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

Part of Fictive Witness – A Series of Lecture-Performances

February 13, 2018


30 Irving Place

<i>Save the Presidents</i>, Alex Strada and Tali Keren, still, 2017
Save the Presidents, Alex Strada and Tali Keren, still, 2017

Fictive Witness is a year-long series of lecture-performances in conjunction with the Agency for Legal Imagination at Ludlow 38. Artist collaborators Alex Strada and Tali Keren invite legal scholars and art historians to respond to their film Save the Presidents (2017). The film centers on monumental statues of former American presidents that are eroding in a field in rural Virginia. Each performance will consist of a different “interpreter” who will provide 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 will open 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 Strada and Keren’s film 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.

Kendall Thomas is the Nash Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia University in the City of New York.  He is the co-creator, with choreographer William Forsythe, of the performance-installation Human Writes.

Tali Keren (b. 1982, Jerusalem) and Alex Strada (b. 1988, New York City) each received an MFA in Visual Art from Columbia in 2016. Their collaborative work has been shown at the Socrates Sculpture Park, Anthology Film Archives, Museum of Moving Image, and on the screens of Times Square.

With the kind support of the Artis Grant Program