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Love Podium

Dan Peterman, PLATFORM 10

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Lincoln, Massachusetts
Inaugural event, September 15, 2012
Installation on view September 2, 2012–October 1, 2013

During election season, candidates speak and analysts give insights. As shortcomings and triumphs of political opponents are revealed, it often becomes difficult to sort through the abundance of information. Perhaps nothing encapsulates this situation better than Dan Peterman’s latest art work, Love Podium, inspired by the recent presidential election season.

The installation is one piece of the PLATFORM series of shows at the deCordova in which artists are asked to present work that responds to the museum’s spaces. Peterman’s sculpture is a gray platform made from reused plastic, and on it are two podiums facing outward, in opposite directions. Perfectly situated on the entrance plaza of the museum, it becomes a stand for visitor debates, transforming the plaza into a powerful theater filled with intense social interaction.

The deCordova inaugurated the sculpture on September 15 with help from members of the local community, who were invited to step onto the podium and read aloud their opposing views on a topic. Lexington High School debate-team members were some of the first to engage in lively performance. Two senior debaters — Jerry Chen and Adam Hoffman — stood back to back on the platform and simultaneously read opposing speeches on the subject “Resolved: The United States ought to extend to noncitizens accused of terrorism the same constitutional due-process protections it grants to citizens.”

Experiencing Love Podium during one of these opening debates is revelatory for speakers and listeners alike. As onlookers walk around the sculpture, listening becomes crucial in order to discern between the two speeches. For participants, the performance becomes practice in learning how to remain focused during times of distraction.

Love Podium is a successful platform for engagement and community building. More important, Peterman’s piece is a perfect commentary on the latest political discourse. As visitors recite a variety of texts and struggle to listen, they come away from the experience more aware of the range of perspectives and values that make up this country. They are also encouraged to truly consider a dark side — what it means to speak without being heard and the problems that can arise from a deeply divided public.