Bri Murphy, Belle-Pilar Fleming
What if Shirley Chisholm had won her historic bid for president in 1972? In this collaborative body of work we interrogate the notion of electability in both historical and contemporaneous contexts by recasting the victor of the 1972 presidential race. Chisholm was the first black woman elected to Congress, and the first to seek a major party nomination for the presidency. Her campaign (and general ambition) was dubbed “quixotic,” in other words, too idealistic to succeed. In reviewing the landscape of contemporary American politics it is clear that the tendency to classify marginalized candidates in this way still stands in the way of true progress.
Thus, our endeavor to communicate with an alternate past exemplifies both a space of defiance and one of dreaming. These efforts are inspired by a host of historical material, including iconic imagery of Nixon, anonymous vintage dinnerware, industrial commemorative ceramics, handmade signature quilts, and actual ephemera of Chisholm’s campaign. With this work we invite viewers to question their own assumptions about electability and the standards by which one is dubbed worthy of leadership.