A Reading of a Transcript of a Rally

The following was printed in a program for a screening and reading event in Berlin hosted by LUNAR in collaboration with Dancing Foxes Press (March 2017).

The Book/The Event

On November 6th, 2016, a group of artists and writers gathered in front of a crowd on the High Line in New York City and read responses to Zoe Leonard’s seminal 1992 text ‘I want a president’ – which had been blown up and wheatpasted onto a nearby wall. The book that grew from this pre-election rally is I want a president: Transcript of a Rally. The form of the text mirrors the scripts sold on the streets in NYC, as the text was created to be disseminated and read aloud – a text-based rallying cry.

Queer/feminist film curatorial project LUNAR hosts the Berlin launch of I want a president: Transcript of a Rally. Just as the text deals with the difficulty of responding to a work that is simultaneously out-dated and hyper-relevant, the event grapples with the politics of articulation and the adequacies and inadequacies of language. We have invited artists, writers and members of the Berlin community to read a portion that speaks to them from one of the texts in the book. Hyper-aware of the problematics inherent in speaking another’s words in their absence, we sought readers whose subjecthoods and works deal with the thematics of the texts they are reading. The disconnect between author and reader, in addition to the curative act of choosing a specific portion of a text to read aloud, destabilizes and calls into question issues of authorship and the nuance of subjecthood. Who can (and should, or should not) speak on behalf of someone else? Is there such a thing as creative ventriloquism? Is there such a thing as collectivity – a chorus of voices – without dilution or erasure?

The Films

SERIOUS LADIES, Susanne Sachße (Germany, 2013)

Susanne Sachße’s Serious Ladies plays out like a stuck record – repetitive, disjointed, surreal. Described as a “camp manifesto,” the film stages a breakdown of language and identity. Serious Ladies enacts a Cindy Sherman-esque destabilization of the (particularly female) idea of an immutable, unified self. The films character(s) fight against the gendered constraints of the social sphere, subverting the mechanics of communication, and forgetting their/her practiced lines in favour of a more vital subjective history.

EN VOGUE, Jenn Nkiru (U.K., 2014)

Jenn Nkiru’s En Vogue follows all of these mismatched words, intercepted communications, and offbeat orations with a complete relinquishment of (this certain type of) language. The film is a different kind of articulation – that of bodies interacting with other bodies, with music. Latent in its neon pulse is a retelling and reclamation of a movement previously appropriated and profited upon by white women (see: Madonna and Jennie Livingston). En Vogue is more than just joyously, life-affirmingly, ecstatically queer – it is a radical ode to the vital language of non-normative bodies bathed in artificial moonlight.