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The Mr. Peanut Mayorality Campaign of 1974

June 3, 2005 - June 3, 2005

One of the most persistent challenges for artists during the twentieth century has been to locate a fertile meeting ground between art and the everyday, where the artist can function as an artist uncompromised, and where the art is not so removed from our daily lives. Between 1969 and 1974, Vancouver artist Vincent Trasov assumed the alter ego of the well-known product icon Mr. Peanut as the frame of reference for his artwork and as a focal point through which our perceptions of the world could be filtered. Trasov collected all things peanut and made drawings, photocopies, collages, photographs, videos, sculptures, and ceramics that illustrated and promoted just how pervasive and potent the image of Mr. Peanut was. In his most performative manifestation of Mr. Peanut, Trasov even constructed a human-sized costume that he would wear as he walked through the city, frolicked in nature, or performed on stage tap dancing with the Peanettes. This anthropomorphic animation of Mr. Peanut made its way across Canada and the United States as well as into performance art history.

In 1974, Trasov and fellow artist John Mitchell devised a unique performance that purposefully brought art into the real world, indeed, into the very core of the political system with the “Mr. Peanut for Mayor” campaign during the civic election. Mr. Peanut registered as a candidate, attended meetings, interacted with the public, and, through the voice of Campaign Manager Mitchell, responded to press interviews that brought him publicity and made him a celebrity in mainstream magazines such as Esquire and Andy Warhol’s Interview. This intervention of art and its fictions into a real socio-political landscape in the “Mr. Peanut for Mayor” campaign is a landmark work of Canadian conceptual performance art. With his motto of “elect a nut for mayor,” it also captured the public’s imagination and, remarkably, Mr. Peanut drew 3.4 per cent of the vote. The exhibition, <I>The Mr. Peanut Mayorality Campaign of 1974,</I> recreates the spirit of this ambitious, but prankish, project that helped put Vancouver on the map, and bring art to the people.

What remains of this historic event are photographs, sculptures, press clippings, ephemera and a video documentary highlighting the campaign trail. The Belkin Gallery has purchased for its collection the Mr. Peanut costume, an edition of 18 mixed media objects, and video footage from the campaign, which are included in the exhibition in addition to numerous works and documents related to the campaign from the Morris/Trasov Archive.

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