Toledo Museum of Art Exhibit Examines Political Advertising
This summer, the Toledo Museum of Art will present “I Approve This Message: Decoding Political Ads”. The non-partisan, 7000 square feet exhibit looks to explore the relationship between emotion and rationality in the election process and how emotion often impacts voting. The exhibition will project over 50 ads throughout several different emotion-specific theaters. Certain ads will be examined frame by frame with the goal of showing how specific elements manipulate viewers into thinking with their heart rather than head. “We will literally be decoding the ads,” said co-curator Harriett Levin Balkind.
The exhibition will begin with ads from President Dwight Eisenhower’s succesful 1952 bid. “34.6% of American households had a television in 1952,” said Balkind, “and thus the first political ads were born.” The exhibit will feature material for the next 60 decades, ending with the 2012 election cycle. In the middle of the displays there will be a ‘mood room’ which “will show how you have no control of your emotions” according to Balkind. This room will serve as a place to take pause and feel specific emotions encouaged by words, music and other ambient effects. Visitors will also be given the opportunity to take part in various interactive activities including one where they can create their own ad.
“I Approve This Message” is a partnership between the Toledo Museum of Art and HonestAds, of which Balkind is the founder of. HonestAds is a non-partisan non profit that works to mobilize voters and increase turn out by encouraging critical thinking and decreasing deception in poltical advertising. “What we want to show is how people feel about political advertising before they walk in, whether it’s going to influence them, how they feel when they walk out and then research just before they vote to see if they have been influenced,” said Balkind.
While there may be 50 different advertisements, Balkind stressed that the more things change, the more things stay the same. “It’s the same issues and the same iconography,” she said, adding, “the technology has changed but nothing else has. My goal is for people to never look at political television advertisements the same way again.” #
I Approve This Message: Decoding Political Ads opens on July 14 and runs through Election Day, ending on November 8.