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Responding to Zoe Leonard’s “I want a president…”

By Documents

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Texts from Responses to Zoe Leonard’s “I want a president….”
Artists, activists, and thinkers shared contemporary responses to Zoe Leonard’s influential 1992 text I want a president…

Christopher Cole: “Don’t worry Judy, we’ll get it taken care of.”
Christopher Cole is an interdisciplinary artist whose work incorporates performance, text, and installation. He lives and works in New York City.

Meera Nair: I wait for a President
Meera Nair is the author of Video (NY: Pantheon 2003) and two children’s books, Maya Saves the Day and Maya in a Mess (India: Duckbill Publishing). Video received the Sixth Annual Asian-American Literary Award for Fiction. It was named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post and a Notable Book by the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize. A recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), Queens Council for the Arts and MacDowell Colony, Nair’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, among others. Nair is on the writing faculty at NYU’s Gallatin School and Brooklyn College’s MFA program.

Shannon Matesky: I want a President…
Shannon Matesky is an actress, poet, producer, director from Berkeley, California. Brooklyn based, Shannon curates Queer Abstract, a monthly QTPOC performance series and currently the Youth Engagement Coordinator at Urban Word NYC. You can find more information about her work at

Melissa Ragona:  UNPRESIDENTED (aka Cointhians Caught in a Nasty Chora)*
Melissa Ragona’s essays and reviews have appeared in October, Frieze, Art Papers and in numerous edited collections on contemporary studies in film, sculpture, sound, and new technologies. She has also published in monographs on the work of artists, Heike Mutter, Ulrich Genth, Christian Jankowski, Paul Sharits, Antoine Catala, and Carolee Schneemann. Her book, Readymade Sound: Andy Warhol’s Recording Aesthetics, is forthcoming from University of California Press. She is an Associate Professor of Critical Theory and Art History in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

J Soto: Love as a Series of Warnings; A Prayer for What Our Love Will Look Like
J Soto is a queer interdisciplinary artist, writer, and arts organizer. He has curated and performed work for The National Queer Arts Festival (San Francisco),  Links Hall (Chicago), as well as Vox Populi (Philadelphia) among others nationally. His collaborative writing project, “Ya Presente Ayer” can be found in Support Networks, Chicago Social Practice History Series (University of Chicago Press). Currently he is developing the Latinx Artist Retreat (LXAR) with a group of other artists and administrators nationally, and is also a co-founder of the Latinx Artist Visibility Award (LAVA) for Ox-Bow School of Art in partnership with The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Diya Vij: I want a President…
Diya Vij is a cultural producer in New York City. In addition to working on her own independent projects, she joined the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in 2014, where she serves as Special Projects Manager, Commissioner’s Unit. She was previously with the Queens Museum from 2010-2014, first as a Curatorial Fellow and then in Communications. She has an MA in Art History from Hunter College and a BA from Bard College.  

Originally conceived in response to the cultural and political climate of the early 1990’s, Leonard’s text urges us to ask: what has changed and what remains the same? Leonard notes, “I am interested in the space this text opens up for us to imagine and voice what we want in our leaders, and even beyond that, what we can envision for the future of our society.”

Engaging with this timeless text in the wake of the upcoming inauguration, this reading highlights the necessity of speaking out, of looking to the future, and the importance of coming together in mourning, rage, and action.

This event was part of a fundraising series of music, performances, and workshops accompanying NASTY WOMEN exhibition, which was on view at Knockdown Center January 12-15th, 2017.  Proceeds benefitted select charities working towards women’s reproductive health and community health initiatives.



Knockdown Center’s MEDIA page is an ongoing collection of audio, video, writing, and ephemera produced by our arts programming. It serves not only as an aural and visual index of the diverse artistic activities that occur within the space, but also as a resource for artists, writers, curators, and researchers who may be interested in learning more about the practitioners that come through our doors. As a primary source, documents housed within the MEDIA page have been minimally edited and largely unmodified. Audio files link to our Soundcloud channel, where curator conversations, exhibition walkthroughs, panels, and poetry readings can be heard individually, or as select playlists.

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