candidates a reason to run. And another Swing Vote narrative about best friends Casey and Billie who stumble upon a plan to swing the 2008 election. Through seduction and sexual manipulation, the underground organization that these women create sets out to not only sway the male Republican vote, but to create lifetime Democratic converts.
Snag Films has created an Issues '08: Elections Film Festival with over 60 documentaries on issues that voters say they care about most. Meaningful Media "snagged" the virtual movie theater widget and posted it on our web site where you can watch them for free. Among the films you can watch are the world premieres of Inside The Bubble, director Steve Rosenbaum's jaw-dropping insider view of the 2004 Kerry campaign and The End of America, which examines threats to our civil liberties and is framed by Naomi Wolfe's best-selling book of the same name.
The Ironweed Film Club, a monthly progressive film festival on DVD, has dedicated this month to five films about the election:
Red State Road Trip by Chris Hume. An unusual, upbeat journey through the heartland to understand our seemingly divided nation.
Considering Democracy: 8 Things to Ask Your Representative by Keya Lea Horiuchi. A smart, lively documentary, shot in 10 different countries, introduces us to many ordinary citizens from around the globe who share their thoughts about U.S. domestic and foreign policy.
A Brief History of Voting by Francesca Talenti. This short, delightful animated film uses a cast of animal characters to tell us the history of voting systems, from the ancient Greeks to the present-day United States.
Choose to Choose by Christiane Badgley. This touching film, shot inside the Philadelphia jail system, tells the encouraging story of a voter registration program that teaches prisoners their voice matters.
Long Division by Chris Metzler & Josh Kurz. A witty and thought-provoking short on the logic of voting.
We've included reviews of two of our favorite political films below.
Written by Sarah Ingersoll
Meaningful Review: BOOGIE MAN - THE LEE ATWATER STORY
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story is playing in theaters in swing states nationwide. It is the entertaining story of Lee Atwater, the blues-playing rogue whose rambunctious rise from the South to Chairman of the GOP made him a political rock star. This film is a must-see for anyone seeking to understand the battle between McCain and Obama. A hero to Republicans for his unrepentant vision of politics as war, Atwater is reviled by Democrats as the godfather of modern negative campaigning. Will his strategy work again in 2008?
I went to see this film because I was interested in Atwater's renegade character and how this blues-playing political strategist so greatly impacted American politics. There are so many interesting contradictions in Atwater. He is famous for the racist Willie Horton ad that brought down Dukakis, yet he loved BB King and blues music. He was the first operative to become a star, and he became worshipped by legions of Young Republicans. He was their James Brown. More
Meaningful Review: BATTLE IN SEATTLE
It's November 1999, and five days are about to rock the world as tens of thousands of demonstrators take to the streets of Seattle in protest of the World Trade Organizations Ministerial Meeting. Among them are Django (Andre Benjamin), Sam (Jennifer Carpenter), Lou (Michelle Rodriguez) and Jay (Martin Henderson). Each has a unique story, but they're united in a common desire to be heard and to make a difference in the world. For these four protesters, this is very personal and the stakes are higher than mere politics. More
* The Sparks System is based on the film's quality and ability to effectively address social issues.
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Musicians around the country are making some noise for what has been called the most exciting election in history. Ever since the Will.I.Am and "I Got a Crush...On Obama" videos rocked the internet, we've seen musicians from all genres doing everything they can to get out the vote and support the candidates.
Entertainment executive and social activist, Valeisha Butterfield told Business Wire that "The hip-hop generation of this country will make the critical difference in determining the next President of the United States." As early as March, the Hip-Hop Research and Education Fund, PowerPAC and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network launched a national campaign "Hip-Hop Team Vote: Turn Up The Vote." They have been using hip-hop radio stations, artists, recording industry street teams, web and pod casts, social networks, blogs and grassroots organizing to move youth to vote. The Hip Hop Summit Action Network also joined forces with the Hip Hop Caucus' - Respect My Vote! Campaign and Radio One to register tens of thousands of voters. Hip hop band Atmosphere is working with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on the "Be the Difference" youth-focused voter registration campaign. And the Vote Hip Hop contest asked young people to express their thoughts about the candidates and social issues on a track, video, or visual art piece.
In California, Bay Area rappers dropped any rivalry and collaborated on an eleven-track album, "Wake Yo Game Up" to promote empowerment through voting as part of the Culture of Voting Project. Also in California, the My Hood Votes voter registration and education campaign is working with 93.5 The Beat FM, 102.3 KJLH and celebrities, entertainers, and activists to promote voting to Crips and Bloods alike throughout Compton in Los Angeles. Other rappers who have worked on voter engagement include: T.I., Rapper Bow Wow, and Young Jeezy.
Also on the get out the vote front, Christina Aguilera sang "America the Beautiful" as a lullaby to her newborn son for Rock the Vote, which has made great strides in engaging young people in the voting process. More than 2.5 million young people have downloaded Rock the Vote's registration forms. Artists like Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam and John Mayer are working with HeadCount in their voter registration campaign tour. Even metal artists like the Foo Fighters, Avenged Sevenfold, AFI, Lamb of God, and System of a Down are appealing to fans in the "Election Year Extravaganza" cover of Revolver magazine. And Music for Democracy has developed a system for artists to call voters on election day and remind them to get out and vote.
