I have been watching the UK election unfold with a certain amount of detachment and discussing with it with my pod mate NickO (who is a labour campaigner in Tooting). When I looked at the campaigns unfolding I was reminded of the Obama campaign or to be more precise something that looks like the Obama campaign.
I was reminded of something I was once told: A copy is something that looks like the item you want to represent, art ‘is’ that something else.
The election is starting to look like an artless copy of the Obama campaign. I guess the thing that made me feel most uneasy was the totalitarian artwork that appeared in the manifestos. Whilst Labour went with North Korean kitsch on the front cover of their manifesto, the Conservative party echoed Soviet art.
This is a Conservative party poster released under a Creative Commons licence.
I can understand where this came from Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster. Fairey did his work independently of the Obama campaign – though it was co-opted later on. It has also got to be viewed in the wider context of Shepard Fairey’s work with the Obey label. Originally he appropriated images from supermarket tabloid newspapers, championing André the giant as a leader and taking a swipe at totalitarianism in the process. The key audience for much of his work is skateboarders and members of the graffiti community.
The power of the web has often been cited as similar to the Obama election, but unlike the US presidents campaign the web is used as a broadcast channel rather than providing voters with a clear call to action. In fact, the closest I saw to call to action was John Prescott’s Twitter campaign to waste Conversative campaign funds through what could be construed to be click fraud.
Labour managed to burn much of the electronic chattering classes before calling the election with the Digital Economy Act. They are now more focused on tearing them a second arsehole than helping them win the election.
Social objects like the Cameron poster creator and anecdote creator seem to have only spark discussion and debate amongst committed Labour supporters anyway.
Celebrity endorsements to appeal to disenfranchised groups like the underclass of urban youth was championed by Michael Caine; whose latest film Harry Brown involved him wiping a lot of inner-city council estate youths out. Not exactly hitting the zeitgeist like Sarah Silverman’s great schlep video or the works of Will.I.Am
The storytelling techniques employed by David Cameron could have come out of the PR best practice play book, but they felt inauthentic because they were nameless.
There is a lack of differentiation between much of the parties, whilst they may feel that they have put across differentiated policies the lexicon is very similar.
Because of this mess, I believe that UK election is still anyone’s for the taking.