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Photocracy: Defining Democracy Through Stories and Art

Principal Investigators

  • Deb Mexicotte


  • Amy Tackitt




Completed Winter 2022

Collecting Stories Through Art

Photocracy: Defining Democracy Through Stories & Art invited U-M students, faculty, staff, and alum to submit artworks and images tackling what democracy means to them. Submissions were showcased online in a gallery of images and videos, displaying the diverse and wide-ranging perspectives of our campus community.

Retelling Stories as Art

Photocracy: A Call for Artists and Designers sought faculty and graduate student artists and designers to propose a commissioned piece developed using the collected images, text, and recordings in the Photocracy gallery as source material and inspiration for an interactive work that was announced in January 2021 and developed throughout the Winter 2021 semester. The second phase of Photocracy also received a generous grant from the LSA Democracy and Debate Theme Semester that allowed them to expand from one commissioned work to two. Amy and Deb were struck by how both of these proposals showed the potential we as individuals have to regain our agency as citizens in a democracy through the more personal and emotional connections we can make by engaging through the arts and creative expression.

The Paradox of Democracy: Faultlines and False Algorithms of Consent and Dissent

This online installation questions and reveals the glitched narratives of American democracy through curated performance, word, video, and sound. This project questions whose voices and experiences write the tale of American democracy, and how the flooding of virtual imagery and data streams shape the perception and distribution of those narratives. How might a glitch aesthetic disrupt, reclaim, and redistribute the collective stories we tell of Democracy? Amy Chavasse is a choreographer, performer, educator, improviser, and Artistic Director of Chavasse Dance & Performance is currently a Professor at the University of Michigan. Charli Brissey is an interdisciplinary artist, scholar, and teacher who works choreographically with various technologies and materials. You can learn more about Charli’s work here.

The artists Amy and Charli commissioned to participate in the project include J’Sun Howard, jess pretty, Ambika Raina, Fabiola Torralba and Sacramento Knoxx.

Forum: a place for art/a platform for politics

Leonard Bopp, a second-year masters student in orchestral conducting at the University of Michigan and the Artistic Director of the BlackBox Ensemble, a New York City-based contemporary music ensemble devoted to using new music as a platform to engage with the social issues of our time, has created an interactive online exhibition that highlights the history of political engagement in the arts. Using selected photos and statements from the online Photocracy gallery, curated pages highlight individual works of art – as well as broader artistic traditions – in all forms that speak to the themes presented in the original photo. Most importantly, this platform is entirely interactive, with viewers able to add works that they feel resonate with the themes of the exhibition to the online gallery. In this way, this project not only curated an exhibition about artistic modes of democratic engagement, but sought to democratize the act of curation itself.