These Art Activists Held 152 Events Over Trump’s First 100 Days
100 Days Action Organizer Ingrid Rojas Contreras gives us the highlights and lessons learned from of their mega-series of creative protests.
100 Days x 100 Colors, an event by artist Surabhi Saraf celebrating diversity through a Hindu festival of colors. Photo courtesy of arun muthu photography. Images courtesy of Ingrid Rojas Contreras.
Now that Trump's first 100 days in office have come and gone, a group of artists in the Bay Area is looking back on the calendar of events they held as a counter-narrative to his 100-day plan. Featuring 152 creative occurrences, including a mock-gym for political resistance training, a workshop for sculpting objects that have been mistaken for guns, and their very own inaugural ball, 100 Days Action brought together like-minded artists from diverse artistic backgrounds to implement a wide variety of socially engaged protests.
"The art pieces that seemed to have the most transformative power for audiences were those that found ways to deeply engage with the intense emotion of the moment and transmute it into a sense of renewed agency," organizer Ingrid Rojas Contreras tells Creators.
Considering that the project was planned before Trump took office, the objectives of the 100 Days Action project naturally evolved throughout the duration of the project in reaction to political changes. "Beginning with that initial raucous event really set the tone for the whole 100-day project and signalled to all those who wanted to participate in the kind of artistic resistance we were after," says Contreras. But despite kicking off the project with a lot of energy, Contreras notes that it could be an emotional rollercoaster at times. "I watched our audience through the 100 days go from enthusiastic, bewildered anger, to news-fatigued fueled hibernation, to a more demure, unsurprised (perhaps persistent) anger and a desire to party. We changed alongside our audience, providing a lot of energy and grit in the beginning, more restorative-centered art pieces around the 50-day mark, and ending with an insistence on joy and an insistence on a celebration of difference," explains Contreras.
From Contreras' perspective, various events stood out for different reasons. Some were especially moving because of the way that they empathized with those in marginalized circumstances. For instance, Voices from San Quentin was a project that took place on Instagram and gave attention to the words of men incarcerated in the infamous California prison. Another poignant event was This Is Not a Gun, a project by Cara Levine and Amanda Eicher, which was held at the Tenderloin Museum. Participants were invited to sculpt various objects that had been mistaken for guns, including a bible, a bag of Skittles, and a pill bottle. "It was powerful in that it made the participants make and hold an object each of us has held many times before, while having a delayed raising of awareness that was absolutely devastating, much like a Trojan horse," says Contreras.
Other events were notable for their distinctly whimsical approach to serious political situations. 24 Hour Resistance was an exhibition held at the Yerba Buena Arts Center, in which a mock gymnasium was set up consisting of training stations to help visitors get into shape for resistance. "At this warm-up station for your lacrimal glands, you were invited to grate an onion, and (or for advanced gym-goers, while) reading the news. Other stations included postcard writing while bouncing on a yoga ball, an intense cardio station with two stress balls, a box of tissues, and a phone script for calling an estranged loved one with whom you had not spoken since the election. We also had a wind-down 'rest and restore' section where we included booklets of poetry we had published through the 100 days," explains Contreras.
Another project that combined absurdity with physical exercise was Liat Berdugo and Margaret McCarthy's Anti-Trump Aerobics. "It was an aerobics routine 'comprised of Trump's most common gestures' and ways in which one might try to 'block' them, with extra long red silk ties as props. One participant said afterward, 'I feel I can do anything now!' That's what it was about for us as organizers," explains Contreras.
Whether 100 Days Action actually changed anyone's mind about politics is difficult to ascertain with any certainty, but Contreras attests that the project did succeed in galvanizing the will of those involved by helping to hone their ability to take care of themselves as they continue their resistance. "For now, we are taking a much needed rest, and looking forward to reviewing the project with a little more time and space. One of the most powerful ways arts can engage in a political sphere is by reaching out to the people who have been doing the long work of community organizing and putting these artist-meet-activists in positions of leadership. One of the best things we did as an organizing group was facilitating the powerful work of others and let all our voices be a chorus," says Contreras.
See the entire calendar of events that took place throughout the 100 Days Action project and look out for upcoming developments on the project's website.