Contemporary rethoric through audio/video installation

Parallel Rethoric

‘Rhetoric’ is usually understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral, visual, or written language. However contemporary studies of rhetoric have a more diverse range of practices and meanings than in the past. Rhetoricians now argue in fact that the classical understanding of rhetoric is limited because persuasion depends on communication, which in turn depends on meaning. Thus the scope of rhetoric is to include much more than simply public, both legal and political, discourse. This emphasis on meaning and how it is constructed and conveyed particularly through media is part of Zachary Poff’s (zachpoof) latest installation ‘Parallel Rethoric: Coming and Going’. This piece extends the investigation of public speech that he began in 2005 with “Parallel Rhetoric: 2001 + 2005”. The artwork consists of a software-driven installation that continuously mixes up the Inaugural and Farewell speeches of three US Presidents (Johnson, Carter, and Reagan). A pair of video teleprompters mirrors the image of each President, with the Inaugural speech on the left and the Farewell discourse on the right. A single microphone, modified as a speaker, is placed between each pair, amplifying one speech or the other but never both. Whenever there is a moment of mutual silence the sound switches to the other speech, randomly editing a meaningless conversation. The video keeps following the timeline, so the bouncing from one direction to another is even more puzzling for the observer. The emphasis placed on the emptiness of political discourse is then a vehicle to reveal the structures and artifacts of media itself.

Valentina Culatti