AWNM Does Amerikuh '16
A Whole New Megillah is a situation-specific, performative, and interactive event annually occupying the Jewish holiday of Purim.
“The difference between the inventions of “official nationalism” and those of other types is usually that between lies and myths.” - Benedict Anderson
The biblical story of Purim has no historical foundation but commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire, where a plot had been formed to destroy them. The story goes like this: The King wanted his wife Vashti to dance for his friends but she refused, which meant the King was forced to look for a new wife. Mordecai, a Jew, convinces his beautiful niece Esther to enter Persia’s Royal Beauty Contest and seduce the King into marriage, keeping her Jewish identity hidden. Meanwhile, Haman, a top advisor to the King, was infuriated by the Jew Mordecai's refusal to bow down to him. Haman was so upset that he told the King he’d like to kill all the Jews and take their land, to which the King drunkenly acquiesced. But just days before the decree, Esther risked her life to reveal her identity as a Jew to her husband, the King. She saved her people, and had Haman and his ten sons hung. The King sent a new decree that the Jews could now fight back if anyone attempted to plunder them. Esther and Mordecai recounted their epic tale in the Megillah (lit. “scroll”) of Esther. It has since become an annual tradition in the Jewish faith to get drunk beyond recognition, dress as your enemies, and retell the story of Purim in the form of a play, or spiel.
Religion and invented traditions both require a continuance of narrative with a constant and complex interaction between past and present. This link is how we identify with stories and peoples that are physically and metaphorically far from us. Stories repeated enough are bound to become the only truth, and thus identities are built on conflicting narratives. By re-contextualizing a personal and political drama, I was able to give it the weight, monument, and consequence that it held in my own life, and that I felt it deserved. I wanted to see my father's enemies booed - their names drowned out by a shared disgust. I wanted to expose them as corrupt and equate them to evil. These were my personal, guttural motivations. My co-optation of this ritual demonstrated that both the strength and fallibility of a collective narrative is its bias and limited perspective.
This year, A Whole New Megillah: Does Amerikuh took place at Magick City, a party venue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and was structured around the bipartisanship in the 2016 American Presidential Election. In collaboration with artist and DJ - onlyponioni - the second annual occupation and party had an EDM Raver Rager theme, fused with the contemporary rituals of Purim. The story was told through a coloring book, and performed for attendees as they shook hand-made groggers and booed at the mention of Evil King Trump or his Evil Aide Cruz.