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Anish Kapoor, Steve McQueen, Laurie Anderson, Ed Ruscha, Matthew Barney, Rosalind Krauss, Hank Willis Thomas, Catherine Opie and Yinka Shonibare are among the artists, writers, musicians and curators from around the world committed to using art as a mode of resistance.
Over 200 international creatives have signed on to the global art coalition “Hands Off Our Revolution,” which implores artists of all media to channel the anger, sadness, hope and empathy ignited by present affairs into their work, providing viewers, readers and listeners with models of revolt and visions of a harmonious, peaceful future.
The initiative came together in response to recent events ― including Brexit, President Donald Trump’s election and the ongoing refugee crisis. As artist Adam Broomberg explained to The Guardian, such instances of xenophobia and populism are interrelated, and artists must join forces to tackle the larger issue together. “What is important is that it is not just seen as America’s problem, or Europe’s problem,” he said, “so we are planning shows in Mexico and Lagos.”
The coalition pledges to host events and exhibitions around the world bringing contemporary politics into the spotlight, the first of which will be announced in March.
This is the latest art world reaction to an uncertain political climate, following a recent artist petition against Trump’s immigration ban. While art certainly possesses the power to amplify marginalized voices and visualize alternate futures, many have argued that protests must extend beyond the insular echo chamber of museums and galleries to truly change minds or make a lasting impact on the lives of others.
“Hands Off” will hopefully find ways to reach past the confines of self-congratulatory, topical exhibitions to benefit those who are in need. So far, the platform seems promising, pledging to donate proceeds from upcoming shows and events to arts and activist causes building coalition. And who better to lead the impending revolution than those guided by creativity, empathy and curiosity?
As put by participating artist Yinka Shonibare: “We must all unite, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, to oppose all forms of bigotry. Populism must never be a guide to our conduct, empathy should be our guide. As artists we bear witness and we must never be silent or be silenced.”
Read the full manifesto from “Hands Off” below:
We are a global coalition affirming the radical nature of art. We believe that art can help counter the rising rhetoric of right-wing populism, fascism and the increasingly stark expressions of xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia and unapologetic intolerance.
We know that freedom is never granted ― it is won. Justice is never given ― it is exacted. Both must be fought for and protected, yet their promise has seldom been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp, as at this moment.
As artists, it is our job and our duty to reimagine and reinvent social relations threatened by right-wing populist rule. It is our responsibility to stand together in solidarity. We will not go quietly. It is our role and our opportunity, using our own particular forms, private and public spaces, to engage people in thinking together and debating ideas, with clarity, openness and resilience.
“Hands Off” is far from the only creative response to Trump’s rhetoric and policies to emerge this week. The Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, for example, announced that it will be de-installing or shrouding all artwork by immigrants, as well as any art given to the museum by immigrants, to protest Trump’s executive order barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations and blocking Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.
The Museum of the City of New York has also voiced its opinion through art, staging an exhibition called “Muslim in New York” that pays tribute to the legacy of Muslim life throughout the city’s five boroughs.
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