Art

Nina Katchadourian’s Tribute to Political “Roads Not Taken”

An intriguing meditation on the flawed two-party system, the power of Katchadourian’s Monument to the Unelected lies in its ability to confront us with alternative histories.

Installation view of Nina Katchadourian: Monument to the Unelected, Pace Gallery, 2020 (all images courtesy Pace Gallery; photo by Pace Gallery)

Inspired by the plastic signs that decorate American lawns in the months leading up to a presidential election, the Armenian-American artist Nina Katchadourian decided to materialize the country’s political “road not taken” by creating an installation of signs bearing the names of candidates who have lost.  Since 2008, this ongoing project, titled Monument to the Unelected, has been exhibited every election cycle Hillary Clinton’s sign being the most recent addition. 

Installation view of Nina Katchadourian: Monument to the Unelected, Pace Gallery, 2020 (photo by Pace Gallery)

While art is often praised as a vehicle for imagining alternative futures, Katchadourian’s piece does so by confronting us with alternative histories, the majority of which seem rather appealing given our dire reality. In its previous iterations, Monument to the Unelected was appropriately installed on lawns and in storefronts, spaces accessible and confrontational to a viewership that might not have sought out a political art installation otherwise. At Pace gallery, however, the installation is hidden away in the library, and even the gallery staff does not seem to be aware of its existence (I had to repeat myself several times before anyone understood what I was looking for). 

Katchadourian’s work is an intriguing meditation on the flawed two-party system, but these days its power is unfortunately lost in the recesses of  a blue-chip gallery.

Editor’s note (10/19/20): Monument to the Unelected is also on view at several other public sites across the US, including in Orange County, CA (via Grand Central Art Center, through November 17), and in Madison, WI (via Catharine Clark Gallery, through November 7).

Nina Katchadourian: Monument to the Unelected continues through December 12 at Pace Gallery (540 West 25th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan). All visits to the gallery must be scheduled in advance. 

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