Creative Time’s Flag Project Gets Political on President Trump’s Birthday
Coincidentally, the president was born on the same day as Flag Day.
Just in time for Flag Day, celebrated on June 14 each year, New York’s Creative Time has successfully launched its “Pledges of Allegiance” project. The day was kicked off by the hoisting Marilyn Minter’s RESIST FLAG from the roof of Creative Time’s East 4th Street headquarters. As an added, though coincidental, bonus for the politically themed project, today just so happens to be President Donald Trump’s birthday as well.
“How bizarre and amazing is it that Trump was born on Flag Day?” Creative Time artistic director Nato Thompson asked artnet News. While “Pledges of Allegiance” isn’t an overtly anti-Trump art project, it “is entirely inspired by the current political mood,” Thompson added, noting that “I wouldn’t describe Marilyn’s flag as a subtle flag.”
Minter has been very outspoken about her opposition to the current administration, especially with regard to its policies regarding women’s health. The flag, which reads “RESIST,” is similar in style to her paintings and photographs, where images are partially obscured by mist-covered glass.
The first among 16 flags commissioned by Creative Time—from contemporary artists including Yoko Ono, Trevor Paglen, and LaToya Ruby Frazier—RESIST FLAG appeared briefly last month outside the Lever House in Midtown Manhattan, as part of an exhibition organized by New York galleries Maccarone, Salon 94, and Salon 94 Design.
Mere hours after being raised, however, the flag was removed at the request of the building’s management—not due to censorship, as originally feared, but because of regulations surrounding the display of the American flag with other banners. (The American flag has to be larger and flown higher than any other flag.)
That complication is not an issue at Creative Time HQ. A rooftop flag pole has been specially erected for the occasion, and there are no American flags on display. “The flag is up,” Thompson assured us. “It’s waving around in the wind as we speak.”
“This isn’t some anti-American flag project,” he added, observing that it is easy to comply with the regulations of the country’s flag, and to accord it the appropriate respect it deserves. “This is what artists want to believe in.”
Even though the project is born of Trump’s election, many of the works deal with issues that predate the current administration, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. Nari Ward’s contribution, for instance, is a reference to Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) flag.
The Minter flag will be succeeded by one from Cuban artist Tania Bruguera inspired by immigration issues, a regular theme in her practice. The other participating artists are Alex Da Corte, Jeremy Deller, Ann Hamilton, Robert Longo, Josephine Meckseper, Vik Muniz, Jayson Musson, Ahmet Ögüt, Pedro Reyes, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.
The organization is hoping that by the time the second flag in the series goes up, other cultural organizations around the country will have come on board, displaying the artwork outside their own institutions. Thompson, who encourages interested parties to get in touch, admits that “it’s a bit of a crap shoot, ad hoc, guerrilla style,” but anticipates some great partnerships will emerge.
In putting together the project, there was some concern that artists might have difficulties working with the constraints of the flag format. That ended up not being an issue.
“The artists really embraced it. Trevor Paglen was like ‘I have 600 flag ideas!'” said Thompson. “Some might say flags are a colonialist project, this kind of problematic call for territory, but the artists were eager to assert a different kind of value in using that history. The flag is also a canvas that, for public art, is a very simple, elegant way of display.”
“This is an opportunity to put artists’ voices out there and build a sense of community,” the curator added. “It seems kind of benign to put a flag up, but quite honestly in the political situation that we find ourselves in, I think people are kind of nervous to stick their necks out. We think that it is more important than ever to raise the flag.”
Below, see the other 15 flags in Creative Time’s “Pledges of Allegiance.”
Marilyn Minter’s RESIST FLAG will be on view on the Creative Time Rooftop, at the corner of East 4th Street and the Bowery, New York, June 14–July 3, 2017. The “Pledges of Allegiance” project will continue on a monthly basis.
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