November 02, 2009

Exhibit explores alternative media political satire

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An exhibition that begins this week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale takes a look at contemporary alternative media political satire.

Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology, features 17 recent works by various artists in “Nice Chop: On Contemporary Alternative Media Satire.” The exhibition runs Friday, Nov. 6, to Dec. 11 in the Department of Cinema and Photography display case across from the Daily Egyptian in the Communications Building.

The Global Media Research Center is sponsoring the exhibition.

From a “Wanted Poster” that features former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Mad Magazine shot of then presidential candidate Barack Obama delivering a knockout punch to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, or a satirical shot of 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin carrying running mate John McCain on her back, the exhibition looks at humor in politics, Oduro-Frimpong said. Another piece shows Osama bin Laden hiding, “Lord of the Caves; 6 years under a rock,” and another display featuring Barack Obama, “Barack Obama, the 46-year-old political virgin. He’s come too soon.”

“The exhibition examines a facet of online news satire where artists skillfully manipulate real photographs to comment on and critique socio-political issues,” he said.

Oduro-Frimpong, who is a research affiliate with the Global Media Research Center, said there is also a serious side to the seemingly light-hearted work on display.

“It’s a way to tell people to go ahead and look and laugh, but also consider the embedded meanings that are inherent in these pictures,” he said.

John Downing, director of the Global Media Research Center, said lampooning political issues and people has gone on for centuries. The 16th century French writer, Francois Rabelais “put in literary form the kind of totally inappropriate stuff that everyday folk had been murmuring to each other and sometimes shouting at each other for a very, very long time,” Downing said.

Downing said the “style is continuous. The means are new.”

“The Center is interested in media arts as well as research,” Downing said. “For centuries, people have lampooned, satirized and poked fun at their elders and betters. This is one example using contemporary digital technology of how that longstanding cultural tradition persists.”

The technological ability to manipulate images is far greater, Downing said. He points to a recent photograph of President Obama that appeared to show him admiring a young woman as she walked up the steps. The expanded photograph, however, showed Obama turning to take the hand of a woman walking behind him to help her down the steps.

Oduro-Frimpong is planning a second exhibition of about 30 items with a similar theme for mid-January, shortly after the spring 2010 semester begins.

For more information, contact Laura Germann at SIUC’s Global Media Research Center at 618/453-6876 or by email at