E/S 2: Ich Bin Ein Berliner: Mis(s)Translation USA Goes to Berlin

E/S Performance #2

by Shannon Rose Riley (erogate) & Andy Houston (surrogate)

In the context of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech at the Schöneberg City Hall located in the American sector, Shannon Rose Riley decided to stage commemorative interventions as her performance persona Mis(s) Translation USA —an aging beauty queen and critical-cultural emissary whose purpose is to activate or embody the political tensions between the US and the country in which she performs. 


The opportunity for Shannon to travel to Berlin to perform her piece herself arose and as curator, I was faced with the decision of either dropping her project from the series or adapting to the new situation. I opted for having her and her surrogate Andy Houston perform simultaneously at two different sites, then meet somewhere in between to exchange information, and then switch locations. My hope was that this strategy would not only amplify and intensify questions of mediation, (mis)translation and performed research, but also make the feedback loop and oscillation between erogation and surrogation more immediate and evident. Interestingly enough, the destabilization of the hierarchy between erogate and surrogate took place much earlier in the process: Shannon modified her own performance score based on the directorial/dramaturgical input Andy provided during one particularly productive Skype conversation and a follow up e-mail.  Although she maintains claim to Mis(s) Translation as a persona, she sees the work as more evenly shared than she had originally imagined.


Working within an improvisational approach, activities included eating and offering jelly donuts (a.k.a. “Berliners”) to passersby, posing for photographs, reciting a list of US military bases in Germany, and reciting/singing the last statement from JFK’s speech.