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Hysterical Reenactments: WITCH

With MC Elberg

Inspired by Silvia Federici’s Caliban and The Witch, Hysterical Reenactments began as a research inquiry into the feminist appropriation of the witch, and evolved into a multi-part performance project focusing on the short-lived activist group WITCH (Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell).

 

Reenacting their Halloween hex of Wall Street according to Robin Morgan’s account in Going Too Far, we went to each site in the financial district terrorized by WITCH in 1968, performed new hex-poems by M.C. Elberg, and read (screamed) text from original documents. Elberg’s poems were published in zine form—alongside an essay and photos from the hex—-in company with original WITCH ephemera.

When asked to participate in the experimental theater group Piehole’s artist events at Irondale Theater in conjunction with their play, Old Paper Houses, we used the opportunity to distribute the zine by means of installation modeled after an Army recruitment booth. Our table also offered free hand-cast witch noses, cupcakes, other printed feminist “propaganda,” along with costumes and makeup for the audience to transform into WITCHes if they so desired. The recruitment booth was recreated at Bard College in the summer of 2015 at an entrance into the surrounding forest.

 

 

A few months after our hex on Wall Street, I began communicating with original member and co-founder of WITCH, Peggy Dobbins. Now living in Texas, Dobbins generously shared with me her experiences in the feminist and labor movements via phone, email, and finally recorded Skype call. For the video supplement to the project, I combine fragments of our conversation with further re-performance of her interview text (staged in my home) and pieces of documentation from our recent hex to create layers of historical reenactment that come together to form something between documentary and lived archive.