“Hope and Change” “Freedom”

Josh Kline made a suspended animation in 2015 that had a white boxed light that illuminated the edges of a flat screen TV. In his video, an actor is playing Barack Obama and Kline used a “facial substitution software” to reconstruct his face to look like the former president.(1) It was presented in a neutral gray and white room that focuses the attention to the screen because of the bright white LED light designed around the screen. The video is of the president’s “inaugural speech” back in 2009 but, has its own thought-provoking variations to the speech that are “written by the artist and one of the speechwriters” for Obama. (2) This exhibit was located in Washington DC at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. (3)

Kline later went on to present this exhibit in the United Kingdom alongside his other project called “Freedom.” (4) He organized these two exhibits to complement each other because of their similarity in showing a “dystopian future” where people are under constant surveillance and technology is at the forefront of humanity. (5) There are electrical poles for cell phones with credit cards attached to them to represent the debt in America associated with technology that keeps us under surveillance. (6) The suspended animation of Barack Obama was playing in the background of four Teletubbies dressed up like a SWAT team.(7)They are standing spread out in the room and the Teletubbies are meant to be a commentary on “Occupy Wall street Protest Camp in 2011.”(8) On their stomachs they have videos of “former police officers” reading off scripts by “political activists” speaking about “social media.”(9)


As an artist, Kline focuses on the way that we are connected with technology. (10) When the internet was developed it created “two realities,” our world and the digital world. (11)His art piece has a eerie and disconnected robotic feel that taps into the difference between these two realities. This type of art that Kline is creating falls into the category of art after the internet. This is considered “Post-internet art” and is associated with being a “social object” that is used to create active thinking about the things that we already see everyday.(12)


Artists like Kline are making us as an audience question what we perceive to be as real. We see the simulation of Obama and associate that with the real Obama. We know it is just an animation but the duality it creates make us aware of this digital world. Obama’s animation acts as an avatar of the real Obama, which is similar to the way we use social media. The Teletubbies also act as sculptures of icons that we once saw on television as children, giving the audience a nostalgic feeling that further allows them to connect with what they are seeing. The choice of making them into a SWAT team is a commentary on the way police are meant to look friendly but are really just being controlled by a greater force. Their faces look oddly pleasant but very eerie due to the lifeless nature of the sculpture that only speak to us through the screens on their stomachs. We create digital versions of ourselves that people believe our real. Most of the population communicate to people through screens and this is a commentary on our own society. We are the police but we are also the citizens that are being watched by the police. The avatars we have on our screens are just digital copies of us. This further enforces the idea that “nothing is a fixed state: i.e., everything is anything else.” (13) Kline is an artist that is provoking the way we think about the internet and the digital world. Overall, he wants us to think about civil rights, privacy, and surveillance in the “21st century.” (14)

11)The Image Object Post-Internet by Artie Vierkant