The Year 2017: A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations

Alexander Karschnia:
It always begins on January, 20th: „20. Jänner“, it’s more than a date, it’s a quote, a code-word for freaks of German literature. The best text begins like this: „Am 20. Jänner ging Lenz durchs Gebirg’“. On Jan. 20th Lenz crossed the mountains. LENZ, by Georg Büchner. Sturm & Drang (Storm & Stress): time of revolutions, the years between the American and the French revolution. And Büchner on the run after a failed revolution like all other democratic radicals, early socialists… TIME LOOPS. (If I could only walk on my head…)

I remember Jan. 20th, 2001– how I realized that 21st century had began, when I wrote down the date in the European fashion: 20.01.2001. In the following eleven years we had one futuristic date like that every year until 20th of decembre, 2012: 20.12.2012. It coincided with the end of the Maya calendar. We all know what happened: nothing. But shortly afterwards: the escalation in Ukraine, followed by the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of a „new cold war“: Has the „short 20th century“ begun all over again? TIME LOOPS.

And every fourth year: the inauguration of an American president. Jan. 20th, 2001: George W. Bush. What has happened that I almost look at his face with nostalgia now as I see him next to Obama on stage for Trump’s inauguration? Adam Broomberg picks me up to join a banner to drop down from Oberbaumbrücke: „Bridges not walls“ (after Angela Davis: „Walls turned sideways are bridges.“) Nobody is there, except the police and two women who work for Lush Company. When the banner finally arrives, it is rather small. And unlike in many other cities, no masses assemble. We meet 4-5 people who hand me a tiny, almost child-like megaphone: „It would be cool if you shout Pussy grabs back!“ I do it: „Donald J. Trump – this is Berlin speaking: Pussy grabs back, MOTHERFUCK!“ I quickly glance at Adam’s small son. I hope he is not too irritated. I think he is. Someone says: „It would be cool, if that kid also spoke!“ He doesn’t want to, although the megaphone looks as if it was made for him. We split.

In the afternoon I join the march of the Berlin Coalition „against global trumpism“ with my little son. It starts in front of the headquarter of the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), the new far-right party (their slogan after the US-election: „We are president!“) I tell him we were on our way to fight. He asks: „Do you have a sword?“ – „No. We fight with words.“ We shout with the crowd: „Donald Trump in your tower / this is called People’s Power!“ I hope he gets the idea. The TV asks for an interview: „It would be nice with your son on your arm.“ No way. I can hardly speak a straight sentence. That’s the Trump trauma: you become like him, you just repeat sentences: „I am here in solidarity with my friends & comrades in the US who are taking the streets right now.“ Well, they are not actually taking the streets but the museums: Our friend, comrade & artistic collaborator Noah Fischer and his group „Occupy Museum“ are temporary occupying the Whitney Museum in New York for an ART STRIKE: From Cindy Sherman, Martha Rosler, Hans Haacke to radical anti-gentrification activists who normally protest in front of the museum, not inside, especially not on invitation of the institution. A very unlikely coalition. At least that is something positive that Trump achieved, unwillingly… They ask me: „But how does it effect YOU? Personally?“ I want to shout: „ME PERSONALLY? I am so over the top, I am almost collapsing! I haven’t slept for days. My brain is not functioning, I can hardly keep up a conversation…“ Instead I try to say: „It’s an ongoing nightmare and I want to wake up.“ ALPTRUMP!

Noah Fischer:
Today is the ceremonial bridge from three months of pre-reality depression and anxiety to a reality of the Trump regime – January And what does it mean to be US American on this bridge today? Do I jump off? I’m from one of many Americas: California hippy Buddhism. A child of the 1970’s, my parents and their affinity group, our intentional community, revolved around formal religious rituals imported from Japan. We are the alt-Left. But I understand the power of ceremony to alchemically fix power into place. And now these theatrical & magic-producing moments are much more dangerous weapons in the hands of Steve Bannon a propagandist in the White House who would make the worst of the 20th century proud. So I either refused to watch the inauguration on TV or maybe just didn’t have the strength to stare it down.

The days leading up to it were a blur of organizing part of the ArtStrike actions: a kind of “counter ceremony” at the Whitney Museum of New York. We (Occupy Museums) invited 30 artists writers activists and institutional representatives to give statements for three hours straight. We didn’t ask them to speak against Trump. Rather than fall into the trap of going burzerk at an orange clown-face, we decided instead to proclaim what we have stood for and therefore, what we most deeply commit to fight for. Among the voices at the mic I began to imagine the existence of a common front. But as Alex said, it was an unlikely coalition from hardcore anti-Gentrification activists to leaders of institutions closely tied into art markets and Hedge Funds. The ceremony was about naming this new community standing together on a bridge. Down in DC they were holding a ceremony for the re-emergence of a proudly belligerent White Race with the White House draped in Immense red white and blue flags. And up in New York we also had a banner, which read: “Resistance Against Fascism is the Best Art.” I felt that the ceremony called for the used of the “F word.” And when OUR ceremony ended, I took a subway to the airport and flew to Dusseldorf on a diplomatic mission.

January 21st
Day 1 of Darkness. I should not have watched the inauguration-speech. Another sleepless night. The next morning I am on the train to Düsseldorf, Noah is in the plane: „Meet me in the sun.“ Can’t wait to hear from ART STRIKE. „It was epic!“ We arrive just in time for SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER. Oliver Marchart lectures on TIME LOOPS and the new genre of ‘preenactments’. How we jump back & forth in time all the time. Translating live offers quite a good example/experience of it. At the same time my mind jumps all around: Abbie Hoffman’s money drop at the NY stock exchange as a happening? Noah made money rain in the Guggenheim Museum, transforming Abbie’s action into a preenactment of his own. Or Schlingensief’s plan to throw money from the Reichstag: „Give away your money and thus save the market.“ That’s why I had asked Noah to design a euro-riot bill as motive for our piece Not my revolution, if…: The Stories of Angie O. Tonight he would finally meet her. Not only did he create the stage, but he collaborated with us on a deep level. What began as a nostalgic, slightly anachronistic reference to his time with Occupy Wall Street ( gained frightening contemporaneity over night between the 8th to the 9th of novembre. Another loaded date, if not the loaded date in German history (End of World War 1, Hitler’s attempt for a coup d’etat, Crystall Night, Fall of the Wall). From now on it has another layer of historic falsity – maybe the beginning of a new form of fascism.

