The collective reading I want a president… was first initiated by artists Malin Arnell, Kajsa Dahlberg, Johanna Gustavsson and Fia-Stina Sandlund in conjunction with the general election in Sweden 2010. They wanted to gather activists, artists, friends and colleagues as a response to an increasingly neoliberal political climate in a country just about to give space in parliament to an upcoming fascist, racist and homophobic party. In collaboration with artist Zoe Leonard, they made an adaptation of her text I want a president… (1992) in Swedish. On the day before the election they gathered at Sergels Torg in Stockholm, a big square famous for it’s many public manifestations, and read the text together, over and over again, for one hour.
The first collective reading inspired a series of invitations from other countries going towards election –in Tallinn, Estonia; Copenhagen; and Madrid in 2011; in Helsinki, Paris, and San Juan in 2012, and most recently in 2015 in London, with an updated UK edition read alongside the 1992 original, and an Arabic translation.
The time seems apt for the text to now return to the United States, as we face a presidential election rife with fascist, racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic rhetoric, and premised on both major parties’ capitulation to neoliberalism as the new world order. We look forward to adapting, updating, debating and reconstructing this generative text through conversations that are themselves part of the project, as each moment in this chain encourages us to collectively articulate alternate visions for what should be possible. Following the model established in London, in which the adaptation focuses on context rather than a translation between languages, we will use the original as a template for collaborative writing workshops which will produce multiple versions, that will inform a combined, condensed version to be read at The White House, along with Leonard's original.