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Nooses on Sale

Author
Kohout Milan
Year
2007
Technique and size

NOV.09.2007 ," NOOSES ON SALE", IN FRONT OF "BANK OF AMERICA"(Opposing the balcony where The Declaration of Independence was red in 1776),BOSTON, USA, "TREMOR" FESTIVAL

About work

FIRST PART OF THE PERFORMANCE: In my Performance Art pieces I have been always reacting to the sociopolitical environment at the moment of the given piece. In the several days preceding my piece, the Dow Jones average had significantly dropped on the NY stock exchange, which could be seen as a symptom of a coming crisis of capitalistic economy. This loss was initiated by the faulty and extremely greedy and criminal American mortgage bank industry. The mortgage lenders were deliberately targeting the low-income people with high-cost loans and then making their money off of the loans being sold over and over again in Wall Street . But those who are going to suffer the worst consequences are those millions of people who are going to lose their homes to foreclosures. Standing in front of the entrance of the main branch of "Bank of America" in Boston, I metaphorically offered a sale on nooses. This sale reflected metaphorically the cynicism of the rich people at the banking market, who were willing to sell everything for the sake of profit, including human life and suicide. This means they were willing to "sell" even a "noose" as a part of a mortgage package and still pretend to be just " innocent businessmen". In their minds was something like this: " We can even make some additional profit and who cares if they commit a suicide after losing a home". As a practical illustration of the contemporary US "police state" it took only 3 minutes for the first policeman to appear on the scene and start to interrogate me. He was followed by another two policeman in a patrol car two minutes later.I explained to them that I was doing a performance art piece and that I was actually offering nooses for free. Than among other I was asked what country I was from and what language I spoke. I replied that I was from The USA and ,as they could hear,I spoke English. I followed by asking them if they were "racially profiling" me. The policeman answered "YES". The nooses and a sign were confiscated as material evidence and I was told I would receive a court summons for breaking a law for not having a peddler's license. Witness of the piece was overheard on his cell phone saying:" You should come down here and see this! There is a guy selling nooses. I think he wants to kill Americans?" The whole performance lasted about six minutes.
Link to Tremor festival

SECOND PART OF THE PERFORMANCE (TWO MONTHS LATER): I received a notice requiring me to attend a hearing related to an application for criminal complaint. It was scheduled on January 16,2008. At that time, I reported to the criminal clerk's office at the courthouse in Boston accompanied by my lawyer Jeffrey J. Pyle. The criminal clerk was to decide whether or not I would be sued for the criminal offense of being a "Transient Vendor, Unlicensed c101:008. " First the criminal clerk listened to a police officer. He stated that upon his arrival "he noticed that I had a cardboard sign which stated, "Nooses on Sale" and also 15 1/2" diameter by approximately 10" length of rope formed in the fashion consistent with a noose". He also stated that he also "observed a large crowd of pedestrians gathering around the suspect (me) attempting to read the sign. My lawyer began to dispute the charges by building the case (proof) that I was not selling anything and that the whole piece was a performance piece as part of an art festival. The police officer was then presented with the detailed photo documentation of the whole piece. It seemed to surprise him. Than my lawyer began to establish proof that I was an artist teaching performance art at different colleges, (part of his legal strategy to dispute the charges brought against me). But the clerk stopped arrogantly my lawyer and refused to dismiss the case and announced that the court hearing for the criminal offense would take place on Feb 6th. When I was leaving the court house I felt like I was having deja vu. It reminded me of the times I was politically persecuted under the totalitarian system in my ex-country, Czechoslovakia from which I was eventually expelled.

THIRD PART OF THE PERFORMANCE: The second court hearing occurred, and I pleaded not guilty. My lawyer Jeffrey J. Pyle asked the district attorney to dismiss this absurd case but he categorically refused. Than my lawyer explained to the judge that I was a famous and internationally recognized performance artist from the former Czechoslovakia, that in fact I had actually been expelled from said country for said activity, and that in this instance I was criticizing the selling of unsafe mortgages and greedy banking industry. My lawyer did an excellent job of explaining my position and my performance, and the judge listened carefully. Then the judge asked for arranging a pretrial conference hearing which will be on Feb 22nd.

FOURTH PART OF THE PERFORMANCE: The third hearing occurred and the motion to dismiss the case was filed. This excellently executed public document ( anybody interested has the right to access this document) was prepared by my lawyer Jeffrey J. Pyle. It contains all the information about the defense of this case. Now it is up to the court to decide about dismissal of the case till the trial which will occur on March 7.

FIFTH PART OF THE PERFORMANCE: Today (MARCH 7, 2008) finally the new judge ( who was not involved in the previous decisions) decided to dismiss the ridiculous, stupid and absurd case which was filled by Commonwealth of Massachusetts against me for "selling nooses" in front of Bank of America. It is obvious that "Commonwealth of Massachusetts" realized that it could not push the charges any more and therefore replaced the prosecutor (District Attorney) who himself asked for the dismissal of the case. The dismissal ended the growing absurdity of being a criminal defendant for several month for just exercising my right to freedom of speech. It is especially ridiculous since instead of prosecuting those greedy criminals from the banks for causing the suffering for millions of people who are loosing their homes the system was trying to punish me for my critical commentary. I wanted to wake up people to the fact that if we continue to support the economic system that causes this kind of suffering for the people we are literally putting a noose around all of our heads. I grew up in a totalitarian system which misused the law to prosecute dissidents for their critical expression. For the government to use bogus charges to punish artists for their expression is a step toward that kind of system. Having performed in many countries around the world (include totalitarian systems like China and Cuba) I have never experienced so restrictive and police monitored environment for the street Performance Art like in the USA (I know everybody is a suspected "terrorist" or "criminal" now ) I would like to thank my lawyer Jeffrey J. Pyle for his excellent work on this case and in the field of the First Amendment cases. Thanks also to many supporters who have been very helpful during this performance (some of them attended even the court hearings). Long lIve freedom of speech- one of the last hopes we have.

SIXTH PART OF THE PERFORMANCE-ENCORE: I am asking Commonwealth of Massachusetts to return my nooses and a sign which was confiscated by the police officers during my performance.

SEVENTH AND LAST PART OF THE PERFORMANCE My wonderful lawyer Jeffrey J. Pyle on 05.17.08 filled the "Motion to Return Physical Evidence to Defendant" and I picked up several days ago my beloved nooses and a sign at the police warehouse. With greeting " Let us fight the big brother"

 

Milan Kohout

Photo

Photo author : author´s archive
Note
http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/56620-case-of-milan-kohout/

http://www.npr.org/sections/bryantpark/2008/02/linkfest_nooses_on_sale.html

http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/57971-totalitarian-ploy-defeated/

http://www.blisty.cz/art/39145.html

http://boston.indymedia.org/usermedia/application/12/204298_1_baamissue8.pdf
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