It’s our turn now, Noah and I go on stage, Noah is holding on to his ART STRIKE banner like a baby: „RESISTANCE AGAINST FASCISM IS THE BEST ART.“ His jacket is stuffed with letters of solidarity. One arrived from Poland, unexpectedly. The author, Marta, is in the room: affinity! That’s the word. A word which use has become annoying in German as part of the bullshit-language: „I am so whatever-affine…“ Who cares! This is not about being attracted to an object or a specific activity, but to groups of people: affinity groups. A rather technical term (in German: „Bezugsgruppe“), which we have explored on stage (and backstage) in Angie O. You can experience it in many different ways: as part of a political circle during a consensus-making process or of a free theatre group during rehearsals. Team up to get through – a demonstration, a performance, times of crisis or Trump-trauma… If there is a message, then it is this: Explore affinity! Begin! Begin! Begin!

By afternoon as Alex and I walk briskly toward the theater, my wife Brenda’s mother Kathie, and daughter Luna are already in the morning streets of Washington DC: a sea of people in the Women’s March. Brenda texts me a pic: Luna has a sign attached to her stroller: “Nasty Woman in Training.”

The scary thing about Mr. President Trump is that everything is on the table, desensitization strategy: the shocking no longer shocking so I don’t know if they are really safe marching in resistance out there or not. I worried that the trip might have been a mistake, I might be in the wrong place at the wrong time (Isn’t it maybe the hour to stop jet-setting and get to work locally?) And that’s why it’s a relief when we enter a full room at the FFT that seem earnest, attentive, very much part of the same moment but with just enough distance to inject into it a needed dose of philosophical tools: TIME LOOPS –a necessary dimension for participating in politics. It’s a conversation about aesthetics and politics. A good conversation for The “post-truth” era and poisonous constructed realities.

And I play the prophet, reading from my solidarity letters I tell them: “As my friend the Hungarian artist Csaba Nemes says: ‘Post-Fascism is tricky its never clear and it doesn’t show us its real face. Post Fascism perfectly speaks the new post truth language.’ My friend in Argentina writes: ‘He is already a billionaire and doesn’t need to steal they said. And a corporate mass media gland is now the president. A new level of media manipulation and intelligence tests our brains…hearts and minds are wide open. All this is happening already one year in Argentina with Macri.’ And My comrade in Colombia writes: ‘The frictions of the art, tools that helped to shape alternative views and subjectivities in the social space today appear trapped in complex systems that we call reality where the truth is denied by the triumphant lie.’ ”

“And there you have it. All comrades around the world see it: A Constructed reality. A terrifying one. And you know what? A few years ago I went to visit Csaba in Budapest, to give a talk there. We walked around the city, the mood grim, the resistance movement having recently died down, anti-democracy was being normalized and we viewed a pile of rubble of a monument to a Leftist poet outside an official building that had been recently decimated by the state. And I felt bad for the stone Leftist poet and for my Hungarian comrades, but I also thought “this is something far away.”

“And today unfortunately I cannot say that. So as I address you – and I don’t have to tell you because this is something you know – it can soon be for you not at all far away but rather experience of waking up in a nightmare like it is for me. Which means it’s not a bad idea to begin the struggle right now as if the official racist nightmare was certain to come here to Germany if you did not. Everybody wished they did this when it has come.”

And then in the discussion we conclude that the best answer to “what can I do?” is to immediately form affinity groups, autonomous clusters of people power!

And then I sit in the big theater next to Marta, a Polish solidarity-letter author and watch Angie O, the struggle of an affinity group to find its agency in the age of Starbucks. And months previous I had challenged the Andcos to make a play with dummies come to life like those statistic charts that use little generic human figures to talk about inequality. Actors would be matched by a group of floppy “dummies.” Now the constructed reality is in front of me: I now see these dummies emerge from the big class pyramid onstage and I watch the actors play at organizing them into various lockdown tactics through absurd arrests, arguments, songs, and lots of smoke. One of the actors even has a knack for turning into a floppy foam dummy himself. And Angie O is full of echoes from my own life in Occupy Wall Street and also, incredibly, already ringing with language & emotion of the current moment: time of the dangerous dummies.

January 22nd
Day 2 of Darkness, but the sun shines on in Düsseldorf. What a privilege to spend the whole day with political conversations. To practice what I preach: Don’t stay in your four walls. Take the streets. Fill the public space with your spirit. Politicize every-day life, your friendships, your art, your breakfast… explore affinity. I remember a documentary film about 1968 in Germany, how an elderly woman (a professor?) said in a teach-in: „We have to start this conversation now…“ An ongoing discourse on democracy. An antifascist talk. That’s the stuff ‘civil society’ is made of. Isn’t it? For decades liberals have been using this word – where is it now, when we need it for our political struggle? To SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER! Or at least to each other.

Maybe it’s the other way around: LIE TO POWER, but speak truth to each other! It could begin with two people in a café. Or three: It begins with a minimum of three people in café. And it starts like so many conversations start these days: „For the first time I can imagine how it felt like to live in Germany in the early 30’s: you see it coming, but you think, you cannot do anything, so you keep doing what you are doing, because you don’t have any idea what could be done!“ Well, if we can agree on one thing than it’s this: People only start to get active when it is too late. As Noah said: „It will hit you too, so you better start now.“ While we were meeting in Düsseldorf there was also a meeting in Koblenz of Frauke Petry, Marine LePen and Geert Wilders. Press was not allowed. Someone filmed Wilders with a hidden camera: „Hallo Deutschland! Wie geht es Euch? Mir geht es gut. Gestern USA, heute Koblenz, morgen Europa.“ („Hello Germany! How are you? I am fine. Yesterday USA, today Koblenz, tomorrow Europe!“) Tomorrow means March 15th, then it’s his turn. On May 7th Marine’s. And on Septembre 24th Frauke’s. They are ready.

This new reality, its necessary to sleep through it sometimes. I woke up jetlagged & late then walk to the big river, sun shining on Dusseldorf and as Alex points out maybe the only place in the world feeling its benevolence today. But I need this rest from Political Dread and I watch those long narrow industrial boats going by each flying its National flag, long hulls in front and each having a little European car or two riding on the back near the captain’s cabin. For me this paints a picture of the tidy unity of industry and middle class life that you see only in Europe, a picture of the presence of both capitalism and socialism. Then I remember Austrian artist Oliver Ressler’s recent billboard a depiction of the same kind of boats I think, that have been put to a different kind of use – In his picture they are not pointed along with the current but across it. Like Angie O’s dummies an improvised barricade blocking the industrial flow of the river, stopping business as usual. It’s the image of a general strike when resistance to accumulated power means SHUTTING DOWN even the last picture of tranquility. We’ll have to see.

