[NetBehaviour] The Assassination of President Nixon

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Oct 27 14:27:11 CET 2020

The Assassination of President Nixon

Slidework in Paris Biennale, 1973


The Hurricane Agnes Flood in Wyoming Valley in 1972 was devastating
with over 2 billion dollars damage (1972 value). I wasn't able to
return home (I had been teaching at NSCAD in Nova Scotia) until two
weeks later; we didn't know whether my parents were dead or alive.
When we returned, I was driving through a temporary trailer park
near our home, a muddy field on a rainy day. No one was around,
except for a few people standing in the dirt road. I asked one of
my passengers to ask them to move so we could continue. He came
back to the car and said it was President Nixon. There were no body
guards. We joined the President, who we felt was responsible for
Vietnam among other things. I had an 8mm film camera with me. I
began shooting the President closeup, in his face. About a half
hour later there was a small crowd and he stepped up onto a small
balcony on a trailer to address them. I should say there was no
Secret Service present at all through this. When he stood up on
the balcony, he hit head head on the low roof and fell forward for
a minute before catching himself. He wasn't hurt, but in the film
he look as if he had been assassinated. I made slides from the
the film and they were played in slow motion. It was in tune with
the violence of America at the time. It was shown in the 1973
Paris Biennale. The piece, about 40-50 slides, went into one of
my archives.

Two night ago I heard about Diane Di Prima's death. Two of my
favorite books are early ones of hers, Dinners and Nightmares,
and Revolutionary Letters. I started to read the Letters when
one of the old slides from the Nixon piece fell out. I took
this as a sign, so resonant with the violence today. We learned
last night at a meeting with our Councilman that there is a
possibility of an attack on Providence over this coming weekend.
It's unclear whether it's a hoax or not. We're frightened of
course. I thought of the violence of the 60s and 70s. I found
the slide. It's one about a second after he collided with the
overhang. It's before he fell. It's the start of the fall. I
would say it's the start of the fall of America but we've had a
few good years. Now the cycle's beginning again and it's likely
to be worse. I think of the image as a memorial and harbinger.
For Diane Di Prima. For J. G. Ballard. May we all make it
safely through these times.


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