“RESIST.” So reads a flag now fluttering in downtown New York over the offices of Creative Time, an institution devoted to “art in the public realm” with more than four decades of history behind it. Made by Marilyn Minter, with letters dripping in iridescent hues redolent of her style, the flag is one of many scheduled to fly in the service of “Pledges of Allegiance,” a new year-long project for which 16 artists designed banners to fly in protest. Other participating artists include Tania Bruguera, Alex Da Corte, Jeremy Deller, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ann Hamilton, Robert Longo, Josephine Meckseper, Vik Muniz, Jayson Musson, Ahmet Ögüt, Yoko Ono, Trevor Paglen, Pedro Reyes, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Nari Ward.
“We live in a very dark political time, bombarded by bad news every morning, so it’s important for people not to feel outnumbered by bad ideas,” Nato Thompson, Creative Time’s artistic director, told ARTnews. “We can produce a community and we can resist, collectively.”
“Pledges of Allegiance” was originally conceived by writer/editor Alix Browne in collaboration with Cian Browne, Fabienne Stephan, and the fashion enterprise Opening Ceremony. Creative Time’s interest traces back in part to the removal of Minter’s “RESIST” flag from the top of Lever House in Manhattan, where it had been raised in May as an element of a group exhibition titled “Midtown.” (The flag was reportedly removed, according to exhibition organizers, because of issues relating less to its message and more to federal flag-flying regulations and the lack of a permit, but nonetheless . . .)
“I didn’t think flying a flag was the most politically provocative thing to do,” Thompson said, “but when it got removed I thought, ‘My God, is this the situation we’re in, where we cave under the most simple pressure?’ We’ve got bigger pressure coming.”
A new 12-foot flagpole was constructed—on a rooftop at 59 East 4th St., just above Creative Time’s headquarters—specially for the occasion.
“We will not be taking that thing down no matter what,” Thompson said of Minter’s banner. “It’s a call for artists to stick their neck out. I think everyone is really gun-shy. We can privately say we’re frustrated by the political situation and think it’s a disaster, but who’s willing to stick their neck out? That’s a different question.”
Other flags to fly over the course of the next year vary in terms of subject matter. “There’s an emotional range,” Thompson said. A flag by Vik Muniz is emblazoned with a cloud (“it appeals to a certain sense of dreaminess we all need to reserve mental and emotional space for,” Thompson said), while another by Jeremy Deller reads “Don’t worry, be angry.” LaToya Ruby Frazier’s flag addresses the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, while Nari Ward’s alludes to Marcus Garvey.
The hope is that other cultural institutions will join as hosts for the same flags. “We will hoist it up from our roof,” Thompson said of the first flag by Minter, “and then we’ll be reaching out to cultural institutions across the country. We’ll go fishing for institutions to join us.”
As for the confluence of events surrounding the project’s inauguration at its new home—June 14 is both Flag Day and the birthdate of President Donald Trump—Thompson described the connections as “extraordinarily mesmerizing.”
“The evil magic never ends,” he said. “It’s inexhaustible.”