During the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the artist wandered Zuccotti Park as a talking coin giving voice to the complaints of a faltering democracy in the face of concentrated corporate wealth. Then one day an old Yippie, famous for pie-in-the facing Washington elites, admonished him to leave the comfort of the occupation in search of more productive confrontations. Seven years later in a world now sizzling with conflict and audiences programmed into echo-chambers, Fischer speculates on future performances that could confront dystopia head on and win.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 12:00PM
THE THEATER AT GIBNEY 280 BROADWAY
CO-COMMISSIONED BY AMERICAN REALNESS AND YALE’S THEATER MAGAZINE
PRESENTED BY GIBNEY
Part of Bodies on the Gears, a series of five lecture performances curated by Tom Sellar as part of American Realness 2019.
A small table set with an empty pie tin and a can of Reddi-wip. Fischer walks onto stage with a theater seat strapped to his body like a shield. Hello! We caught each other at a strange moment, not a particularly safe moment, especially for an activist. My name is Noah Fischer: I am an activist, or at least I was, before this moment. But I got myself all freaked out about the potential violence of the Left. And that’s what I’m working with now. So I’d like to get you freaked out too.
I’m going to begin by telling a horror story: a story about the near future. Let’s say that in 2020 Trump is again victorious. And in his second term a shadowy foreign group stages an attack at a college football playo¢ game and that’s the switch that was there the whole time, but now they £nally ¤ipped it. We shift into emergency mode, drive o¢-road, the gloves come o¢. 2024 there’s no election because in a time of crisis you need structure. The country needs a strong father not some activist former waitress like the Democrats are running and when there are massive protests, bigger than we’ve seen before, he tweets the signal, and his followers swarm out to the town squares and city boulevards where people are marching and they are armed, they are organized. They are ready. They have to be because they’re the embattled minority: their backs are against the wall; their personhood itself is threatened: their whiteness is threatened.
They are super prepared. Stockpiles of automatic weapons, grenades, war drones, armaments you and I didn’t know existed: they emerge from underground caches. They wear uniforms: fatigues with the red hat, the frog logo, other logos from 4chan we don’t know about. The militias have their own app called “Triggered” and use it to e«ciently set up checkpoints. They are searching for frizzy-haired snow¤akes and people who look like immigrants and the descendants of slaves.
Some of the snow¤akes £ght back. Dsa Student groups, black bloc Anarchists, armed feminist cells, trans ninjas, the Socialist Ri¤e Association, New Black Panthers, and shamans, pagans, antiracist Buddhists are performing protection rituals. Artist come out with turpentine Molotov cocktails. Actors come out with theater seats strapped to their bodies for protection. Fischer loudly taps the theater seat strapped to his chest and then explains that he got it in a barter exchange from an artist at Occupy Wall Street. But it’s not a fair £ght because at the core it’s violence and violence isn’t our possession, it’s theirs. They’ve got a whole cult developed around it. They publicly torture and execute activists on livestream. A crowd of white faces pose with the bodies in a celebratory manner. This is nothing new: it’s a tried and true method. And it has a widespread chilling effect.
But we’ve got Silicon Valley and it now steps up to protect us. Amazon’s newly legal drone delivery service means that people can lock out the violence in gated communities if they can a¢ord to, or just not leave their apartments, going on with their lives sans public space and embracing a new culture called SafeWorld. The ransacked Universities, with classrooms and o«ces spattered with the blood of Decolonial antiracist Marxist professors, move their classes online. A 3d teleconferencing technology is unveiled. There’s less tra«c on roads, less planes in the air and in truth this is not a bad thing, at least for co2 levels. You know, there are two sides of every coin. Art becomes introspective because there’s no more public space, no more street protests. Businesses can operate with fewer checks and balances. New markets open and rise to recordbreaking levels. Corporate campuses have their own security forces. Amazon expands far into Queens, setting up a city within a city where its executives and workers can live normal lives. Jeff Bezos is appointed Mayor of the megacity that stretches between Boston and dc. There are prolonged negotiations with the Government and £nally Los Angeles, Denver, Miami, Boston, San Francisco, and the Eastern Megacity become freemovement campuses in exchange for tripling economic output. Aladdin, BlackRock’s market-tracking ai, selects the optimal governance team and makes policy recommendations. The real estate prices in the safe and successful cities shoot up astronomically.
Where does the creative community go? They are moved by decree to upstate prisons which have been rebranded “Live, Work, Repeat.” The prison population has expanded with the new BlackRock Debt Laws. But the prison buildings themselves have emptied with the greenlighting of embedded control chips, a new incarceration Upstate Prisons, watercolor with digital manipulation, technology developed by Koch industries that sends o¢enders out into the market and hands their controls over to the employer. So there’s new cheap labor and new real estate available, a win-win. Fischer takes o the theater seat and leans it against the podium, in view.
Sorry. (Long, contemplative pause). I know this sounds bleak and not that creative: it’s an echo of bleakness that’s already out there. As an activist, I wanted to inspire you, I wanted to share a brighter future with you but something kept pulling me down. Pessimism. Isn’t it strange how pessimism became second nature? It’s so addictive!
And my question for all of us: what to do about this addiction?…
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