Save the Presidents

Save the presidents, 2017
Collaboration with Alex Strada. 4k video, 13 min.  
(3 minute Excerpt)

Save the Presidents is a film that focuses on the deterioration of 43 giant stone busts of former American Presidents, situated in a field in rural Virginia. The busts had belonged to a sculpture park which closed in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. A local farmer and entrepreneur was hired to destroy the busts after the park’s closing. He decided instead to preserve them, moving the sculptures onto his own property and worksite. During their transport and over time, the busts have eroded.

The film details the decaying materiality of the figures, such as the cracks in their faces and the discoloration of their white stone. Structured over the course of a day, the work begins with the presidents sitting drenched in morning sunlight as manual laborers arrive to the field for work. As the light wanes and the laborers leave, the presidents are left alone to watch the sunset fade to black. The film explores the promise and instability of political representation and mythology, while raising questions about depictions of democracy, whiteness, and gender.

Save The Presidents in Times Square 2018

Every evening throughout February 2018, Save the Presidents took over the screens of Times Square at midnight as part of Times Square Arts’ Midnight Moment. The film transformed the Morgan Stanley Building, NASDAQ Tower, Microsoft Cube, and over 50 other branded screens in this quintessential cross-section of late capitalism. In this setting, the work functioned as a counter-monument, where it temporarily interrupted and re-contextualized Times Square’s stream of advertising with images of decaying leaders from the past. 

Fictive witness, 2018 - 2019

Fictive Witness is a year-long series of lecture-performances in conjunction with the Agency for Legal Imagination at Ludlow 38. Legal scholars and art historians are invited to respond to Save the Presidents (2017). Each performance consisti of a different “interpreter” who provides a distinct narration that speaks to the themes which underlie the film, ranging from the problematic of monuments and political mythologies, to law, race, and gender in this current political moment.

Kendall Thomas opened the series on Tuesday, February 13, 7pm. His lecture-performance centers on US political culture, cultural politics, and the cultural and political powers of the “imaginary” American presidency. Taking the evocative visual landscape of Save the Presidents as its inspiration, Branding the Dream: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and the Meanings of America uses words, music, and an eclectic range of references (from the 18th century German art historian and archeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann to pop superstar Beyoncé) to stage an encounter between two presidencies and between two conflicting — and convergent — visions of the American Dream.