Monday, February 1, 2010

America the Gift Shop

Artist Philip Toledano asks the question: "If American foreign policy had a souvenir shop, what would it sell?" His is answer is poignant, but slightly nauseating. His installation America the Gift Shop features typical tourist souvenirs (postcards, snow globes, mobiles) with disturbing images of America's recent and less than proud moments. An inflatable Guantanamo Bay life-size prison cell. A doll called "Ibrahim the Eviscerated." A fairground cutout featuring a faceless Abu Ghraib prisoner and Lynndie England giving the unforgettable thumbs up. Such "souvenirs" or gag gifts have been made before, but their subjects were more tame like a Hilary Clinton nutcracker or toilet paper with George Bush's face on it. Toledano's art isn't supposed to be funny, it's supposed to be shocking and it is. One feels more perplexed looking at it and a bit more queasy.

Toledano writes of his exhibit, "Once the sugar coating of the ordinary dissolves, we are left with the grim truth about where we've been as a nation....Fingers must be pointed, and pointed publicly. Then, and only then, when the world sees us acting as we tell the world to act, will America's honor be restored." See his full exposition here:

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