Zoe Leonard Presents I want a president… (a collective reading – DC)

By Editorial Team on October 12, 2016
Photo by Lisa Nyberg of the Spanish adaptation and the original English text, by Zoe Leonard, for "I want a president" collective reading in Madrid, Spain in 2011.
Photo by Lisa Nyberg of the Spanish adaptation and the original English text, by Zoe Leonard, for “I want a president” collective reading in Madrid, Spain in 2011.


Event: Sunday, October 16 at 5:30pm


Art Project Engages Public in Reimagining Presidential Politics: Participatory Workshops Culminate in Collective Reading at White House on Oct. 16

Over the past two months, the independently organized art project, I want a president… (a collective reading – DC) is invited the public to creatively reenvision presidential qualifications and to share these desires in front of the White House. Inspired by a 1992 text piece by artist and activist Zoe Leonard, this participatory project seeks to update her list of demands to reflect the urgencies of today through in-person workshops and online discussions. In partnership with community and cultural organizations, co-curators Natalie Campbell and Saisha Grayson have organized a series of writing workshops, drawing together diverse perspectives on what experiences, identities and ideas have yet to be seen amongst presidential candidates but would help represent “we, the people.” For the culminating event, all are encouraged to join on Pennsylvania Avenue outside of the White House to read Leonard’s original and the updated version for one hour in unison.  Starting at 5:30pm on Sunday October 16, this collective action will also be the closing event of the Creative Time Summit DC: Occupy the Future, three days of art, activism, and discussion that will be held from October 14 through 16. (Summit passes can be reserved at creativetime.org/summit but are not required for the reading, which is open to all).

The first collective reading of I want a president… was initiated by Swedish artists Malin Arnell, Kajsa Dahlberg, Johanna Gustavsson and Fia-Stina Sandlund in 2010. Faced with a general election that brought an explicitly fascist, racist and homophobic party into the Swedish parliament, they turned to Leonard’s 1992 battle cry against American political indifference to the AIDS crisis and systemic inequality. In collaboration with Leonard, they adapted her text into Swedish, and on the day before the election, gathered over a hundred concerned citizens in a square in Stockholm to read the two texts together. This first action inspired a series of invitations from other countries facing critical elections, from Estonia to Puerto Rico to the United Kingdom, where readings have been organized.

The DC reading will be the eleventh in this series, and returns Leonard’s text to the U.S. context at a time of increasing disillusionment with electoral politics. The project aims to create spaces for dialogue, outside the frustrations of the status quo, about how to collectively expand the horizons of political possibility and give voice to shared desires for something better. The workshops focus on adapting the text for a new moment, asking what has changed and what has stayed the same since Leonard first typed, “I want a dyke for president.” The DC reading will also include Spanish versions of the texts, affirming a multilingual America.

I want a president… (a collective reading – DC) is being produced in collaboration with Furthermore, Anacostia Arts Center, Creative Time Summit, the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at The George Washington University, The Coven DC, the DC Public Library Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Pleasant Plains Workshop, Potter’s House, Transformer, Visual AIDS, and a growing list of community partners.

For up-to-date schedule & project info, visit the website; register for workshops at Facebook & follow @iwantapresident on Twitter/Instagram.