Oct. 5, 2020
Many people have asked; Is our system broken? Can it survive the force-of-will imposed by a determined autocrat? Salon No. 9, Shaping Elections explored the delicate art of democratic elections in the modern era. The evenings' distinguished guests - Artist Ann Lewis, UN Electoral expert Philippa Neave, and of by for Coordinator George Zisiadis - have worked at home and abroad to increase voter participation, assist young democracies in carrying out their first elections, and explore possibilities for more equitable voting systems. As the United States stumbles into its next presidential election, it is more important than ever to examine if and how our electoral system is serving the nation. From hanging chads to gerrymandered districts, million-dollar Ad campaigns, and lost ballots, how can voting in America be fixed for future generations?
Ann Lewis is a Detroit-based multidisciplinary artist who uses public space and participatory performances to respond to current social and political issues. As an interdisciplinary activist artist, she incorporates painting, installation, sculpture, and participatory means to explore themes related to American identity, power structures, and justice. Ann's work often includes repetition through graphic elements, and a limited color palette while conveying messages around intersectional social justice issues such as gentrification, women's rights, and police brutality. Her work is informed by engaging affected communities and reflects relevant scientific data through intuitive use of concept-specific materials.
Notable recent works include From Us to Us (2019), a participatory installation in which visitors leave handwritten messages for people detained indefinitely along the border between the US and Mexico on silver emergency blankets, as well as and counting… a chrono-reactive installation detailing every death at the hands of American police officers in 2016 on individual toe tags. Ann's work has been acquired by the New York Historical Society Museum and the US Library of Congress.
Philippa Neave is a Communications, Public Outreach and Media expert with 15 years of experience in electoral technical assistance, largely with the United Nations, in a wide variety of countries. A former journalist and Arabic speaker, she has in-depth experience of the region. She has developed, planned and overseen the implementation of civic education and information campaigns including the design of print, audio, video and online communication tools. She has conceived and implemented media training programmes and supported election commissions, ministries and other organisations in their Strategic Communications. She conceived and produced the tri-lingual Arabic, English, French Lexicon of ElectoralTerminology. She is the Senior Lead of Project 21, a cutting-edge civic education initiative.
George Zisiadis leads coordination at of by for, an organization working to get beyond parties and politicians and put everyday people front and center. They are advancing a new vision for democracy that replaces partisan elections with democratic lotteries.
Prior to of by for, he worked as an artist and designer re-imaging public spaces in ways that moved people of all ages and backgrounds. In 2018, he set aside his art practice to dedicate himself to the study of social movements from past to present.