We are unveiling Morning In America on August 27, 2012, at Lykes Gaslight Park, Tampa, and on September 4, 2012, in Marshall Park, Charlotte. Two identical ice sculptures of the words Middle Class will (dis)appear on the first days of the Republican and Democratic conventions.
Morning In America is the third installation in a trilogy of ice sculptures. We began working with ice in 2006, when we created The State of Things in the garden of Jim Kempner Fine Art in New York City. It was the word Democracy and debuted on the third anniversary of the Iraq War.
In 2008, we took that piece to the Democratic and Republican Conventions in Denver and St. Paul. On the 79th anniversary of the Great Depression, we melted down the word Economy in front of the New York State Supreme Court Building in lower Manhattan.
Tampa and Charlotte
Placing these works in bucolic settings such as a public park suggest a utopia more in keeping with an Impressionist painting than a performative artwork. Today public space, however, is a complicated zone caught between the necessities of security and the exercise of free speech. Bringing this work to Tampa and Charlotte has been a challenging prospect.
Why a park? Why place the work there? The park parallels the growth and flourishing of the Middle Class. At the beginning of the 21st century, as corporate endorsements crowd out public space and the work week expands 24/7, both the Middle Class and their use of public space are endangered.
In this context, Morning In America becomes a disturbing commentary: the Middle Class and all its vestiges are melting away, decaying as much from the rays of the searing Sun, as from the result of avaricious politicians and corporations.
Most ice carvings are of animals, logos or ice luges at weddings, corporate gatherings, and bar mitzvahs. Our ice sculptures use language to investigate the way contemporary society, in particular, politics, commerce and the media divorce meaning from words, a type of doublespeak so that what is meant is often not what is said.
Ice seems the perfect medium for sculpting this conundrum. The location of the pieces in park settings creates a perfect framework for public discourse and social commentary, which becomes even more explicit in the time-lapse videos of the sculptures. Speeches about democracy, the destruction of the middle class, or traders calling bids for stocks are the soundtrack for the videos.
Morning In America
Morning In America takes its title from Ronald Reagan’s 1984 Morning In America reelection campaign. The electioneers made a hyper-fictionalized simulacrum of America, a soft-sell advertising pitch with well-crafted images of Americana, as if Norman Rockwell drew the storyboards himself. After 30 years, one begins to wonder whether Morning In America was the dawning of a new age or the beginning of twilight that has cast the country into a dark, perilous night that may never cease.
Reagan’s first act as President (strangely reanimated by Republican governors Scott Walker and John Kasich) was to break a union. Then, Reagan went on to slash social programs, demonize poor and working people, and converted the U.S. from a creditor nation to debtor nation, running up the highest budget deficits in history.
The decline of the poor, working and middle classes has been the m.o. of Reagan Republicans ever since. Morning In America did not greet Americans with rosy fingers. It left all of us holding the bag. As the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, in his poem Ozymandias, “Nothing beside remains.”