Corey Dzenko, Ph.D., associate professor of art history in the department of Art and Design, recently performed in the Washington National Cathedral as part of social practice artist Sheryl Oring’s ongoing project I Wish to Say. Taking place on Sunday, March 13, this performance was part of the Cathedral Choral Society’s (CCS) event “I Have Something to Say.” In celebration of the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the CCS commissioned new choral works from Lisa Bielawa, Jessie Montgomery, and Augusta Read Thomas, three of today’s leading composers who are women. The CCS also performed past works by women composers that history had largely erased from public memory.
Oring began I Wish to Say in 2004 out of a desire to make sure all voices are heard. For this series, she travels and sets up banks of 1960s typists, and then invites the public to dictate postcards to the president. Her secretaries make a copy of each postcard by typing with carbon paper. Oring sends the original card to the White House and keeps the copy for her exhibitions. The recent event in the National Cathedral was Dzenko’s sixth time typing as part of Oring’s project.
The CCS invited Oring to participate in the concert because Bielawa used text from Oring’s project in her composition. Oring’s typists collected messages to the president before and after the CCS concert and during the intermission. A typist also joined the CCS on stage during Bielawa’s piece, highlighting the sound of a typewriter as a sound-making instrument.
In 2016, Dzenko brought Oring and I Wish to Say to Monmouth University during the presidential election season as part of campus’ visiting artist series ArtNOW: Performance, Art, and Technology. Monmouth’s community dictated postcards to the presidential candidates from the patio of the Student Center. The Guggenheim Library displayed the postcards from Monmouth before they were mailed to the White House.
Learn more about Oring’s I Wish to Say project and check out her book, Activating Democracy: The I Wish to Say Project (2016), for which Dzenko wrote the introduction.