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Marilyn Minter: "Your Generation is Waking Up to How Fragile Democracy Is"

Was it censorship? The artist and activist on moving her "Resist" flag for Creative Time to a different flagpole.

Thessaly  La Force

Thessaly La Force

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In the beginning of May, a flag emblazoned with the word "Resist" was raised on the flagpole in front of Park Avenue's Casa Lever in midtown. Aby Rosen, the real-estate tycoon and art collector, owns the building, and had given permission to the New York gallery Salon94 to hoist it below the American flag that flies there everyday.

A few hours later, it was taken down.

Immediately, questions of censorship arose. But it turns out that there are strict regulations on flag flying, especially when alongside the American flag—and the "Resist" flag, designed by artist and activist Marilyn Minter, did not have the necessary permit. "It's not a statement about the work," said a spokesperson to ArtNet News for RFR, the Aby Rosen-run real estate company that owns the Lever House. "It's literally a flag/banner violation."

On June 14, Creative Time launched "Pledges of Allegiance," a project born out of the current political climate, in which 16 artists flags, including Minter's, were commissioned by the nonprofit arts organization. Artists such as Yoko Ono, Trevor Paglen, Vik Muniz, Robert Longo, and LaToya Ruby Frazier participated, and throughout the summer, their flags will be seen across New York City.

Still, as a false start, it isn't encouraging.

"Your generation, I want to be with you," Minter explained by phone earlier this week on why she made the flag. "I think your generation is waking up to how fragile democracy is right now." She based the flag on her work with water condensation on glass panes (see the below video). "I was trying to go for red, white, and blue," she said of the colors. "It's just something I do."


Marilyn Minter | Unite/Resist, 2017 from Salon 94 on Vimeo.

Was the resist flag meant to subvert the dominant imagery that exists in media? "I'm not doing that. Artists, we work in terms of multiple readings," Minter told me. "I make my art, and I make my propaganda. I did Act Up in the 90s. I'm taking my cues from the gay marriage movement, which was to constantly challenge the status quo, and get your face out there, and not be ashamed. Eventually, the tide changed. I think we should take our cues from positivity. I want people to put resist posters in their apartments or college campuses. I want it to be everywhere. It speaks volumes. That's where artists try to go: you want multiple reads, you want ambiguity. You don't want to tell people what to think."

Since Minter's flag was taken down, Creative Time has erected its own flagpole on East 4th Street, where "Resist" will fly for a month, followed by other flags made for the project. "We realized we needed a space to resist that was defined not in opposition to a symbol, but in support of one, and so we created a permanent safe space for our flags to fly," said Nato Thompson, Creative Time Artistic Director.

Below, a few more flags from the Creative Time project:

Robert Longo's "Untitled (Dividing Time)" (2017). Courtesy of Creative Time.
Yoko Ono's "Imagine Peace" (2017). Courtesy of Creative Time.
Vik Muniz's "Diaspora Cloud" (2017). Courtesy of Creative Time.