16

– Autumn/Winter 2007

On Transcript

Claire Barliant

Jenny Perlin, Transcript, 2006, 16mm film, 11:25 min, location photographs. Courtesy the artist, Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam, and Galerie M+R Fricke, Berlin

Jenny Perlin, Transcript, 2006, 16mm film, 11:25 min, location photographs. Courtesy the artist, Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam, and Galerie M+R Fricke, Berlin

On the night of 30 October 1953, Max and Annette Finestone hosted a small dinner party. Their guests, Vivian Glassman and Ernest Pataki, arrived at the Finestone's apartment on 106 Bedford Street in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of New York City at 7:35 pm, and stayed until 2:40 am, 31 October. It was a casual affair. Annette offered her guests drinks, bringing them scotch on the rocks. Bebop jazz played on the radio.

Several drinks later, well into the night, Annette told a funny story about a woman by the name of Betty Saunders and a man called Josh. The punchline was that Josh continually knocks over a wastepaper basket, leading Annette to jokingly refer to him as 'queer'. Though the story was not particularly amusing, the atmosphere was jovial, and good-natured laughter ensued.

All things considered, this was a relatively uneventful dinner party. No arguments, no accusations, not even a broken dish. But unbeknownst to Max, Annette, Vivian and Ernest, they were being monitored by a 'reliable informant' for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Throughout the evening, agent NY-964-S dutifully recorded as much of the foursome's conversation as he (or she) could make out over the sound of the radio, including insights such as 'I have had a camera no bigger than my stocking'. As far as eavesdropping goes, the night was something of a wash, except for one loaded, offhand comment: 'But they have started on our organisation.' Because of these seven words, according to official documents later procured from the FBI, 'an attempt was made to obtain a verbatim transcript'.

And so the transcript, along with Annette's corny joke and her obviously well-founded paranoia,

Footnotes
  1. Mladen Dolar, A Voice and Nothing More, Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2006, p.61.

  2. Ibid., p.79.

  3. Alain Badiou, Ethics. An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, London: Verso, 2001, p.28.

  4. 'Art of the Possible', Jacques Rancière interviewed by Fulvia Carnevale and John Kelsey, Artforum, March 2007, p.267.

  5. Ibid., p.258.