Can a Presidential speech ever be a work of art?

Not usually. But R. Luke Dubois is doing his best. As part of the “Mulitplicity” exhibit now showing at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which I had a chance to see last weekend, Dubois reconfigured all the State of the Union addresses in an interesting way.

In a series of prints called “Hindsight is always 20/20,” he’s taken the words of each speech, noted their frequency, and rendered them as a Snellen eye exam chart – with a President’s most-used words in large type near the top and his less-used words in progressively smaller type toward the bottom.

It’s a mashup – one part word cloud, another part optometry. And it works. You get a good sense of how much the times dictate the words. It also offers a sly commentary on each President’s – wait for it – vision.

Check out two samples (Theodore Roosevelt and Gerald Ford) below and more pieces here.


7 Responses to “State of the Union address as an eye exam chart”

  1. Justin says:

    I think it’s far more fascintating to “see” what was not said vs. said given the historical context in which they were giving their SOTU.

  2. I love this – thanks for sharing.

    I suppose last night would be “I” and “fair”??

  3. Moira says:

    Ummm Hmmm….I looked into the President’s Blueprint for a nod (or more) to the great American creativity that generates our trademark competency — American innovation. Did not find it. In fact…

    Create = 18
    Creation = 1
    Creative = 0
    Creativity =0

    Linguistic anomaly, rhetorical (lack of) value or a missing and critical link in the plan? I don’t pretend to have an answer, and hope I am asking the right question of the right audience.

    How the heck are we going to leapfrog the “what is” to create American revenue and competitive differentiators?

    See: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/blueprint_for_an_america_built_to_last.pdf

  4. Moira says:

    Regarding eye exam, fascinating. What a great way to — wait for it — see ourselves, our times and our leaders. Great taxonomy development/tracking technique, too.

  5. I really like daniel’s work…i saw him on the dylan ratigan show speaking of how both right and left are not having the right discussions…how the right villainizes labor and the left, big business and then how few american workers actually are participants in unions and likewise how few work for fortune 500 companies…i wonder if people who respond to posts regarding any political idea actually read the info or just respond to the headline…we could use a MINDSET transfusion….i enjoyed this!

  6. Nathan Sudds says:

    Interesting post Dan, I also found something similar mentioned via http://www.thenextdraft.com — “how twitter reacted to the SOTU address” thought you and your readers would find this interesting too. http://expertlabs.org/2012/01/twitter-reacts-to-the-state-of-the-union-2012.html

  7. Jay Papasan says:

    Great stuff, as always. Word clouds can be quite revealing.

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