January 23rd
Day 3. I spent hours watching the footage of the women’s march: Washington D.C., so pretty in pink… For this one day, pink didn’t stink! I use the chance to show my daughter the pictures, trying to connect this colour with women’s power. It seems to be working. She was jealous that I didn’t take her to the demo but her smaller brother. (It was a coincidence, not a conscious choice.) Her almost 100 years old great grandmother will knit a pink hat for her, her granddaugher, her daughter and herself! The fight about the size of the inauguration ceremony is bizarre and could be funny, but the Trump gang is too vicious. And obviously crazy. Who would dare to tell the CIA that the sun came out when you began to speak while we all saw how it rained in your f*cking face? We realize the power now – how every lie manifests itself like a fact, even if it’s an „alternative fact“. This term itself is the proof. As people born in the 20th century we know: That’s how totalitarianism begins. This is exactly what Hannah Arendt called „pretotalitarian reality“. That’s how postdemocracy looks like…

Jan 24th
Day 4. I have to write an email to someone, but I only have contact via facebook. I have avoided to open it for months, immediately I am trapped again: my filter-bubble is providing me with just too many interesting political articles on Trump & his gang, global right-wing populism, anti-austerity protests etc. My facebook fall-back: Trump’s fault. But his rise is their fault! I hate you, fascbook! I can’t even write my message, as soon as I see that blue page, I am sucked into the data-stream. I force myself to close it again and wonder: Why did I open it in the first place? I start to do strange things…

One morning I even bought the BILD Zeitung because Trump’s face was all over it: „the“ interview. Disturbing, already the beginning, Kai Dieckmann’s intro, calling him „disturbingly honest“ („verstörend ehrlich“). HONEST? (It’s Diekman’s last interview, he got fired after having harrassed a woman, little wonder that he admires Trump…) Disturbing it is, but sometimes even funny: „Mr. Trump, your slogan America first is not so nice for the rest of the world.“ – „I love the world, but…“

Disturbing for most cold warriors is this: NATO is „obsolete“? Wow. One of my first memories of political graffiti is from the early 1980’s: „Nötig: Nato“ („Necessary: Nato“). I probably remember it because it was so different from all the other slogans – not a sentence to be screamed, but a laconic, almost elegant statement. A short poem. And this morning it was back on my mind – with all the horrors of the early 1980’s. We told you so… we ended our last radio-piece with the words: „Next time we put the Doomsday clock on 2 to 12.“ That was a joke. Now it’s reality.

January 25th
I can’t keep track anymore. This is definitely SHOCK STRATEGY as Naomi Klein has called it. Trump keeps signing papers and the state-machine starts working: „That’s fun!“ In the evening I join a meeting of The Berlin Coalition against „global Trumpism“. It is the first political meeting I attend in ages. After a successful action – like this demo – comes the hard part: How to keep the momentum? Easily one gets lost in: we could do this or that, join this demo, support that action. I hope The Coalition really remains a coalition, a politially diverse gathering of people. Angie O. was also about that: coalition work. How horrible it can be. How little fun. „Why do you spend time with people who could kill you? Because you don’t see another way of staying alive.“ Wise words by the really experienced Bernice Johnson Reagon: „Coalition Politics: Turning the century“ from 1983 (Home Girls) – definitely worth to be reread…

I am back in New York and my city, a city of immigrants, a city with a giant woman standing in its harbor who says “Give me your poor and huddled Masses/ Yearning to be Free” Is reeling from the pain and fear inflicted onto immigrants by Trump’s poison pen today. Its now clear that all the talk of building walls and banning immigrants was not hyperbole but exactly the plan, and that every existent power in the president’s office would be used. As Arun Gupta wrote on Fascbook: “Remember in January 2009 when Obama had been in office for only a week, he signed executive orders halting all home foreclosures, commanded the Department of Justice to file criminal charges against all Wall Street executives implicated in the subprime crisis…Neither do I.” It was always about limitations on power and back to boats: Obama’s favorite metaphor for executive power was a huge oceanliner. If you want to change directions you just turn the wheel a few degrees and it will end up in a different direction. Spin the wheel wildly and the ship goes down. Now we get to see a true experiment in alt-limits of executive power. And that night I am on the streets with hundreds on my way from Washington Square Park to Trump Tower, a protest called for by Muslim groups and then later take up by anti-fascist YOUTH alternating between “No Wall No Ban!”, “Trans Lives Matter”, “Immigrants Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter!”

January 26th
I can’t remember. Maybe an „alternative date“? Journalists covering inauguration day protests were arrested, now facing felony riot charges. The Black Bloc was marching, lots of broken glass. It’s weird to see the Black Bloc waving the Antifa-flagg in America. Even weirder those young guys in suits who call themselvs „alt-right“ (alternative right). These are the ones who saluted Trump with „Hail victory“ and a raised arm: „No, I am not a neo-nazi…“ BAM! A masked guy punches his face. „Right on!“, is what they say in America…

I am texting a friend who said he can’t make it to our meeting. I write „all right“ and wonder when the auto-correction will start to change it into „alt-right“. And I remember a TV program explaining the origin of the expression OK. It was a spelling mistake by an American president that the current administration likes a lot: Andrew Jackson, the inventor of „populism“ and mass-murderer of native population (just google ‘trail of tears’). He also liked to sign papers, he just wrote „all correct“ and decided to use an abbreviation: O like „all“ and K like „correct“. OK?

January 27th
International Holocaust memorial day. The liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army. Late at night I receive a link to The Guardian by a friend from the US: „White House holocaust remembrance day no Jews?“ Weird and frightening: the White House managed to commemorate the Holocaust without once using the words „Jewish“. One day later we hear that this was the day the orders were signed for the Muslim Ban. Chaos breaks out at the airports. I see people crying and I see people protesting with signs like „Refugees welcome“ and „No one is illegal!“ Again this feeling of estrangement: „It looks like the summer of 2015 in German trainstations.“ Forms of protest, political actions, concepts, ideas spread like a virus – for good or bad. Time gets loops, places swaps, history flip-flops… The most bizarre example: Trump’s wall. „Walls work.“ This truly is the end of the post-war period. And the beginning of what?

