Against -- Against


“Against – Against” is an interactive and generative installation.

“Against – Against” draws on traditions of phrasal template word games–Consequences, Exquisite Corpse, and Mads Libs–to spur audience engagement with Western grammars of power and the logics they embody, affirm and advance.

The game’s phrasal template is a statement by United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy made during oral arguments in Supreme Court Case 16-111, “Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission." Kennedy states:

“Suppose he says: Look, I have nothing against – against gay people. He says, but I just don’t think they should have marriage because that’s contrary to my beliefs. It’s not – it’s not their identity; it’s what they’re doing.”

Perhaps most notable are the words, “I just don’t think they should have . . . because that’s contrary to my beliefs.” The inherent logic is that “my” beliefs dictate “their” rights; my beliefs dictate what they get and do not get; my beliefs regulate their access to resources.

Furthermore, Kennedy imagines power itself as immune to any allegation of discrimination: “It is not who you are, it is how I see you.” And how I see you is not discriminatory because it is not about who you are.

Of all statements, Michel Foucault recommended thinkers ask, “Who is speaking?”--as in what socially constructed identities might inhabit the authorial space these words generate and hold? Who is eligible to be the “I” in Kennedy’s statement? In Western history, this “I” is the colonizer.

To prompt engagement with the grammar/logic of Kennedy’s words, “Against – Against” provides its audience a phrasal template word game. Words are subtracted from the original statement and players replace them according to stated rules. Through play, the phrasal template word game offers a process for unraveling Kennedy’s logic.

To play “Against – Against," participants rewrite/re-imagine Kennedy’s statement as follows:

  1. Where Kennedy says “gay people” place any category of people presently or historically oppressed.

  2. Where Kennedy says “marriage” place any human right, social benefit, or desired resource.

  3. Where Kennedy says “it’s what they’re doing” place any human behavior or characteristics subject to judgment.

To play this very moment, complete the template below:

Suppose he says: Look, I have nothing against – against ______________. He says, but I just don’t think they should have ______________ because that’s contrary to my beliefs. It’s not – it’s not their identity; it’s _____________________.”

Participant input is gathered and added to three computer-generated arrays:


A computer program generates a projectable image of the phrasal template and algorithmically populates the template’s blanks with array data (i.e. player input). Data is randomly called. Once data is output, it cannot be output again until all other data has been output, enacting a democracy of representation.

Data is output to the three blanks at three independent rates or tempos (i.e. there is no master clock). Consequently, the phrases exist in phased relationships with one another. This generates numerous and unpredictable combinations, and produces a stream of statements that continuously resist the reader’s trained desire for a statement that remains static long enough to be read in full.

As the arrays of player input grow indefinitely, the logic of colonial violence spreads to more and more categories of people, denies more and more rights, social benefits and resources, and does so for more and more arbitrary and superficial reasons. The possible scope of the logic’s silent terror is interactively and generatively produced, considered and commented on.

“Against – Against” may be installed in widely various ways. Here, it is shown on a 40"x40”X6' free-standing home movie screen in a small room, a projector on a nearby pedestal (14"X14"X36”).