The Latino music community has also been actively engaged in voter education and outreach. Voto Latino released a star-studded album with Nacional Records. The album features fifteen songs from an all-star lineup including Don Omar, Aterciopelados, Aventura, David Garza and Ozomatli. Campaign-inspired mariachi band Amigos de Obama sang "Viva Obama" and their website links to other Latin-flavored Obama songs, including "Obama Reggaeton" and "Viva Obama Norteņo." And the Cuban American Jose Conde produced "Respondele a Obama," which goes beyond the election to discuss the last 8 years of American politics.
Obama's Kenyan roots have inspired a number of African musicians to write songs and make music videos for Barack Obama. Samba Mapangala, a Congolese performer who relocated to Kenya, offers his song "Obama Ubarikiwe" ("Obama Be Blessed") on YouTube and as a free MP3 download. Kenyan group Kenge Kenge wrote and performed the song "Obama for Change." Kenyan-American group Extra Golden released the song "Obama" in 2007. Beyond the African continent, Obama has inspired "Barack the Magnificent" from Mighty Sparrow of Trinidad and "Barack Obama" from Cocoa Tea of Jamaica.
Other world music endeavors include "Make It To The Sun" (a collaboration of artists from England, Sri Lanka, Canada, Mexico and the United States who are donating proceeds from the song to the Obama campaign) and the wacky "Obama Is Beautiful World!" from Japanese pop ensemble Anyone Brothers Band.
An unprecedented number of musicians have gotten behind Obama. Pearl Jam is bringing back their 1955 hit, Happy Day's theme song, "Rock Around the Clock" as a tribute to Obama: "Rock Around Barack." Asylum for All Mankind calls, "Barack The Fonz, Hillary is Mrs. C., and Dennis Kucinich is, of course, Potsie." A wide variety of artists performed concerts in support of the candidate. They included James Taylor supporting Obama in North Carolina; the "Deadheads for Obama" event featuring Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir joined by Jackie Greene, John Molo, and Steve Molitz. Chuck Berry, Usher, John Legend, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Connor Oberst of Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz, Green Day, The Arcade Fire, Krist Novaselic, Alicia Keys, Seal, Al Green, R.E.M. and many others are also in support of Obama. Michael Stipe made his own Obama t-shirts and wore them onstage; the Decemberists opened for Obama at a Portland, Oregon, rally; and even Bob Dylan, who rarely makes direct political statements of any kind, articulated his endorsement.
While the Washington Post jokes that rappers love Obama because his name is fun to rhyme with, musicians are certainly not joking about their support for him. While television network BET maintains no political stance, they could not deny the Obama endorsements splattered all over the celebrities that attended their BET Awards, where some appeared at the formal event with hardly formal Obama t-shirts, and Sean "Diddy" Combs tweaked his 2004 slogan "Vote or Die" to "Obama or die!"
Hip-Hop singer, Nas, worked with MoveOn.org and ColorOfChange.org to collect 600,000 petition signatures and protest against FOX news' racial attacks against black Americans, including presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. Other Hip Hop Artists who have come out in support of Obama include Rappers Jay Z, Styles P., Mike Jones, Webbie, Lil Boosie, Rich Boy, Lil X, Flo-Rida, singer Chrisette Michelle, BET's Rocsi and Terrence J., Reggaeton singer Alexis y Fido, Q-Tip, Rihanna, David Banner, Miami rapper Pitbull. Arrested Development went on tour to promote Obama and its disc, "Since the Last Time." Some rappers like, Ice Cube, Lil' Wayne, Three 6 Mafia, Ludacris, Common, Joell Ortiz, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, Ghostface Killah and Kidz in the Hall, created raps that include lyrics about Obama in their songs.
Many artists got directly involved in raising money for Obama. Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi performed at major fundrasiers. Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and Los Lonely Boys came together on the first-ever presidential campaign compilation. The 18-song disc "Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement" also includes excerpts from speeches given by Barack Obama and is on sale exclusively on the campaign's official web site. Even Devo got in to the mix and performed at a fundraiser in Ohio.
Not all musicians were focused on voter registration or on raising awareness or funds for Obama. A number of musicians focused their efforts on the issues. At the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Rage Against the Machine focused on the war and civil liberties. They were joined by Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, Atmosphere, and Alison Moorer.
McCain also inspired a few songs, including "Raisin' McCain" from John Rich and "It's Raining McCain" from the McCain Girls. However, a number of artists, including Heart and Jackson Browne, made it clear that they do not want their songs associated with the McCain campaign. Browne is suing McCain for using his song "Running on Empty" without permission.
Whatever your political preference is, musicians want to make sure that you make your voice heard too by voting in the upcoming election. For more information on ways the music community can connect to social action, including best practices on engaging concertgoers in social action and greening your tour, check out the great work of Air Traffic Control.
With contributions from Michelle Wong, Sarah Ingersoll and Marisa Murgatroyd