Imperial America, 2008

Collection of Scott Brandt, St. Louis, MO.

During this time of destabilized nuclear
governments, improvised explosive devices, suicide car bombs, “dirty” suitcase nukes and bio-weapons, a perspective on armaments and their effect on world populations and the psychology of engagement is in order. IMPERIAL AMERICA is a work of sculpture that engages this issues by looking back at time when the United States was the preeminent power in the world; its nuclear arsenal, aimed at the Communist Soviet states created a situation referred to as MAD, mutually assured destruction. 

While Harry Truman was the first world leader to drop nuclear weapons on enemy territory, it was General Dwight D. Eisenhower who presided over the build up of America’s nuclear arsenal; importantly he warned of the power of the military/corporate culture that would lead the US into ill fated wars on other foreign soil.  Indeed, the current administration is a direct descendent of these warnings holding an obsolete belief that the world must be shown the rectitude of its own might. 

In 1956, while atmospheric nuclear explosions rained over Bikini Atoll in the pacific, Mamie Eisenhower, the first lady, purchased a vehicle for her husband,  1956 Chrysler Imperial sedan four door.  This car featured prominent eagle symbols and “gun sight” tail lamps.  Chrysler named the styling of the car, “The 100 Million Dollar Look.”  Certainly a large enough term to relate to varieties of  defense spending.  Heraldic imperial eagles represented in many ways the military style that emerged in many vehicles after WWII; gun sights, jet intakes, propeller noses, wrap around windshields, jet exhausts; many of these IMPERIAL AMERICA is an assemblage of parts and effects that reckon back to this time and characterize the America of the mid 1950’s in relation to how it is perceived today. 

A 1956
Imperial is combined with a specially fabricated roof rack that holds a facsimile of a Redstone rocket/nuclear weapon from that same year.  The automobile is painted white with silver accents; the missile is also designed to harmonize with the Imperial, the ultimate accessory.  The interior is in Air Force blues and sumptuous with a repeating pattern of American eagles upholstery with silver/grey accents.  Below the dashboard is a military style panel that arms and detonates the weapon.  The car is displayed on top of a large corporate/military symbol and contained within a space consisting of rows of bulbs in industrial reflectors.  This creates a pinpoints of light reflections across the car. 

Beauty is revealed as terror and so becomes sublime.  The reality is that nuclear devices and delivery systems are still potent realities.  During my life, my father worked on these delivery systems for the US Navy and General Dynamics including Redstone and Jupiter delivery systems; he couldn’t talk about his work, but he could talk about the need for exactitude and the knowledge that small mistakes could render the entire planet uninhabitable.