January 28th
So it bears repeating here that it was on Friday night, Holocaust Remembrance Day, that Trump signed the hate-baiting order to block refugees and immigrants from entering the US, and the next day it turns out that hundreds are TRAPPED in airports. And this is a mistake. January 28th mark this one for history the first effective day of resistance, the spontaneous coalitions having now gelled enough for real action. Because people are stuck in airports across the US, and they are not the dummies seen in statistic charts but real people- they have names and families who are freaking out. One of them even worked for the US as a military translator for a decade! They are trapped and now we have vigilance sites and targets. And everyone starts spontaneously going to JFK. #OccupyAirports! All over the US, a movement the mic checks and cardboard signs juxtaposed with futuristically corporate airport architecture. And you can feel a new dynamic: the unfortunate people trapped inside airports, held by customs agents who are probably confused as hell, many probably from immigrant families themselves, and people from everywhere coming to stand in solidarity with them. Because protest works best when concrete and narrative: princess trapped in the castle! Trump fucked up and constructed the wrong reality! And I can’t make it to the airport but see on Twitter (new best news source) that people are now going to the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn which I can join, and I chant for an hour with a big crowd of lawyers – the most upscale group of protesters I had ever been among, a good sign! – until the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) lawyer emerges to tell us that the Judge has not upheld the executive deportation order: a stay has been granted. A minor win, but the FIRST anti-Fascist win against Trumpism. And now, in this new reality these little wins must be celebrated.

And later that night, right in my neighborhood at the Brooklyn Library there is a strange cultural event, which I have never seen before in the US. It’s an all-night philosophy and performance jam between bookshelves and in every available space all over the old library. It’s packed with thousands of Leftists as if everyone occupying the airport went right to the library. The event is without a doubt a direct institutional response to the moment. Many of the talks touch on the linguistics of Trump, understanding immigration and dealing with the idea of apocalypse in our heads. A photo from that night would look like 1968- that year that ended in the US with the worst possible election outcome because we are in a TIME LOOP and I think: it may not be a bad time to be alive.

January 30th
74th return of the day Hitler took power: „Machtergreifung“. This term was always critized for being misleading: Hitler didn’t grab power, power was transferred to him. By the elites: „We hired Mr. Hitler.“ But also by the people. To make Germany great again. (The German lesson.) Fascist farce: while we protest against muslim ban, Trump puts Stephen Bannon into the National Security Council. Now he has access to the list of „enemies“ which can be killed with drones. There is music in this: LOVE! DRONE BOMB ME! Blow me from the mountain / And into the sea / Blow my head off… Let me be the one / the one that you choose from above / After all / I’m partly to blame…

On the reading list today: 10 Days that shook the world about the Russian Revolution, written by a US citizen eye-witness: Happy birthday, Red October! The title comes in mind reviewing this entry: Jan. 20th–30th. What’s to be done with the term „revolution“ now? Not my revolution, if…it wants to return somewhere instead of progressing? But hasn’t this always been part of the concept? Let’s not get confused: It’s not a revolution we are witnessing, it’s a counter-revolution. Against the revolutions of 2011, 1989, 1968, feminism, civil rights, LGBTIG rights… Against LOVE, since love is for everyone… (equal rights). But as we all know: there is love hidden in r-EVOL-ution. And there is hate in patriotism: hatriotism…hatriarchy. Not my revoution if … it’s not your revolution: our revolution! Let’s conclude with Adam’s website:

The Ebbs and Flows of Resistance in the Art World

Published in Hyperallergic:

On January 20, 2018, I, along with hundreds of thousands, strolled down Sixth Avenue for the Women’s March. At route’s end I encountered a comrade from Occupy Wall Street who had been a facilitator of the Arts and Culture working group, the movement’s official connection between art practice and revolution. His partner works as an organizer with Planned Parenthood and she was busy getting activists on a bus back home. The anti-Trump resistance of the last year has been distinctly unlike Occupy’s direct democracy churning. Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and a lot of well-funded progressive organizations have stepped it up since the inauguration. Exciting new candidates are primed for the 2018 mid-term elections. The #MeToo uprising mostly plays out in media rather than on the streets. But that’s not to say all’s going according to plan: there’s the bundled setbacks of the Tax Bill, among countless reversals, plus fatigue from daily aggressions that make the future hard to see. And for me, there was something unsettling about the leisurely stroll of the march and silence of it — just a rare echo of chants. I’ve found the unified voice to be essential to protest, uplifting people into joyfully rhythmic bravery. One year ago, the voice was the main catalyst on the day of the current president’s inauguration as we, Occupy Museums, staged a Speakout that tried to spark the process of laying out a common political vision for the art world. One year later, can we still hear the Speakout’s echo?

Energetically, things could not have been more different a year ago. Caught in a dizzying though still totally opaque political realignment, we were contending with a new language. In particular, the word “fascism” loomed, a word whose use was quickly legitimized by Trump’s chilling inaugural speech, co-written by Steve Bannon. But there’s a silver lining to the shit hitting the fan: endorphins rush in and you get a burst of extra energy. That’s where we were a year ago: high on anti-Trump endorphins. It might have been a wave of shock, anger, and emergency, but there was a vital energy we could tap into and that made it impossible be idle. Protests and new networks bloomed in all directions. Busy co-organizing the Speakout with Occupy Museums, I remember breathlessly communicating, organizing, attending meetings, connecting with comrades all in exactly the same state of productive shock. Solidarity poured in from abroad. We had no choice but to launch a real resistance, a counter-inauguration, a strike, a shadow cabinet — whatever was needed. It seemed like the entire art world was in on this. But even during the inauguration, the art world’s anti-Trump alignment wasn’t as unified a block as it appeared — a fact made clear by revelations that art world power brokers had funded Trump’s Inauguration.  And eventually, banality set in as the stock market boomed and the powerful grew content and silent. Then there was the incongruous reality that despite the new government, things look about the same in major cities today as they did in January 2017. It wasn’t fascism like in the movies — at least not among the privileged in Brooklyn. But most of all, a frustrating truth about attention became clear: you can’t deal with everything when it comes all at once.

outside the Whitney Museum on J20 2017

In the summer of 2016, Occupy Museums was focused on the issue of debt. We had begun working with the Whitney Museum on our project for the 2017 BiennialDebtfair, which proposed a politics that intertwined the economic inequality focus of the Occupy movement embodied in the debtor/creditor relationship, with intersectional politics that made the conditions of Puerto Ricans struggling with state debt visible alongside student debt. In the middle of the development of this project, the unexpected election result arrived. When we got wind of the proposed art strike, our phone lines were already connected to the Whitney and we felt a responsibility to answer the call by connecting the political moment to the museum. Discussing among ourselves whether it made more sense to try to close Whitney’s doors or retool their platform into an historic civic forum, we went with the latter. Our strategy has always tended toward an abundance of experiments and engagement rather than a refusal (although we respect those tactics).

