Radical Queer Poem "I Want A President" Pops Up At High Line For Election Season

"I want a dyke for president,
October 10, 2016
zoe leonard

"I want a dyke for president, I want a person with aids for president and I want a fag for vice president..."

That is how artist Zoe Leonard's poem "I Want A President" begins. That elegy is about to tower over the High Line as a gigantic art display, beginning tomorrow October 11 and staying up until November 17.

The poem that was written in 1991, was inspired by Leonard's friend, queer poet Eileen Myles who ran for president as an independent candidate against George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot. The queer magazine for which the work was originally intended dissolved before its publication, but the text circulated organically – passed between friends, and posted on refrigerators. Queer publications going out of print. Sounds like a problem we’re experiencing today, too.

Zoe Leonard, an artist primarily known for her photography, sculpture, and site-specific installations, is an influential feminist and queer activist who started working in New York City in the 1980s, an era marked by overwhelming loss during the AIDS epidemic. Throughout her work from that time, Leonard references the enormous loss of close friends and fellow artists and activists whose absence still reverberates today.

“Zoe Leonard is one of the most influential artists of our time. We are looking forward to installing this significant work on the High Line, especially during this particularly polarized election year,” said Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director and Chief Curator of High Line Art in a statement. “Our hope is that bringing the piece into the public sphere on a large scale will spark meaningful dialogue amongst New Yorkers and visitors alike.”

The poem went viral earlier this year when Dazed filmed a YouTube video of performance artist Mykki Blanco reading the verse, which resulted in millions of views in just a few days.

“While Leonard’s text speaks with the mourning, rage, and profound disappointment surrounding the AIDS epidemic and the consequent political inaction that left an indelible mark on our culture,” says Melanie Kress, High Line Art Assistant Curator, “it also breathes heavy with the timeless experiences of health, wealth, loss, and love.”