Tag Archives: Mergen

Michael Mergen: Vote!

Virginia photographer, Michael Mergen, has one of the best series I’ve seen about where and how we vote.  His project, VOTE, shines a stunning light on how “mom and pop” our voting system is and reflects the head-scratching realization that it is truly a miracle that we get anyone elected.  These images speak to the potential of error, but they also speak to the fact that much of America is built on a mom and pop reality, where the corner store is still the heart of the community.

Michael earned a BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an MFA in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. He began his career as a photojournalist, working for national newspapers and newswire services in Boston and then his hometown of Philadelphia. His current work focuses on ideas and notions of America and its institutions.  He has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is held in several public and private collections. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Art and Photography at Longwood University in Farmville, VA.

VOTE
 Photographed on Election Day from 2008-2010, Vote documents the spaces where the ideals of our political system meet the mundane realities of participatory democracy. These polling places in unusual, privately owned locations, pointedly do not live up to the majesty of American democracy, yet still speak to a kind of vernacular Americana. The work suggests a collision of public and private.

When a voter is confronted with the decision to vote or shop, vote or eat, vote or skate, which role is expected of us, the role of citizen, or the role of consumer? What happens when confronted with both simultaneously? What does voting in a private home say about the encroachment of government into private life? Or does locating polling machines in places such as supermarkets and shopping malls make voting more convenient and spur a higher turnout? 

The series also points to the temporal quality of Election Day – the days’ brevity contrasting with the perceived permanence of the space it briefly inhabits. In all works, I emphasize the apparent incongruity between the primary function of the space and the temporal use of the space as a polling place. The voting machines act as stand-ins, set up and waiting for voters to activate them. As if transported from another world, the machines remind us of the often haphazard way in which elections are conducted.

Through extensive research at the state, county, and local level, I indentified the locations I intended to photograph. Using Google maps, I created a map of each state or county to determine an itinerary for the particular Election Day, making edits based on proximity of each location, keeping in mind the relatively short day and sometimes hundreds of miles between polling places.

Panel Discussion: America’s Competitive Edge and Its Global Standing

MergenEblastImage
Michael Mergen, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Richmond, CA , 2008


Wednesday, September 5, 2012 | 5:30pm | MoCP

The Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs are proud to announce a panel discussion with economist Howard Friedman and exhibiting artists Michael Mergen, moderated by MoCP Director Natasha Egan.

Howard Friedman, statistician, health economist, and author of The Measure of a Nation: How to Regain America’s Competitive Edge and Boost Our Global Standing, and artist Michael Megen, whose photographic series 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is on view at MoCP, will discuss their work in connection with the themes explored in the MoCP’s current exhibition Peripheral Views: States of America.

The reception begins at 5:30pm at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. A cash bar will be available. The discussion begins at 6:30 at Stage Two, 618 S. Michigan Avenue and a book signing will immediately follow.

CCGA Young Professional Members $10; Nonmembers $20; Columbia College Students can register for free by contacting Allison Grant at [email protected]

Reservations are recommended. Learn more and register online at www.thechicagocouncil.org.


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MoCP | 600 S. Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60605 | 312.663.5554 | [email protected]

Panel Discussion: America’s Competitive Edge and Its Global Standing

MergenEblastImage
Michael Mergen, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Richmond, CA , 2008


Wednesday, September 5, 2012 | 5:30pm | MoCP

The Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs are proud to announce a panel discussion with economist Howard Friedman and exhibiting artists Michael Mergen, moderated by MoCP Director Natasha Egan.

Howard Friedman, statistician, health economist, and author of The Measure of a Nation: How to Regain America’s Competitive Edge and Boost Our Global Standing, and artist Michael Megen, whose photographic series 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is on view at MoCP, will discuss their work in connection with the themes explored in the MoCP’s current exhibition Peripheral Views: States of America.

The reception begins at 5:30pm at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. A cash bar will be available. The discussion begins at 6:30 at Stage Two, 618 S. Michigan Avenue and a book signing will immediately follow.

CCGA Young Professional Members $10; Nonmembers $20; Columbia College Students can register for free by contacting Allison Grant at [email protected]

Reservations are recommended. Learn more and register online at www.thechicagocouncil.org.


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MoCP | 600 S. Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60605 | 312.663.5554 | [email protected]