If I Could Wish for Something

Dora García and Jennifer Wilson

February 26, 2022, 5:00pm
Géza, 306 Maujer

For this public lecture, Dora García and Jennifer Wilson reflects on sadness and disenchantment, love and comradeship as a political force. They focus on how these concepts were first enunciated by early feminists including Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai, analyzing the legacy of historical feminism within the context of contemporary struggles for gender equality.

In 1930, German film composer and author Friedrich Hollaender wrote: “Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte,” [“If I could wish for something”] famously performed by actress and singer Marlene Dietrich. Hollaender’s Weimar-era song inspires the foundation of Dora García’s film of the same name.

The song serves as a powerful expression of a complex concept: sadness as political strength. While this might conjure up immediate associations with Enzo Traverso’s Left Wing Melancholia, political sadness acquires an even deeper significance when it is brought into relation with women’s struggles for emancipation (a depth that is mirrored in Marlene Dietrich’s voice).

The disappointment amongst women has been felt for so long. The promise made to them by the revolution (any revolution) remains unfulfilled, delayed, and denied. However, the sadness and vulnerability rooted in this feeling of abandonment can be transformed into a shelter and a shield. In sadness we can overcome the temptation of victimhood, using pain as a conduit for recognizing the suffering of others, opening up the possibility of an ethical encounter.

If I could wish for something
I’d feel awkward
What should I wish for,
a bad or a good time?

If I could wish for something
I’d want to be only a bit happy
because if I were too happy
I’d long for being sad.

Image: If I Could Wish for Something, 2021 (Video still) Video, color, 16:9, Spanish & Purépecha spoken, BE/FR/MX/NO, 68’. Produced by Auguste Orts.