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IIñigo Manglano-Ovalle's Half Ton Box at THE SUBURBAN


On October 20, 2020, Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren ruled that absentee ballot boxes were not allowed under Wisconsin law. The state’s Supreme Court subsequently upheld the ruling in a 4-3 decision outlawing the use of ballot boxes for Wisconsin’s upcoming midterm elections. The conservative court’s decision echoed the language used by former President Trump that the use of ballot boxes encouraged voter fraud in the 2020 election. The majority decision argued the measure would prevent Wisconsin elections from resembling those occurring under totalitarian regimes such as North Korea and Cuba. The political nature and impact of the ruling reflected the on-going national political rancor as well as the attacks on voting rights and access in the wake of the 2020 election. It also raised the stakes for the upcoming battles for control of the House, Senate, and the presidency in 2024.

In response, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s Half Ton Box consists of numerous public interventions and exhibitions. The public component involves two ½ ton steel replicas of now-outlawed Wisconsin ballot boxes temporarily installed in a range of sites in both urban and rural communities. The public boxes are made of ¾ in. raw steel plates, have no markings, come with no instructions, and are rendered unmovable due to their mass and weight, and although the boxes have slots through which to deposit material, they are absent of markings, attributions or instructions. The more private and interior component consists of a hand-crafted Shaker-style wooden ballot box harkening to early American utilitarian methods of furniture making.

Half Ton Box begins with the installation of one ½ ton ballot box anchored to the pedestrian path at the entrance of The Suburban in Milwaukee, while its doppelgänger roams throughout the state of Wisconsin. This movement will be documented in a photo project to be converted into a photo book. Ballot Box I will occupy urban and rural, public and private settings throughout the state. Public sites may include the entrance to the Poor Farm in Waupaca County, and the crossing of highway 12 and county road H in the town of La Grange in Walworth County.  Inside The Suburban’s small gallery, a traditional wooden version of the boxes will be exhibited alongside prints of unlikely yet prescient ballots. Visitors to the gallery may interact with both ballots and boxes, casting or not casting “votes” in response to prompts posed by the selected ballot(s), i.e. Truth/FictionWilling/UnwillingCulture/Nature, etc. Ultimately, we hope to activate this project through a grassroots network of participants leading up to the Presidential elections in 2024.

Half Ton Box draws inspiration from the traditions of landscape, Land Art, and American road photography in the history of art. The project employs similar tactics to earlier works by Manglano-Ovalle including Phantom Truck (2007) commissioned for Documenta 12 and the series Well whose most recent iteration, Hydrant 41°47'22.662″ N – 87°37'38.364″ W was commissioned for Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at Forty. The work was permanently installed at Sweet Water Foundation and its doppelgänger displayed at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago.

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