Vote early and often at a political art experience: the “Primary Caucus”

Vote early and often at a political art experience: the “Primary Caucus”

All photos of the tour taken by Ray Ray Miltrano 7/1/16

primary caucus

City, June 29th – July 5th, 2016

After A Trumprenuer on the road at Trumpmania, I was intrigued reading about Ray Ray Miltrano’s exhibit Primary Caucus in the Visual Studies Workshop.

ray ray

Ray Ray 7/1/16

A Master’s of Fine Arts degree candidate in SUNY Brockport’s Visual Studies Program, Ray Ray’s Primary Caucus is part of his year long thesis work in the trajectory of the 2016 elections.

Based on exhaustive research — on his thesis bookmark page I tallied 52 so far — Ray Ray has constructed an intricate and compelling participatory gallery installation.

At first glance, the project space feels like the backroom of a campaign war room headquarters: loose stacks of voter registration cards, the Big Board national electoral map, and thumbtacked construction sheets representing state by state results from ethanol Iowa to territorial Virgin Islands.

The exhibition invites the viewer to follow the primaries through a series of methaphorically-charged voting venues, as well as the puzzling but not indecipherable hanging charts representing the election outcomes and their sub plots.


Upon beginning the tour, I was glad Ray Ray does not have a photo ID requirement. But played it safe.IMG_20160701_194736637

Iowa is first (pictured above), commanding outsized visual attention fitting its disproportional weight in the primaries. As a time-consuming, convoluted, open caucus, Iowa demands mathematical scrutiny. I needed the magnifying glass to see both a quarter and the results measured to three decimal places.


The Republican side of Iowa — titled “Blow Voting” — suggested viewer participation. But the GOP caucus is a non-binding straw poll so it doesn’t matter anyway. Blowing and holding my nose while voting, I dunked my ballot based on the candidate symbol the snot on my tissue most resembled.


At “Threshold Voting” — where votes disappear under a door — my choice was Andrew Jackson. In return for a generous campaign donation, I hope to receive a favorable anti-trust exemption in case the D & C gets up Talker‘s butt for using our old blogs.grinder roaster-page0001

“Roast Campaign” and “Grind Affiliate” represent the winnowing down of candidates — including your prefered candidate (mine was Lincoln Chafee) — into the homogenous Duopoly of two-party platforms more similar than not.IMG_20160701_195343501
The voting table asked viewers to use both One Choice Voting (basically the N.Y. closed primary method) and Ranked Choice Voting (used in some city councils and often in private sector voting such as the Academy Awards).

Friday’s vote was an empirical study for Ray Ray. He determined that — at least last night — people changed their prefered first choice as they moved from One Choice and Ranked Choice. Also, one voter made the effort to stack about 12 blank ballots into his/her clothespin.


As far as I was concerned, there was only ONE CHOICE. In my Ranked Choice, I placed Minority Reporter second, the Brighton-Pittsford Post third and the City fourth.


Primary Caucus succeeds by cleverly defamiliarizing the voting process: weird symbols, clothespins, magnifying glasses, string, mini-flashlight, coffee grinders, roasters and bean. And Kleenex. But it is defamiliarization with a point.

While the exhibit raises issues of gerrymanderying, recounts, voter fraud and suppression, party affiliation and third parties, it prescribes no one reform, solution or alternative. It does prescribe engagement — within and without the gallery space.

Funneled through the primaries, I realized again that the political operatives in their war rooms know every wrinkle of election law and practices. And — as best we can if not 52 bookmarks — so should we. It’s your ballot. Own it.

A Trumprenuer on the road at Trumpmania

philips' exhibit

Philip Lange at the Visual Studies Workshop 7/1/16


When experiencing Primary Caucus, also see Portraits by Philip Lange (VSW ’83), a fascinating exhibit documenting the Maasii Stoves in Tanzania. 

For many years a fulltime RCSD art teacher, Phil is now an occasional substitute in the district, as I was a few years ago. Phil will entirely corroborate that students frequently are convinced we are the same person or at least brothers.

When we traveled around the district, students would invariable call me Mr. Lange and call Phil, Mr. Kramer. I’ve had students run up to me saying, Mr. Lange, remember me from 5th grade? One girl at SOTA — no matter what counter arguments offered — was adamant: I was Philip Lange. Phil has had similar experiences.

with Philip

Doppelgangers? 7/1/16 at the Visual Studies Workshop [Photo: Julie Minutaglio]


TRUMP Trump the fool backs the gold standard   Next stop Albany. On the road with the Trumprenuers   On seeing my first Trump supporters outside the Bug Jar   “The Agony of the GOP:” The Cow Palace, July 1964  The 180th Anniversary of the Alamo and Trump’s Wall with Dr. Josue Ramirez   Remember, the Italians voted for Mussolini. And what Europeans are saying about Trump    G.O.P. Fears Whats Next If Trump Can’t Be Stopped — New York Times, February 25th, 2016   If Donald Trump becomes a footnote in political history, he will become William Randolph Hearst. And maybe Bernie Sanders is William Jennings Bryan   Why Peter Wehner will not have to not vote for Trump   “I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin” — Max Boot, 2016  “I foresee very lively election campaigns” — Josef Stalin, 1936

SANDERS Come see yourself if Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem are right   Would America elect a democratic socialist? We already have. Think FDR   Asking and answering three questions at the Bernie Sanders rally from George Payne  Millions of views and counting! Our own Athesia makes the featured Bernie Sanders campaign video.   Athesia, Video Celeb turned Paparazzi, at the rally   Our own Athesia makes D & C print endorsement! (with our picture)   Citizenship in action at the corner of Culver and Parsells

CRUZ Talker interviewed by Channel 8. Knowledgeable supporters back Cruz’s gold standard  Would Cruz crucify himself on a “cross of gold?”  President Cruz will end “sanctuary cities.” Where will that leave us?

CLINTON An Outsider Looking In: Report from a Clinton Rally at MCC from George Payne  On Clinton era nostalgia, Rhode Island style


Which Presidential election mattered the most to you?

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts