The Artists Massing Against President Trump

After Annette Lemieux’s raised fists and Chicago’s Birch Reincliff Art Collective, we’ll likely see more protest art in response to Trump’s election.”>

Earlier this week, the Whitney Museum announced that artist Annette Lemieux had asked that her 1995 work, Left Right Left Right, be reinstalled upside down, so that its 30 photographs of raised fists mounted on wooden stakes now point toward the ground.

The reinstallment was a response to Donald Trumps electiona gesture that suggests a commitment to individual agency, the continuing power of protest, and a feeling, in her words, that the world has turned upside down, the Whitney wrote in a statement.

Lemieuxs work is more ambiguous than the images alone suggest: While one of the fists belongs to Richard Nixon, another is Martin Luther King Jr.s, which is to say that its not simply a uniform reflection of solidarity and protest.

But Lemieuxs recent gesture is a straightforward response to, as the artist said herself, our upside down world under President-elect Donald Trumpand the first high-profile art commentary since his shocking victory last Tuesday.

Its also an indication that well likely see much more political and protest art in response to Trumps election. Artists throughout history have reacted to cultural and political discourse, with art often serving as a powerful political weapon.

As Nina Simone, the jazz musician and civil rights activist, once put it: How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?

In the most mainstream satire of the president-elect, Alec Baldwin continues to play Trump on NBCs SNL, itself criticized for allowing Trump to once host the show.

In August and September, statues of a naked, testes-bereft Trump were erected in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Cleveland, and Miami by the anarchist collective Indecline. The internet was mesmerized by photos of the effigiespart of an aptly titled project, The Emperor Has No Ballsand amused passersby inspecting the statues folds of veiny, yellowish-pink flesh and tiny genitalia.

Many were removed within hours of going up, though one of them reportedly sold for $22,000 at auction in October.

Some of the most prominent election art, including these works, wouldnt have garnered as much attention had they not gone viral on social media. But one group of anonymous, anti-Trump guerilla artists called the Birch Reincliff Art Collective has recently been engaging the public in different ways.

Last week, the Chicago-based collective installed 6-foot-tall golden elephant sculptures around the city, each one emblazoned with the question, What would a Trump presidency look like?

More than 1,000 people wrote or illustrated their responses on the sculptures, which the collective declared public bulletin boards to create the opportunity to have a voice in a statement, writing that overwhelmingly, people were horrified at the idea of Trumps future presidency.

In October, the collective decorated the city with 25 gold toilets in public locations, their lids graffitied with the names of Trump surrogates and allies (Putin Was Here; David Duke Was Here).

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In a phone conversation with The Daily Beast, one of Birchs anonymous artists said theyre currently in the blueprint stages of planning more interactive, anti-Trump art (none of us expected that he would win) with the goal of forcing people to engage one another in conversation.

Giving people the opportunity to write on our elephants got them out of their echo chambers and even inspired arguments, he said, speaking on behalf of the collective and noting that posting their art online wouldnt have the same effect. So we decided our work needs to be out in public where people will actually communicate face-to-face. Its important to get people who dont agree to talk to one anotherthats the whole purpose.

He also criticized arguments in mainstream media that echo chambers exist as much on the left as they do on the right.

To say that these are equally recursive echo chambers filtering the same information isnt true, he said, adding that right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and Fox News intentionally censor facts and that the media has created a false equivalence by suggesting these echo chambers are problematic on both sides of the political spectrum.

We have to report the facts as they are and to get the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world out of their echo chambers and to start engaging in reality, he said.

Birch is currently in the early planning stages with members in New York City to launch projects there, their representative said, though he declined to reveal the total number of artists in the collective. We started out as [a group of] five, but Birch Reincliff has made a lot of new friends since then, he said, clarifying that, while its members have known each other for some time, the collective formed during the election.

Unlike China and Russia, America has long been a free society where political protesters are protected by the First Amendment.

But Trumps alignment with Putin and fascist rhetoric has led many people to believe that, once hes moved into the White House, he just might crack down on dissidents.

Its hardly surprising that people fear a Trump administration, considering that its incoming chief strategist Steve Bannon has been accused of being a white nationalist (today, he claimed he was a nationalist, who said that he hopes to build a political movement similar to Andrew Jacksons populism, referring to the Democratic president whose legacy is associated with the mass death of Native Americans).

We think hes a monster, Birch said of the president-electall the more incentive for the collective to storm cities like Chicago and New York with anti-Trump art

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