80 artists have created work to celebrate 'one year of resistance' – we talked to artist Ann Lewis about her work documenting all the lies that Donald Trump has told, and gallery director Indira Cesarine
Just over a year ago, we ran one of our first stories on Uprise / Angry Women, an art show featuring 80 women artists resisting Trump – the exhibition was a big hit and one of the first collections of the Trump era’s resistance art. This year, New York’s Untitled Space is back with ‘One Year of Resistance’ – a show featuring work from more than 80 artists ‘responding to the political climate in America since the election of Donald Trump’, again curated by gallery director Indira Cesarine. A portion of proceeds will go to benefit the ACLU.
A celebration of art as activism in the current political climate, the show is on view until February 4, and marks the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of Donald Trump, and features artwork across all mediums, addressing issues “such as immigration rights, health care, reproductive rights, climate change, transgender rights, white supremacy, gender equality, gun control, sexual harassment, as well as countless other issues which have given rise to mass protest throughout the United States and abroad over the past year.”
One artist featured is Ann Lewis, who exhibited her work at the White House during the Obama era. She is writing every documented lie that Trump has told during his first year on office on an inverted American flag, for her piece titled ‘White Lies’ (main pic, and detail below). We talked to both Ann and Indira about how art as a tool of resistance has evolved in the last twelve months, and what gives them hope for the coming years.
ANN LEWIS, artist ('White Lies')
There are obviously many things one could choose to focus on with Trump. Why did you choose his lies?
His perpetual disregard for truth is deeply alarming. His patently false statements are believed to be true by so many because of the office he holds- that’s what scares me- that people will read or hear these words and form opinions and make decisions based on incorrect assumptions that our President is speaking the truth. It is dangerous for the nation, and honestly the world, to have a compulsive liar running domestic and foreign policy for this country. I needed to bear witness to these lies to understand him more thoroughly. The research is important, so I can consider viable solutions to implement the change we need with my community of activists and organizers.
And why choose to represent them on the flag?
The flag carries a lot of cultural weight at the moment. With the kneeling protest movement, Colin Kaepernick began to simply it being the symbol that literally represents us all – I wanted to show the obliteration of us as a country – the obfuscation of our unity and power as a diverse nation by his actions and statements. The use of white ink is obviously a blatant reference to his deeply ingrained racism. And the obfuscation of all colours of the flag with that ink, the layers and layers of lies, has made the fabric stiff, fragile, and susceptible to permanent damage if not handled very carefully, a near perfect analogy to what I see being done to our country by the very man entrusted to lead us.
What method did you use to collate them, and how many have you counted?
The Washington Post has a team of fact checkers literally checking every statement that he makes. They offer explanations, based on actual facts, of how his words are false. I use this resource as my source. I hand-wrote each statement in white ink from left to right on an inverted 3’x5’ American flag. I finished it to coincide with the end of 2017 – and counted 1950 statements. This man is a rambler – so it was a lot of text.
What was the experience of exhibiting at the White House during the Obama era like?
I was so inspired that a President would ask to have a show in the White House reflecting on criminal justice reform and mass incarceration. It was such a tremendous honor to be there. I really felt the country was moving in the right direction.
January 20 marks ‘one year of resistance’ – how will you feel on that day?
More motivated than ever. The more chaos he creates, the more organized and powerful we become. As long as he and his swampy cabinet members are still in office I will be using my creativity to dismantle their power and show the world how deep the abuse of power goes.
INDIRA CESARINE, Gallerist / curator
What have you learned about the role of art as a tool of resistance or activism in the last year?
I definitely think that art can inspire and empower audiences and also bring people together who have common beliefs. I don’t think art is necessarily going to change the system, but it definitely motivates conversation and debate on the issues, and encourages people to think about what is going on. I think addressing these issues in a creative way is also very healing and it’s important that there is some way to process the insanity.
What do you think has been the most disturbing thing to come out of this last year?
Just about everything has been disturbing! I have to say the rise of the Neo-Nazi movement and Trump’s response to Charlottesville, as well as his continuous racist comments are very frightening. Who would have thought that it is possible to regress so far back in time? We are literally going back to the divisiveness of the civil rights movement during the 1960s! It pretty mind-boggling that we are addressing this level of racial discrimination in 2018. Aside from that, I think it is 100% unacceptable for the President of the United States to have so many sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against him, and no one seem to be doing anything about it. If Hollywood powerhouses such as Harvey Weinstein and the other countless sexual predators can fall with the #MeToo movement than I think it’s time for Trump to be held accountable for his misogyny and misconduct against women. He seems to have an utter lack of respect for humans, which is apparent when you review his policies on everything from immigration rights to health care, reproductive rights, climate change, transgender rights… the list goes on. It is horrifying.
What gives you hope for the coming years?
I hope that we will rise above this madness and that Trump will be (at most) a four-year president! I hope people will look back on his presidency as a time when millions of people came together in protest and fought for their rights, and won!
ONE YEAR OF RESISTANCE
January 17–February 4, THE UNTITLED SPACE GALLERY
45 Lispenard Street, Unit 1W NYC 10013
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