Fictive Witness

Fictive Witness © Tali Keren, Alex Strada © Tali Keren, Alex Strada

Fictive Witness is a lecture-performance series that originated  at the Goethe-Institut in 2018. The series uses our film, Save the Presidents, as a point of departure. Structured over the course of a day, the film depicts a field of cracked and decaying presidential monuments and the manual labor that takes place around them. We see these cracks as fissures of opportunity to unpack oppressed American histories and to politically imagine what else might be possible. For each performance, we invite a different speaker to present a layer of narration over the film that speaks to themes that lay beneath its surface. In 2018, we collaborated on the series with Ludlow 38 curatorial resident Avi Feldman and invited legal scholar Kendall Thomas, architectural theorist Mabel O. Wilson, and philosopher Drucilla Cornell to explore ideas including political branding, the colonial history of property rights, and ethical feminism. 

Histories require continual mining and re-contextualization with the ever-changing political present. In light of the ongoing protest movement against police brutality, the global pandemic, and the upcoming election, we are returning to Fictive Witness. This fall will consist of three Zoom lecture-performances in October, November, and December. The series will open with sociologist Alex S. Vitale and historian Nikhil Pal Singh as they individually and collectively engage with the histories of policing in the United States and the call for abolition. Interdisciplinary scholar Noliwe Rooks’ lecture will center on the histories of public education in the United States and she will be joined by Whitney Stephenson of Teens Take Charge to discuss strategies for educational justice. To conclude this iteration of the series, Native American studies scholar Shari Huhndorf will address the complex ways in which US history and memory entails Indigenous erasure while exploring the potentialities of counter-monuments through artworks by Native artists. A talk-back will follow each event.

–Tali Keren & Alex Strada

Tali Keren (she/hers) and Alex Strada (she/hers) are artists and educators based in New York City. Their collaborative work has been shown at Anthology Film Archives, Socrates Sculpture Park, Museum of Moving Image, and Austrian Cultural Forum, New York; MuseumsQuartier, Vienna; Kaunas Biennial, Lithuania; and on the screens of Times Square with Times Square Arts’ Midnight Moment.

ASL Interpreters or closed captioning will be available for all events.