Recently, New York University professor Nick Mirzoeff reflected on the 2017 J20 Strike call, writing: “A strike is the refusal to comply with a normative regime because that norm sets the terms for existence in unacceptable ways.” However, as Mirzoeff also mentions, 21st century art institutions are not the same as 19th century factories. “Refusal to comply” is not necessarily most effective as a mechanical stopping, like jamming a wrench in a machine. In a networked social capital economy, denormalizing the regime doesn’t necessarily mean shutting institutional doors. It can mean dancing through and around them, perhaps taking them off their hinges and reshaping their function. J20 programs were being cooked up inside and outside of institutions by signatories of the call, from a sign-making workshop at the Queens Museum under the leadership of executive director Laura Raicovich, to a marathon reading of Langston Hughes’s 1935 poem “Let America Be America Again” at the Brooklyn Museum. However, there was no common forum proposed — no speak-out. I grew up in a Buddhist monastery in California: like anyone from a religious background, ritual and ceremony were everyday parts of my life, and their social function in gelling a community was always clear to me. Our side needed a powerful counter-ritual on that day that involved speaking truth.

*  *  *

There was a specific political intention behind the Speakout: conjuring a space for the different political factions and voices of the art world to come together and face a common threat. Both the primaries and the general election campaign had revealed the likelihood of fracture on the left: by January, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters were at each others’ throats on social media; factions assigning blame along ideological, racial, and gender lines were sharply drawn. Locally, the anti-gentrification struggle that dominated art world radical politics on both coasts was pitting one of the most powerful elected progressives in the country, Bill de Blasio, against activists. The New York City Mayor works intimately with developers on his housing plans, an unforgivable and impossible position. But a year ago the shock was such that even this gap could be temporarily bridged. The first step was to come together. I hoped this unified opposition would radicalize when it realized that you couldn’t separate Trump’s ties to hyper-capitalists from his knee-jerk racism, xenophobia, transphobia, and patriarchy. The Speakout was our own display of power, a power embodied not in Trump’s strongman mode of power over, but in the collective beauty of poetic, diverse, creative, and committed voices speaking.

image: Rally outside the Whitney Museum on J20 2017

Working closely with Megan Heuer of the Whitney, Occupy Museums invited a lineup of speakers that ranged from badass Brooklyn anti-gentrification activists like Alicia Boyd of Movement to Protect the People and the Chinatown Art Brigade to Madison Zalopany, coordinator of access and community programs at the Whitney, who delivered a powerful message of institutional inclusion. Artists Dread Scott, Mira Schor, Avram Finkelstein, Naeem Mohaiemen, Simone Leigh of Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter, Tracie Morris with Vijay Iyer, and many others spoke and sang out. The event was like a quilted-together manifesto: each word projected with emotion, laying out a commitment to values despite the dark road ahead. Some of the commitments were personal, and some were institutional—bringing these together into potential agreements was the point. Carin Kuoni, director of the Vera List Center, said:

The imminent assault on our civil liberties is of such magnitude … I believe that if I want to remain effective and advance Inclusiveness, I need to turn to art and declare art itself a political practice.

Not because we can afford to turn our backs on traditional political structures; we need to be present there as well. But if we declare our artworks, our exhibitions, our critical discourse a political practice we can meet the challenges of this incoming administration — and Post Democracy in general — much more effectively because Inclusiveness will be implemented along a multitude of criteria:

If we declare art a political practice, we can operate along different timeframes simultaneously, pursuing immediate impact as well as long-term nurturing, such as education. If we declare art a political practice, we can spell out goals at different scales, from super- localized to global, and define distinct yet aligned sets of deliverables. If we focus on the formal qualities of art as well as its literal, material foundations, we can explore entirely new orders of an inclusive political practice that can reach beyond the human.

The Speakout’s theme was an accumulation of visions like Kuoni’s. This dimension was inspired by the urgent work of Queens Museum director Laura Raicovich, who was then working with her staff to create a visioning statement around the museum’s responsibility to its immigrant workers and community members in hopes of declaring the museum a sanctuary space. But the Speakout wasn’t all earnest, either. At the moment that Trump was being sworn in, Kalup Linzy was lighting up the room with a special rendition of “Asshole.”

image: Occupy Museums banner for J20 2017

At the time, I knew — and I think most people in that room realized — that there were two levels of politics at stake. There was the national transition happening down in Washington, but there was also our non-neutral stage: the Whitney Museum. Occupy Museums had become specialists in opening up radical spaces in museums. For J20, our idea had been to disrupt the entire flow of the museum by staging the event in the lobby. However, the museum had insisted on the theater and a ticketed (pay as you wish) entrance, which ultimately meant throngs of people were never able to access the event. We had attempted to temporarily “rebrand” the museum with a strong political sentiment, painting a banner the night before that rephrased a famous Warhol quote, proclaimed “Resistance Against Fascism is the Best Art.” But the prevailing corporate aesthetic plus the spectacle of ultra-luxury gentrification — speakers stood in front of a massive glass window overlooking the Hudson, which screamed luxury real estate — wasn’t so easily disrupted. Sitting in the Susan and John Hess Family Gallery (the Hess Corporation is involved in fossil fuel exploration and deep-water offshore oil rigs), we knew that even as we prepared for whatever was about to come out of the Pandora’s box in Washington, we were perched inside of a nest of the domination of finance over government — a fact bolstered by the Biennial’s core sponsorship by Chase bank.

The Speakout needed to challenge Trump’s new regime and the Whitney. Martha Rosler touched on this when she grabbed the mic and addressed the Whitney directly, saying: “Thank you and fuck you and we need you and you need us more.” But even this expressed a breathless J20 optimism. There was a question hanging in the air: could an extraordinary political moment like the January 2017 inauguration actually shift mainstream museums’ behaviors so that they recognized their responsibility to social, racial, and economic equity, a responsibility deeper than the need to burnish their brands by just referencing these issues? Could J20 mark a moment of choice that could end in a shift away from museums’ market-oriented drift and toward a more civic function — complete with free admission, equitable programming, and the cutting art market ties? We knew that most of the Whitney’s staff was behind the stance the institution was taking, even proud of their employer for stepping into the political ring (the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim were dead silent about J20). But our research had shown that many trustees — the 1% of the 1% — were on another side. It was a longshot, but extreme outcomes seemed possible on J20.

