SoSoLimited Presidential Debate Remix at the ICA

I never thought I’d write such a thing, but Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art is a damn sweet place to party.  Views stretch across the harbor; young folks come dressed to undress; and the third floor bathrooms make it possible to go about your post-dinner business privately.   

To be honest, I’ve even had fun there without alcohol; so when I heard that Cambridge multimedia geek squad SoSoLimited was hosting its first ever presidential debate remix party dubbed ReConstitution at the South Boston monument of minimalist excess, and that they would be serving booze, beer and wine, I figured the evening would even impress jerks like me who are eternally skeptical of the intersection where politics and pop culture collide.   

My friend Tano and I arrived early to secure seats inside the theatre, which was unnecessary.  While the auditorium lured a healthy share of people looking to relax, most younger, less sophisticated partygoers preferred the downstairs lobby, where they could watch on smaller screens, ruthlessly imbibe, and step outside for smokes.  

From the looks of the folding table at the front of the theater (where I watched the first 45 minutes), one might have thought there was a lecture coming on.  But when members of the sharply dressed trio stepped to their equipment it became clear that they had cooler plans.  So long as I got to actually hear the debate, I figured, the audio-visual experiment would run smoothly.  The night was destined to be a drunken nerd’s Utopia.

And it mostly was.  Though some effects such as their reducing visuals to circular blips of Obama’s pants and McCain’s mouth, and neutralizing their voices to sound the same, slightly interfered with some intricate topics, the clear points and clever zingers came across.  Just one note to SoSoLimited: it’s difficult to take candidates seriously when their pipes are hyped with helium, though I suppose that was the point.  

My one hang-up was the claim that ReConstitution was a non-partisan effort.  I admit that I was one of the barbarians howling at the screen when McCain spit useless mush, but I never claimed to be objective.  SoSoLimited, on the other hand, was supposed to represent equally, but they absolutely leaned to the left, which was acceptable for this crowd, which collectively booed when McCain mentioned Senator Kennedy in his pandering opening remarks.

On a side note, I recently smoked Salvia, which is a legal hallucinogen that you can buy in most head shops.  The experience was intensely frightening – a Crayola nightmare from which I was sure for five to seven minutes I would not return.  The SoSoLimited aesthetic for the first half reminded me of that brief but horrific departure; for you older readers just imagine listening to the debate on NPR while watching Japanese anime pornography and tripping balls on acid.

Anyway…after growing slightly annoyed with the auditorium folks who needed to see other peoples’ responses before conjuring their own, Tano and I ventured downstairs for the second half of Obama vs. McCain.  On my way out the door a guard commanded that I not re-enter, but I was fine with being banished to the land of hard drinks, beats and politics.

Downstairs there were some serious politicos watching closely, others (including me) fading in and out of the debate, and a handful of cats dancing while the late night DJs warmed up quietly.  One guy who fell into the latter group was wearing a sombrero, which was great since I’d forgotten mine.  It was official – ReConstitution was the dopest debate party I’ve ever been to (despite it being uncomfortable that we were watching Obama win while a predominately black wait staff cleaned up cocktail glasses).

I’m not sure what the point of this SoSoLimited exercise was; surely folks would have had fun if we simply gathered at the ICA, watched the scrum without screen tweaks and word counts, and drank ourselves silly.  But this is Boston, where there’s no limit to the creative ways that heads will present otherwise ordinary phenomena, and it was absolutely cool to see both McCain and Obama technologically mocked for flinging adviser-scripted buzzwords across the aisle.  

I’ll admit that as juvenile as I often find the left’s need to incestuously amplify, it’s refreshing to realize that I’m not the only one amused when candidates abuse clichés as if they’re speaking to a nation of catatonic toddlers.  Sure, SoSoLimited trounced the integrity of the debate to some degree, but no more than did the two men vying for the most critical position on the planet.

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