Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Art on the Beach

This story is fascinating, in its way, about a large Obama painting or sculpture (not sure which it is technically):

Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez Gerada and an army of helpers sculpted it from sand on a Barcelona beach in northeastern Spain.

The team battled days of rain to finish just ahead of Tuesday's election. It is 140 yards long by 80 yards wide — big enough, Rodriguez Gerada hopes — to be photographed on Google Earth. The face was created using 500 tons of sand, gravel and white, brown and black pebbles at a cost of more than $13,000.

The team largely funded the project themselves, and the city agreed to let them use a stretch of beachfront at no cost.

Rodriguez Gerada says he did not intend to endorse Obama.

"The piece is not really based on giving support to Barack Obama," he said. "It is more about questioning Obama-mania."

Still, Rodriguez Gerada said he chose the large format as an allusion to the global importance of the American vote, and to represent the hope Obama has inspired in his supporters.

You can see the artwork here. The ubiquity of photo shopping makes the picture less impressive than it should be.

What about "Obama-mania?" Now that's a tricky topic to discuss, for all sorts of reasons. To have hope is so important and to demand more from politicians is also important. Yet to put all one's hopes on the shoulders of one man is most likely a recipe for disappointment. No one person can change a whole political system overnight, especially when the system is in an extremely precarious state of health and requires many painful and protracted treatments to recover. No one person should be expected to do that. It's too big a burden, and in any case Obama is a fairly middle-of-the-road kind of guy in his actual policy proposals.

At the same time, not to have those kinds of hopes is a recipe for utter cynicism. What we have lived through in the last eight years requires a vast correction in both actual policies and in political engagement, and for us to be able to make that correction requires hope and optimism and the willingness to work very hard.

In a sense, then, I think we should both hope and not-hope, at the same time. Perhaps this is the "optimism in hope, pessimism in expectations" that I've read about.

Then again, ProfWombat makes a good case for just plain old hope.