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, 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

Commissioned by and performed at the Goethe-Institut, New York City
4 minute HD video clip from 1 hour and thirty minute performance
February 13, 2018


“Branding the Dream: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and the Meanings of America”

Lecture-performance and collaboration between artists Tali Keren & Alex Strada and legal scholar Kendall Thomas.


Fictive Witness is a series of lecture-performances that was commissioned by and took place at the Goethe-Institut throughout 2018. For each performance, Alex Strada and I collaborated with a different scholar who intervened within Save the Presidents by presenting a layer of narration to the silent film. Structured over the course of a day, the film centers on a field of eroding presidential monuments situated in rural Virginia. Save the Presidents was re-edited to mirror the length of each lecture so that as the sun sets on the screen, the performance concluded. Each scholar unpacked a distinct socio-political theme that lives beneath the film’s surface, reshaping its content through context. Throughout the course of the series, the same material was plumbed and reconfigured to engage with ideas ranging from property rights, ethical feminism, to branding. The performances were followed by talk-backs.

Legal scholar Law Kendall Thomas’ lecture-performance “Branding the Dream: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and the Meanings of America”, focused on U.S. cultural and political powers of the “imaginary” American presidency. Drawing inspiration from the visual landscape of Save the Presidents, Thomas’ performance used words, music, and an eclectic range of references (from the 18th century German art historian and archeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann to Beyoncé) to stage an encounter between two presidencies and between two conflicting and convergent visions of the American Dream.


“On the Imaginary Domain, Or Who Gets to Be a Person?”
Lecture-performance and collaboration between artists Tali Keren & Alex Strada and political philosopher Drucilla Cornell 

Still camera documentation of 1 hour and thirty minute performance
Commissioned by and performed at the Goethe-Institut, New York City
November 27, 2018


For “On the Imaginary Domain, Or Who Gets to Be a Person?” philosopher Drucilla Cornell unpacked her notion of ethical feminism as a theoretical concept and political strategy. Cornell’s performance centered on labor, gender politics in the workplace, and the right of each person to identify in their own way. Cornell’s lecture served as a kind of contrast to the content of the film — pointing to the absence of women within the limeage if presidents who conceived of and were employed to shape American national identity throughout its history.

The monumental presidential statutes featured in Save the Presidents had belonged to a sculpture park in Williamsburg, Virginia which closed in 2010 due to bankruptcy. The First Ladies were also represented in the park in the form of mannequins, which were all the same height and size. Parts of the First Lady mannequins survive but their heads have gone missing. Their remaining limbs now live in a shed, along with a small model of the never realized Obama bust. We presented some of our research images of the beaded First Lady mannequins as part of Cornell’s performance, framing them within a patriarchal culture that does not acknowledge the dignity of female labor.



“Dead Presidents: A Lexicon of Land, Race and Nation”
Lecture-performance and collaboration between artists Tali Keren & Alex Strada and architectural theorist Mabel Wilson
Still camera documentation of 1 hour and thirty minute performance
Commissioned by and performed at the Goethe-Institut, New York City
October 24, 2018


Architectural theorist Mabel Wilson’s lecture-performance, “Dead Presidents: A Lexicon of Land, Race and Nation” centered on a series of alphabetical entries relating to property and personhood within American ideology. As the film screened, Wilson presented a racialized history of the way in which the American landscape was cultivated, specifically referring to the use of enslaved labor to build national monuments that purport to embody “freedom”.