It’s fun to make things, especially when you’re making something beautiful. And especially when you’re making change. And god knows the political stage could use a change of scene. For everyone, these days have been a time of seeing and believing, and understanding that you maybe misunderstood the America you were living in all this time. The cruelty unleashed against migrants of all backgrounds, the demonization of black and brown communities, and the ever-widening polarization of America under TRump--to many, it’s a painful sign of what many of us never noticed or refused to see for years.
To survive these surreal days, people around the world are coming together, as CultureStrike co-founder Jeff Chang says, “not to despair, but to create.” In the Bay Area, a collective of artists have pooled their inspirations into a sort of advent calendar to help them and their communities persist and find solidarity and mutual aid as they try to resist Trump.
In their 100 Days of Action, they’re rolling out, day by day, acts of resistance. It’s a long struggle, after all, and we should pace ourselves. According to their manifesto, they’ve taken inspiration from artists who have responded to moments of crisis with creativity, and put out a “call to artists, activists, and writers to contribute instructional texts, take part in public performances, and make public works. The festival will be an exercise in endurance and a call for sustained engagement and action to all bodies that stand for an inclusive and expansive society so at odds with the Trump plan.”
The mission is simple: in an age of “alternative facts,” against Trump’s dank midnight tweets, they’re amplifying the screams of outrage and choruses of transcendance that are erupting across the country. And although Trump’s hate-filled rhetorical charlatanism does penetrate deeply into a deep rot in the body politic, those seeking a higher truth look to these 100 Days to remind us at harmonious intervals that no matter how much misery we see unfolding around us, we’re ultimately surrounded by something bigger, bolder, and more worthy of hope. Lies are swirling left and right, but periodically something gorgeous bobs to the surface.
The Alternative Inaugural Ceremony revived American carnage with a carnival of carnal revelry
Of course, even freewheeling Bay area artivist utopias need some rules, so the team does have a plan to “stage” and broadcast actions both online and in public and private space, partnering with community institutions like the Yerba Buena Arts Center, Southern Exposure, Center for Sex and Culture, and the project’s main home base, Royal Nonesuch Gallery in Oakland. The first week has been a veritable cornucopia of radical imagination. They launched the project the same day as Trump launched his presidency, with a grand inaugural ball:
The next day, 100 Days featured the “No Scrubs” contingent at the San Francisco Women’s March, where the emblems of hypermasculinity were inverted, playfully, with a blend of ritual humiliation and unencumbered feminist rage. They got’em where it hurts.
And what would an anti-Trump festival be without a crowdsourced DIY exhibit of Trump makeovers? You can download a template to remake your own mock Trump. As the project’s coordinator Barbara Bryn Klare explains, it’s a political correction for the unpolitically correct: “If we can’t have an actual ‘do-over,’ participants get a chance to vent–artistically–using our b+w Trump sketch as a starting point.”
And for those who desire a daily affirmation via fake news, consider partaking in the punk version of “alternative facts”, reassembling the day’s headlines into a radical subversive bricolage.
Or write an activist #loveletter back to Chelsea Wills, who pens daily missives of love to Trump hate.
Artists can find some solace in one undeniable truth: this presidency is culturally bankrupt. Trump’s campaign traded in rank stereotypes and cheap one-liners, his inauguration ceremony--euphemistically dubbed “low key” compared to Obama’s pop cultural bonanza--was festooned with chintzy Nashvegas anthems and plastic flowers of white womanhood. As a reality-TV mogul, Trump is, arguably, the biggest cultural figure ever to grace the Oval Office. And yet, he represents a virtual vacuum of artistic imagination. And this isn’t just a matter of high versus low culture. He appears to take the same attitude toward the arts as he does toward science, with plans to gut federal funding for arts and cultural programs while privatizing the most vital public trusts.
As we go forth with this 100-Day March through America’s slow descent into chaos, know this: Trump may seem larger than life, but for all his colorful iconography as a politician, he is, at the end of the day, a very tiny man behind the thinnest of curtains. As Trump’s mask slips, we see nothing to fear but fear itself.