Liberals poke fun at Colin Craig's eyes
He had some very weird ideas, that's for sure, but the second strangest thing about him was his eyes. Large, widely-spaced, the pupils forever darting around like questing tadpoles, his eyes gave him the look of a furtive fifth former.
In part, I'm sure those shifty eyes prevented Conservative Party leader Colin Craig from attaining the five per cent vote threshold in the last elections.
If the eyes are mirrors to the soul, then these eyes seemed to need a big squirt of Spray'n'Wipe and a bloody good rub with a clean, lint-free cloth. There was a murkiness there, a disconnect from observed events, a palpable lack of transparency.
And now, those famous eyes have been repurposed - right there in our capital city, just a stone's throw from Parliament - as a highly symbolic disguise, wearable by all and sundry, in the true spirit of democracy and egalitarianism.
I was amazed to receive an email this week from an anonymous artist in Wellington who has taken this politician's peepers as the starting point for an art project.
Using a blown-up photo of "those eyes", he made a prototype pair of Colin Craig eyeglasses, then invited an assortment of random Wellingtonians to have their photo taken wearing them.
He had no shortage of takers. After all, these glasses are perhaps the last word in nifty neo-con fashion accessories.
As soon as you put them on, all sorts of assumptions will be made about your personal politics, your world view, your belief system.
Did astronauts really walk on the moon? Is the globe really getting, like, you know… warmer, and if so, is that really a bad thing, given the nippiness of winter? How long will human civilisation take to crumble now that whacking your kids has been outlawed and gay couples permitted to marry? Does God still wear big white flowing robes when sauntering about in heaven, or has he moved with the times and adopted a crisply tailored white shirt and dress trousers? Slap on these glasses and you suddenly have the tentative, indecisive look of someone who's still weighing up all the possibilities.
I contacted the artist, asking what had possessed him to create these subversive specs. He emailed me back an audio file, with his voice slowed down to conceal his identity. "During the 2014 election, you had to occasionally stop, pinch yourself, and wonder if Colin Craig was an elaborate art prank," he said in a voice like a drowsy Darth Vader. "When [on-line bulletin board site] Reddit got hold of his farcical press images, he was transformed from man to meme, immortalised until the end of the internet in a pose of relaxed recline amidst a field of long grass.
"Somewhere mid-campaign, people started honing in on his eyes - in particular, their cold-blooded reptilian stare. From there it was a small stretch to create a set of Colin Craig eye-glasses and photograph people wearing them."
The artist has taken dozens of photos so far, and reckons he will stop once he has amassed a collection of 100. A few of my favourites are reprinted here.
Floppy fringes, curly afros, pierced noses, hipster beanies. Bright blue tresses, receding hairlines, carefully-clipped facial hair. It's so peculiar, seeing Craig's bewildered peepers peering out from such a splendid diversity of faces.
Better still is the fact that these are probably the faces of disreputable Wellington liberals, anonymous and undercover, each with their own gaze supplanted by that of a millionaire businessman. They are progressives disguised as conservatives, lefties dressing to the right, wild wolves in meek sheep's clothing.
I wondered how these people felt about participating in the project. What did it feel like to look out at the world through those eyes? The mysterious Wellington artist wondered much the same thing.
"We asked our subjects what they saw in his eyes," he told me. "The overwhelming response? It's very dark in here."
Sunday Star Times