L’s GA: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

concept by Sal Martirano

It was 1967. You don’t remember that, do you? Probably you weren’t even around then. But I was. And it is one of my memories; what I remember; part of our American Biography; part of what made us all—even you, who might not have been born—what we are.

Young men were being drafted and dying in the jungle. Young black men were dying more often. Resistance was growing. I was white, and I was safe: I had a deferment. I could watch while SDS and Black Muslims contended with each other as well as with the government. It was very confusing.

There was a concert, and Sal Martirano presented L’s GA for the first time: a composition for gas-masked politico, with helium bomb, assisted by a nurse. Lincoln’s iconic words struggled to be heard through the mask. The voice struggled to be a voice, bombed as it was by helium. American words of inspiration were turned into fascist chanting, mindless calisthenics, totalitarian mockery. And all drowned out by sound and image: love duets at 110 dB; war games played on naked bodies; thunder, drums, and death.

Fifty-three years later.

Masks are everywhere: masks for defense against illness, masks for defense against tear gas, masks to conceal identities. Everyone can be a gas-masked politico.

Words struggle to be heard. I can’t breathe. Be safe. Black lives matter. All lives matter. Nothing matters.

Voices are suppressed. By gas; by knees; by gunshots; by chokeholds. 

Inspiration is replaced by fascist tweets, lies, distortions, fakery, greed, racism, abuse.

So much has changed.

The Challenge

Make your L’s GA. The text, sound, and image remain; all else is mutable.

Which masks are you forced to wear? Which do you choose? What keeps you from breathing? What drowns out your voice?

Send us your performance. What, fifty-three years from now, will be so important to you that you can write: You don’t remember that, do you? But I do . . .

More information on this challenge will be revealed in the July issue of NON:onLINE. Or visit this page for updates, including text, sound, and video images.