*  *  *

image: The 2018 Women’s March in New York City

A year later, and just a few weeks after a historically free museum announced it would resort to mandatory admission fees, calling on mainstream, corporately funded museums to become more public seems naïve — and not only because corporate funders have a long history of dismantling fertile civic spaces. The other truth is that the leverage on the Whitney to make a hard-left turn depended on the heat of the moment, and political moments are short-lived. As Mirzoeff recently wrote, J20 stands as a moment more than a movement. Just like the oft-invoked possibility of unity and healing right after 9/11, the endorphin-fueled moments around Trump’s inauguration and the talk of widespread, sustained, creative resistance, and commitment to shielding threatened communities has not materialized, despite an early win when the New York Taxi Workers Alliance successfully shut down JFK, helping to temporarily halt the Muslim ban.

A year ago, the realignment of large museums toward non-symbolic social action — as sanctuary spaces for example — was earnestly discussed by many museum professionals. Now we are living inside the reality of immigrant communities being threatened daily, and the uncomfortable truth is that it really is happening, and the pressing need for sanctuary does not equate to an automatic transformation of cultural institutions to provide it, as seemed practically self-evident a year ago. In fact, now the backlash is coming into view. Laura Raicovich just announced, almost exactly a year after J20, that she is leaving the Queens Museum. She told the New York Times that some members of the museum’s board had objected to her decision to close the institution the day of Trump’s inauguration. She also told the Times that she recently made a proposal to the board to make the museum into a kind of sanctuary space connecting immigrants to social services. “It was made very clear to me that that was not something that was of interest,” she told the Times.

After J20, amid the dissipating energy of resistance, activist tactics also shifted. The Whitney again provided a stage, this time for a shift toward the public targeting of individual artists like Jimmie Durham rather than institutions like the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Identity politics had already been on the rise for at least three years with the long overdue and powerful mobilizations of the movement for Black Lives. Numerous controversies in 2017 around identity generated public debate but at times formed wedges among activists, demobilizing large-scale protest. The turning point for the art world arrived with the opening of the 2017 Biennial and protest over Dana Schutz’s painting “Open Casket” (2016). The controversy consumed a tremendous amount of energy, which was not necessarily intellectually unproductive, but none of it was directed against Trump’s draconian policies or the corporate beneficiaries of his policies who are funders of the museum. By spring, the anti-fascist unity we’d felt at the Whitney a few months earlier on J20 seemed incredibly distant. The callouts then shifted toward the #MeToo movement, with patriarchal heads rolling in the entertainment industry (and the art world) at lightning speed. As an uprising tactic, it’s effective and divisive at the same time. It was not a development one could have easily foreseen on J20, which held a promise of coalition-building among the many aggrieved groups rather than the single issue/single movement politics we are seeing.

*  *  *

My favorite thing about museums is that they are everything a smartphone isn’t: spacious and slow. You bring your body to a space and you stand in front of pictures and things with other people, and this adds up to a publicly contemplative opportunity that can have the qualities of richness and depth. This winter, in a time of mixed resistance signals, it occurs to me that reflection and vision are the essential next steps. We can’t risk fatigue by attempting to match Trump’s reactivity. Artists can’t afford to binge on social media for days or stay in the streets forever either. At the Speakout, Mira Schor spoke unexpectedly about the potential political power of a painting of a flower. Then she stated: “In the months and years to come every force will militate against artists, including the duties of resistance.”

In my view, the forces aligning against artists that Schor was alluding to are primarily the forces of capital, which historically have come down the hardest on women and communities of color: life as debt, space as portfolio asset, labor as control. Our double challenge then is to emancipate ourselves from this dead-end system epitomized by Trump, while not misinterpreting the emergency resistance call as the necessity to value the protest sign or organizing campaign over the canvas and palette. Visionary images and non-images made with and for free minds are our strongest tools. But these tools become suitable for a justice warrior only when connected to the struggle to bring the framework of institutions such as museums and universities into the commons.

We are now heading into year two. Just like the last year, the news will punch our lights out every day. As artists and art-lovers we are fortunate to have a passionate community and a practice to rekindle them. But the times call for us to demand something more constructively autonomous and visionary because we clearly aren’t getting a future from those in power. Power begets power. Apple just saved more than $40 billion on taxes thanks to Trump: the company might have burnished its resistance brand a few months ago, but ultimately it will prosper under this regime while many communities are evicted and targeted. The art world is not a safe zone. Chitra Ganesh touched on this a year ago when she stated:

I am saying that, rather than seeing the current political climate as an external threat, we all have to take responsibility for the ways that this climate resonates with aspects of the art world in which we all participate. The events transpiring around us bring to light the predicament of ongoing exclusions and erasures in the art world itself, which some of the people in this room have experienced for years.

image: Trump poster after a protest march

Our community can be a cold-hearted place that has long tolerated Trump’s brand of crass ego-dominance fueled by money and power. It’s a financially unregulated space where capital is king, where the winners win big, and where art workers are preyed upon through a normalized system of high debts and unpaid or poorly paid labor. Most of our institutions are riddled with histories of racism and elitism to which they still cling. On J20 2017, Occupy Museums offered our vision that institutions large and small could begin to operate by an updated set of values that could run on mutual support and produce bravery in the face of fear. The vision is a two-way street. It’s a commitment to valuing the practice of art and to fighting for the commonwealth of museums as much as it’s a critical call to action.

In the pain and shock of J20, a long-term vision began to be articulated. Even if Raicovich’s departure from the Queens Museum exemplifies how forcefully the powers that be are blocking that vision from being put into practice, I hope to see it develop this year as people tire of the mental distraction and reactivity that has become our everyday under Trump. We need space for a long-term political vision to come into focus that bridges art with organizing and reimagines institutions. I hope to witness the unifying of voices not only because that’s the only thing that sends terror into the heart of those who currently hold power, but because when we do that, we create worlds. That is how we can create our own institutions and economies.

#J20 Speakout at Whitney Museum

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On #J20- the day of Trump’s inauguration ceremony in Washington DC, I co-organized a speakout with  artists, poets, and activists responding to the following questions at the Whitney Museum.

