It’s been almost a year since the election of Donald Trump, and Yoko Ono’s response — speaking for many Americans — which was a Twitter video of her screaming for 19 seconds. “Dear friends, I would like to share this message with you as my response to @realDonaldTrump,” she wrote (so far, it’s gotten 26,325 retweets 34,051 likes). “It was this no-holds-barred, bloody murder, hara-kiri, disemboweling scream,” remembered Laurie Anderson at the Performa benefit last night, honoring Ono (who was too ill to attend). And in the ensuing year, “it keeps me going.” The two had become close after Lou Reed’s death, when she was “pretty lost,” she remembers. “She began to send the most amazing messages about love and death and memory. She had become my guide, and had taught me an all new way to move through time.”
The benefit was held in the former Church of St. Thomas the Apostle on West 118th Street, which had been interestingly cut in half a few years back in order to make room for an apartment building, and is now used by painter Julie Mehretu as her studio, and is one of the venues for this year’s Performa festival. That night, William Kentridge, Gavin Brown, Barbara Kruger, Teju Cole, and Klaus Biesenbach, among others, were in attendance — and, of course, in agreement with Anderson, who went on to say that “I, like many people in this room, became an artist and joined this community in New York City because I wanted to be free,” before challenging the city’s “creative community” to not be discouraged. “Marilyn Minter is here and she told me about her idea” of on November 8, the anniversary of Election Day, “at midnight for everybody to just stick their head out the window and just scream,” she proposed, before deciding to give it a trial run that night. Standing before a gong, Anderson announced that “I’m going to hit this gong and I want you to join me in a scream,” and she did, and the whole room let loose.
And afterward, they agreed they should try to make it a thing. Minter told me that she’d been inspired by a Facebook movement to have a mass scream on the Boston Common. “I thought New Yorkers are good at making big noises outside our windows like when the Yankees win the World Series, or when Barack Obama won. You could hear the city cheer. If we scream on our fire escapes, balconies, outside our windows, perhaps we will be loud enough around the city and country that they can hear us in the White House. We are united in preserving our democracy from a toxic narcissistic administration that thrives on chaos. A little primal scream might release our frustration!” (The Boston event was canceled for “logistical and liability” reasons; there is a Facebook event page for another one on Washington Square.)
To which, today, Anderson emailed: “Yes!! Let’s make the scream happen. (I’m completely hoarse today.)”