Wayne Koestenbaum and Benjamin Tiven, Notes on Mr. Freedom, 2011.

Mr. Freedom: You can start your wars all right, but you needed us to finish it. Right? Right. What did it get us? Gratitude? My ass.

Marie-Madeleine: Ah, I wouldn’t say that!

Mr. Freedom: You wouldn’t, huh? Well, I would. I’ll tell you what we got out of it all. You’re clappy, crappy sicknesses. Your doubt. Your hate. You infected us. Now nobody believes in nothing anymore. Nobody loves nobody.

—William Klein, Mr. Freedom


As part of "The Mr. Freedom Summit," organized by Bétonsalon in November 2011 for the curatorial program of Artissima 18, writer Wayne Koestenbaum and artist Benjamin Tiven made a sixteen-minute video called Notes on Mr. Freedom. The summit presented sixteen projects responding to William Klein’s obscure anti-imperialist satire Mr. Freedom (1968). In Notes on Mr. Freedom, Koestenbaum dissects a single scene of Klein’s film, which has been described as “conceivably the most anti-American movie ever made, but only an American (albeit an expatriate living in France) could have made it.” John Abbey plays Mr. Freedom, an inane superhero sent to France to fight the shadowy French Anti-Freedom (FAF) organization, along with the Stalinist Moujik Man and the Maoist Red China Man. Delphine Seyrig plays Marie-Madeleine, the sexy double agent who compromises Mr. Freedom’s mission.

“This is the scene where Mr. Freedom gets stripped,” Koestenbaum remarks.

His body isn’t that great. It’s not that I need to point out every nude male body; the fact is that Mr. Freedom only is Mr. Freedom because of his uniform. Here he’s just this male body with three stigmata. There is a strange excess of opportunities to look at his crotch in this scene. What’s so funny about the crotch is that it’s held within this weird jockstrap netting that looks like a veil through which we can see the package—but maybe it’s a void, with nothing there.

Tiven and Koestenbaum’s video was adapted into a poster for the verso side of the broadsheet Factual Decoys, the first edition of Triple Canopy’s Volume Number publication cycle, also commissioned for Artissima 18. (Click here to download.)

Koestenbaum again:

“Get your beauty sleep, you’ve got to re-coop-er-ate.” She must have learned that intonation from the Warhol Factory. She’s talking to a faggot. I don’t want to participate in the gay-bashing narrative that this film opens up—that one of the reasons we should despise Americans is that they’re faggots. There are plenty of reasons to despise the imperialists, but faggotry isn’t a good reason. Mr. Freedom doesn’t really like women, he just wants to lie around and get his beauty sleep—that’s actually Mr. Freedom at his best, as a succulent, indifferent hustler whose gun is put to sleep.