  1. Where is the agency of cultural institutions who depend on philanthropy under an illiberal system that rewards the 1% lavishly.
  2. How can cultural institutions oppose the state to support and protect their workers and artists who are citizens under threat?
  3. What specific cultural histories need to be revisited in this political climate to learn from, to revise, to renew, or to newly criticize?
  4. How can cultural institutions begin a process of self-reflection and dialogue in order to assess their complicity in our nation’s arrival at this political moment
Occupy Museum’s values statement:

Whitney’s site:


Hyperallergic: Occupy Museums Challenges Us to Face Fascism with the #J20 Art Strike

Hyperallergic-Hitting the Limits of Inclusivity

Artcritical: Thank You and Fuck You


Texts from J20 on eflux:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4



Hyperallergic: Why the Art World Must Not Normalize Donald Trump’s Presidency

Read on Hyperallergic

The electoral map made it look so straightforward: blue islands of social and racial progress voted overwhelmingly against Donald Trump’s white supremacy movement, but those voters had no idea just how large was the lake of anger festering in the sparsely populated red zones. Then the unthinkable happened. We are now far from prepared to accept the reality of a President Trump, with David Duke’s grinning visage looming right behind him.

In this picture, the art worlds of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago exemplify the progressive and diverse community currently in a state of shock and mourning. As soon as we finish crying on each others’ shoulders, we will begin to mount some kind of resistance against an administration that will be unlike any others we have ever contemplated — one that will swiftly drive out immigrants, topple all environmental regulations, and do much worse still. We will resist an administration filled with anti-culture warriors like Rudolph Giuliani, who are sworn enemies of the values of intellectual experimentation, multiplicity, and tolerance within the arts; who understand contemporary art primarily as a populist trump card, having accused Marina Abramovic of Satan worship on the eve of the election. This is an administration that will lead the United States under the flag of vindicated white supremacy in the second decade of the 21st century. The art world will act as a unified block of resistance against the coming wave of horror, right?

Unfortunately, this picture is most likely a mirage. Yes, there is plenty of crying on shoulders and even young people on the streets shouting: “Not My President!” Yes, art critic Jerry Saltz got so upset that he changed his infamous Bill Clinton Facebook profile picture, posting: “Till Tuesday I lived with the positivist idea that things progress, get better, twisted flaws and all. The old saw about the long arc of history bowing toward justice was true. … All this went out the window that night.” But we are also seeing an immediate normalization of a President Trump by parts of the huge block that seemed to oppose him and that now wants to simply get on with business. This was perhaps first enabled by the president-elect himself, who, in his victory speech, chose to pass on the hate speech of his angry base, instead offering an apparent olive branch to voters who chose Hillary Clinton: “For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.” The next day, President Barack Obama said: “We now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed.” Later, Obama even called the leader of the Birther movement “pragmatic.”

We must admit that Obama has a special historical role to fulfill. As the first black president­, he has taken it upon himself to be the most gracious and classy man on the planet, a project that did not stem a huge tide of racism directed at him in the last eight years. Despite claiming earlier that “the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president,” Obama interpreted his immediate post-election duty as graciously passing the torch. Let’s remember that we have a different duty to fulfill.

It is not the duty of private citizens (or anyone, actually) to automatically line up behind someone who has scapegoated the most vulnerable people in the country and threatened peaceful protesters and his political opponent with violence in order to win — exhibiting the unmistakable qualities of fascism. Participation in US democracy has its mechanical dimensions (voting and accepting the results, living within legal parameters), but also its fluid dimensions, where the checks and balances of government must be further checked by an awake population that is ready to respond by ceasing business as usual and organizing resistance to bigotry and violence if needed. From time to time throughout history, it has been needed.

This turn away from business as usual and toward collective resistance looms in a very real sense as the only hope for progressive values concerning gender, race, the protection of the environment, and also economic equity. Progressive legislation from health care reform to climate change treaties will be swiftly overturned while extremist laws — possibly including mass deportations — will be quickly signed. Resistance of mobilized citizens will be needed to protect the vulnerable, block dangerous legislation, and build toward an electoral reclaiming of power from the alt-right. But to do this, people who are in theory opposed to bigotry have to stay vigilant to the extremity of the situation.

We are early on in the narrative-shaping process concerning the reality of a President Trump, and I have been unsurprised to see that he is already being vigorously normalized by members of the art world. In the past days, to make an understatement, I have been on Facebook a lot. Well known Los Angeles-based collector Stefan Simchowitz popped up on a thread on my wall. Sneaking a peek at his wall, I saw the following statement, posted the day after the election to the tune of over 300 reactions:

Congratulations President elect Donald Trump. The people have spoken. Gracious speech, nothing left to do now but stop bitching and griping and get on with the job. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the DNC congrats to all on a battle hard fought. Back to the drawing board as they say in the classics. Don’t panic folks it’s not as bad as you think and who knows if we all work together as we should maybe we can get things done. This is no time to divide. This is what democracy looks like, a picture whose outcome you participate in but don’t wholly control. And if I were to bet money I would say Trump is a pragmatist not an ideologue and pragmatists make deals in the middle.

Among the more than 90 comments on Simchowitz’s post, a few people echoed the sentiment of “I am sure they said the same in the 1930s in Germany,” but mostly it was versions of: “Classy Stefan, well said”; “as heartbroken as I am, I agree it’s the only way forward”; and, “I agree he’s a pragmatist.” I do not know Simchowitz personally and I’m not sure who his friends are, but presumably many are citizens of the well-heeled Los Angeles art world. When I shared his post on the Occupy Museums Facebook page, editorializing it with “All that white supremacy stuff was just a mirage. Back to business,” Simchowitz replied. He wrote:

First of all I voted for Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris and donated heavily to both campaigns and raised them a lot more money then that, in addition to supporting Mike Bennet’s winning run in Colorado, one of the few bright spots for the democrats. So cut the crap with your BS please. Secondly I would say I hardly represent the view of the mainstream art world in the respect to my call for coming to together and supporting the new President Elect from hopefully understanding the true gravity oh his position and the importance of unifying a divided nation whilst providing the jobs that are so sorely needed to 60 million citizens who are calling for help….yes it is back to business for ALL of us. For us to unify the country, rebuild the DNC for the next elections and in my case to continue selling Art so I can support the dozens of hardworking artists and artisans who support them so they can put food on the table, build family’s and produce artworks to make this sometimes ugly world more beautiful. Whilst you can point you wagging finger at the wrong people, some of us just want to get back in the saddle.

