Excerpt from a performative work by Los Angeles-based artist Susan Silton, composed by Juliana Snapper.
The performance took place on August 22, 2015, through the windows of the artist's studio on Anderson Street in downtown Los Angeles (just prior to the artist moving), and was visible and audible from the 6th Street Bridge. Opera singer/artist Juliana Snapper composed and musically directed a score for four vocalists from a libretto by Silton. The text recombines excerpts from American films including Wall Street, The Great Dictator, Do the Right Thing, Boiler Room, Network, Walkout, Citizen Kane, Real Women Have Curves, The Wolf of Wall Street, Trading Places, CHE, The Color of Money, and It's a Wonderful Life.
The piece was organized with urgency in response to rapidly changing leasing conditions for artists and others working in the eastern downtown Los Angeles landscape. The studio building that Silton occupied for ten years had recently been sold. Property owners, developers, investors, and collectors eager to capitalize on an ever-expanding art market have been rapidly driving up property values and driving out long-term tenants. This cycle of displacement in industrial and residential areas, rooted in capital, repeats throughout history, but seemingly with increasing vengeance and unabashed entitlement.
The title for the performance is taken from American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) who suggested that the hunger for “perfect justice” can generate or resemble a “sublime madness in the soul,” and that such madness is imperative to sustaining hope. Silton credits progressive journalist/activist Chris Hedges (Truthdig.org, Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, 2015) with invoking in recent interviews ideas articulated by Niebuhr.