I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Rep. Michele Bachmann has been in the national news a lot lately. She’s always been a newsmaker, but recently, with her announcement of her run for presidency, Bachmann news appearances have become an everyday thing. So to people from the rest of the nation who now get to enjoy a 24-hour Bachmann news cycle, I say this to you: Welcome to our world.
Bachmann has been a Minnesota fixture long enough that she has expanded past the news section and into the arts section, as, with some regularity, local artists look to Bachmann as a source of inspiration, which often seems to irritate her. I’d like to take a moment to offer up a few highlights.
First of all, there is the comic book, “False Witness.” The brainchild of lawyer and political blogger William Prendergast, the comic has been coming out since 2009, and boasts four issues, all taken from Bachmann’s actual record, although, it must be noted, the comics are written from a decidedly anti-Bachmann viewpoint (Prendergast has written for the “Dump Michele Bachmann” blog.) It’s also written satirically — as an example, issue four is narrated by God, although, in fairness, sometimes the actual Bachmann claims that God is narrating her life. (As an example, in 2006 she said that God called on her to run for Congress.)
The purpose of the comic is blatantly propagandist, in the sense that it tries to present a counternarrative of Bachmann’s life. Counter to what? Well, primarily, to the one presented by the mainstream media, who the creators of the comic seem to feel have not been sufficiently critical of Bachmann. But by describing the comic as propaganda, I risk having people dismiss it, which would be a pity — “False Witness” is a credible telling of Bachmann’s life, even allowing for exaggerations for the sake of humor. It’s thoroughly rooted in reported facts, which actually makes it a little more credible than Bachmann’s own telling of the same story, given her notoriety for, let’s say, factual imprecision. The comic has proven popular enough to regularly sell out.
Bachmann regularly makes an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair in the crop art section. Here’s an example that shows her in what looks to be a tinfoil hat in the shape of a wing nut, and, indeed, the text of the piece declares Bachmann to be the “Patron Saint of Wing Nuts.” Minnesotans are not a notoriously combative people, and tend to sublimate their outrage into passive aggression. So, when we’re feeling especially ill-tempered, we start obsessively gluing indigenous seeds to paper to create caricatures that will appear months later at the Great Minnesota Get Together, alongside scarecrows made up to look like cartoon characters and award-winning jars of honey. Nobody has ever used craft projects as a tool of satire like we have. We’re just vicious.
Not everybody in Minnesota is passive aggressive, of course. Take musician G-Biz, as an example, who, according to his MySpace page, plays “the crunkest dance party ever held in a wood-paneled basement.” About a year ago, G-Biz promoted a show with an image of an elephant, er, expressing, um, fluids over text that began with the letter f and ended with Michele Bachmann’s name. It’s a commonplace colloquial expression of contempt, and I am sure G-Biz meant it in earnest (at the time, the artist called her “an embarrassment to us all on his MySpace page), but Bachmann’s people took public umbrage, calling it “vile” and “disgusting,” connecting it to a piece on Bachmann in Playboy, somehow. On Sean Hannity’s show, Bachmann herself pointed out that the poster had come out just as the moment when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had added Bachmann’s name to the “Red to Blue campaign,” which sought to have people give financial support to Democratic candidates in red districts. So there you have it: G-Biz doesn’t just make wood-paneled basement crunk. He’s also a Pelosi stooge.
Local musician Maria Isa just came out with a song about Michele Bachmann called “Esto Suena,” which can be heard on the City Pages website. Although it is possible that Isa is likewise a Pelosi agent, the singer claims the song was inspired by her own experiences going to school with one of Bachmann’s sons. “I don’t think she liked this Latina,” according to Isa. Over propulsive Latin drums Isa raps in rapid-fire Spanglish. The song seems to tell the story of an attempted party hookup (“He’s fine as hell,” she says at one point, later adding “come here with the lips”), but then turns explicitly political at the end: “No Arizona government,” she raps, and ends with “Michele Bachmann, time to listen / How you gonna be a racist and a Christian?” Bachmann does not seem to have offered up a response to this song. Perhaps Isa needed to include the F word.
Perhaps the oddest response to Bachmann has come from Minnesota painter Dan Lacey, but, then, Lacey calls himself “the painter of pancakes,” and, yes, he puts pancakes in all of his paintings, so his response was bound to be a little odd. And so he’s painted Bachmann with pancakes for eyes and with a pancake on her head. A pancake on a stick, no less; Minnesotans are never completely removed from their State Fair, where all foods come besticked.
Most recently, Bachmann has a cameo in John Waters’ “Absentee Landlord” exhibit at the Walker Art Center. There is an instillation there by an artist named Gregory Green, a very pleasant fellow whose art happens to include incredibly realistic pipe bombs and other infernal machines, which had led to at least one exhibit being raided by the police and a plummeting of interest in his art post 9/11. It’s fascinating stuff, however — utterly credible recreations of the sorts of things that psychotic loners create to take their revenge on society. At the Walker, he’s built what looks to be a working bombmaking factory, and scattered throughout it is the text of the bombmaker’s madness. There’s a book by Glenn Beck, and, elsewhere, one about Michele Bachmann. “I found a bunch of stuff about Bachmann,” Green told me a few weeks ago. “Her name was spelled differently on each one.”
Yes, that’s a problem. We locals have been around her long enough to remember the spelling — one L in Michele, two Ns in Bachmann — but we’re going to start seeing a lot of this mistake on a national scale. Artists of America! Take heed! As you glue your seeds, or paint your pancakes, or prepare your concert fliers, at the very least get her name right!
We have until February until the Republican primaries, so get to work. I look forward to the art this next half-year will produce.