Simchowitz’s claim of supporting artists hinges on how you interpret the concept of “support.” Known as a “flipper” who buys work as cheaply as possible from young artists, often in bulk, with an eye to reselling it at profit, he is one of the pioneers of testing the popularity of artworks on Instagram as a cost-effective stage in the process of transforming art into cash. In fact, Simchowitz has been called the “Donald Trump of the Art World,” “a heroic figure” ready to “initiate the paradigm shift” toward “this sort of ideology I invented” wherein art is “oil in the ground” that “needs to be mined, refined, and … distributed,” as he is quoted by Christian Viveros-Fauné.

But does the apparently progressive political stance of the “Trump of the Art World,” which so easily pivots to an acceptance of racist extremism, “hardly represent the view of the mainstream art world,” as Simchowitz claims?

To look at reports on the art world’s reaction so far, you would think it does not, and this is certainly true of many artists and academics this week. On November 13, Artist Naeem Mohaiemen wrote on Facebook:

Professors are cancelling classes and using that time to organize teach-ins. Art exhibitions are opening and thirty minutes later artists are sitting on the floor and discussing what is to be done. People are cooking dinners and inviting friends over. Community spaces are organizing all day events. Business as usual is at a standstill.

Progressive artists and academics are perhaps acting with a mixture of solidarity and self-protection as they will be under attack in coming years from emboldened bigots and anti-intellectuals.

However, I think that among the collector class there is a reason that the response may not be as urgent as Naeem’s heartening report from the grass roots. This reason traces its logic along the upward trajectory of the stock market in the last few days, in which the stock market has reached record highs, with the US Dollar soaring. Although there are connections between the art world and the new Trump administration — most notably the potential future Treasury SecretarySteven Mnuchin, who is the son of a prominent Upper East Side gallerist — the leaders of Fortune 500 companies overwhelmingly proclaimed to be “with her,” aligning themselves with another candidate whose deep relationship to the financial industry ensured that their interests would be well taken care of: Hillary Clinton. Mega-dealer Larry Gagosian even held an auction to benefit her campaign. We can now see that elite Clinton supporters faced a win-win election. Unlike much of the Democratic base, they were prepared to brush off the whole white supremacy revolution (because they are safe from it) and enjoy the coming rewards. Currently, portfolio managers are shifting stock into ETFs(securitized bundles) tied into private prisons, weapons, and pharmaceutical companies, which will swiftly be deregulated under a Trump administration. The inevitable massive tax cuts which we’ll see under a Republican trifecta will translate into a great shift of wealth to the top, most likely unleashing a blue chip art boom in accord with Andrea Fraser’s finding that the best metric for tracking a booming art market is economic inequality. Well, you might say, good for artists; after all, some of this wealth will trickle down to them. However, there’s a steep political price: if the collector class takes a “neutral,” get-on-with-business position on an extremist government going forward, this creates a major obstacle to the potential for the art world to act as an organizing hub in response to the coming political shift.

Artists and art institutions in the US depend almost entirely on the philanthropy and collecting power of our financial elites. On one hand, a major political transition is more directly impactful on the arts in countries where institutions are wholly state-funded. Currently in Poland, where the new Rightist Law and Justice party has recently taken root, some progressive museum directors have already been replaced. But because we rely on the private sphere here in the US, we face a unique danger of an “apolitical politics” that holds business and trade on a higher level than political participation and takes political disruption completely off the table. If the markets under a Trump presidency continue to generate profits for the 1% — even through policies toxic to ordinary citizens — the elites on institutional boards will have lost any personal incentive beyond mere sympathy to support a new role that art institutions might have to play. Art institutions nationwide that seek to readjust their missions to offer space for anti-Trump organizing, sanctuaries for victims of the the white supremacist danger uncorked in the election, or simply exhibit artworks that overtly challenge the regime, will likely bump up against funders who are keen to prop up business as usual because institutional meshing with business interests of galleries and auctions is working out well for them. The regulations against political advocacy that are embedded in the requirements to maintain non-profit status will provide additional barriers. Our neoliberal system of private enterprise and corporate-structured non-profits could trap us if we do not address it directly and respond to the conflicting interests it has set up.

The art world is a strange land. On the one hand, it’s a progressive echo chamber. But if you look through the lens of financial and social inequity, the picture changes. For one thing, it’s a space of overwhelmingly white privilege. Although many artists do not come from wealthy backgrounds, many in positions of prominence do, and the entire art infrastructure revolves around the 1% like planets orbit the sun. You cannot be in a room with more billionaires than at the Miami Beach Convention Center during Art Basel. After an election in which the Democrats were outflanked on working class issues like trade deals and where the business-friendly DNC may have lost the election due to its inability to understand the current class reality in the US, I think it’s wise to examine the class reality of the art world in relation to what kind of agency can be accessed heading into a Trump presidency. The call to continue business as usual is not a practical, universal message; it’s a message that now only makes sense for populations that are safe from what Trump has in store. It’s a message that is tailor-made for the 1%.

Many people have been remarking that the only people saying everything will be OK are white males. The stark reality is that since November 8, 2016, things have been far from OK for millions. People are not safe from the predatory drug gangs on one side of the US/Mexico border and predatory militias on the other; they are not safe in the Deep South from those who will now enjoy an administration that winks at the white nationalist awakening; people are also not safe from the mega-storms that will arrive before long as we roll back environmental regulation; and people are not safe from the rising rents and debts pushing low-income families, people of color, working folks, and artists out of the cities that are supposed to be safe zones for progressive values. The story about blue islands of social and racial progress surrounded by red seas is not entirely accurate. The Trump administration doesn’t represent an occupation of the country by the Bible Belt or Rust Belt so much as by a group of New York elites who are among those rapidly transforming the cityinto a playground for the rich, evicting families of the 99% from their homes and raising rents. We will have to fight on more than one front.

As we organize an autonomous people’s resistance in the arts community, we will need the fresh participation of people not used to organizing. We also need people from Simchowitz’s level of economic privilege to part with their immediate financial self-interest and help support a resistance movement.

Collectors often talk about having a “good eye,” but it takes no connoisseurship to see what is coming. All the signs of demagoguery exist in the figure of Trump and his closest allies. The links between his ascendance and the anti-immigrant wave of Brexit, the anti-democratic rule of Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and Law and Justice in Poland, are clear to see. Democracy never meant falling into line when the KKK gets a direct line to the Oval Office. It never meant business must go on no matter what. It means thinking for yourself and trusting what you see. We in the arts must be prepared to de-normalize, organize, and resist as we never have before.