The Exquisite Candidate

The Exquisite Candidate

On November 8th, Election Day, the students of the MFA Products of Design were out on the streets of New York City, creating design interventions around politics and citizenship. Please find below the results of that work, begun with an introduction by faculty Manuel Toscano and Natalie Balthrop:

"It's the day after the presidential election, and for many this is a time to celebrate! and for just as many it feels like a time to panic. The real story is that this outcome would have been the same regardless of the winner—one side is joyous and empowered, the other taken over by disbelief and fear. On Election Day 2016, the students of the SVA Products of Design had already understood this to be the biggest challenge of our political system, and as part of the Design and Politics Workshop, they dived into the many aspects of our political discourse that are broken, that need reinvention, that require design solutions to mend what is clearly a system in need of new ideas. Let's hope their work is only the beginning, and a hopeful sign of the ingenuity and positive effort that will bring this political conflict to an end."

My team comprising of Alexa Forney, AIlun Sai, Gahee Kang, Manako Tamura, Louis Elwood-Leach and myself worked on the project called The Exquisite Candidate. Inspired by the exquisite corpse game, The Exquisite Candidate aimed to move past the differences highlighted in the 2016 election by asking participants “to build their ideal candidate—together.” For each of the three body parts (head, body, and legs), a pair of participants were asked to choose political statements that reflect both of their opinions. The chosen boards had visual illustrations on the back, and together the participants could build full-size representations of their ideal candidate.

More than 30 passersby built their candidates in Madison Square Park—ranging from an 80-year-old Trump supporter, to policemen, to teenagers. Indeed, in many cases, the game revealed differences in the pair’s opinions. In response to her partner's supporting the statement that guns make communities safer, one participant exclaimed, ‘what?! you crazy?’. And while they did not necessarily resolve their differences during the game, they compromised and found other statements to agree on. Not a single pair failed in choosing their statements—and completing the figure.

A common theme in their experiences was how tired and disappointed they felt about this year's election and how empowering they found the game to be.

Many participants enjoyed the process of building a figure that represented the issues they cared about. In one participant's words, "This election has been just so gross...the game was such a nice way to look beyond it."