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Maysoun Wazwaz takes a presidential oath to "faithfully execute her role as Boss Lady of the United States" in front of "judge" and artist Jeremiah Barber at the Royal Nonesuch Gallery at the Inauguration Ball on Friday, January 20, 2017. (Photo courtesy of 100 days Action-Victoria Heilweil)

100 Days Action: Oakland artists respond to Trump’s presidency

on January 31, 2017

On January 21, a cloudy and rainy Inauguration Day, the wet streets in downtown Oakland were filled with chants, signs, and hundreds of people marching down Broadway Avenue. People yelled out: “Not my president!” People hugged. People cried. And 3,000 miles away, the White House welcomed the 45th president: Donald J. Trump.

In Oakland, a collective of 15 artists, who were previously complete strangers to one another, are expressing their reaction to the new Trump presidency through a different kind of protest, an art project they are calling 100 Days Action. The project is meant to be an artistic counter-narrative to Trump’s first 100 days in office. It will feature one daily artistic response to Trump’s presidency, from January 21 to April 29. The first 100 days of a presidency in the United States are considered crucial to political watchers; they become an example of the successes and accomplishments of a president at the time that their power and influence is at its greatest.

The project began as a Facebook event organized by Ingrid Rojas and Jeremiah Barber, calling for members of the art community to respond with a series of artworks that shed light to topics like the environment, public education, health and the welfare of minority groups.

Unlike other exhibits, 100 Days Action does not only live in traditional gallery spaces—instead it exists in time. Artists from anywhere in the world with proposals can email and ask for a day on the calendar for their art projects. The curating team will review the submissions and contact artists to arrange a time slot, not an exhibit space. “We wanted to create a form where the things that we are doing have meaningful impact for people, and in order to do that we needed to propose something that was larger,” said Barber.

Some of the works already featured on their Instagram site include “The Great Trump Makeover” by artists Barbara Bryn Klare and Janet Bogardus, which prompts people to download a Trump cartoon sketch, decorate his face, and submit their own sketch on social media using the hashtag #100daysaction. Some of the drawings already submitted include portraits of Trump dressed like a blond girl with a pink bow, or with a long nose like Pinocchio, and one picture of a trash can.

Another project is called “My Immigrant Route” by artist Lizania Cruz. It asks people to share on social media a photo of the first immigrant who brought their family name to the United States. Participant Jennifer Wofford shared on Facebook a photograph of her Filipino family: three women and two men pose for a family portrait on a sunny day in Guam, circa 1955. The photograph is shot on color film and printed on glossy paper, showing signs of its old age with a tear in the middle. Along with the photo, Wofford shared that while she doesn’t carry the names of her Filipino maternal grandparents, “I am immensely proud of this aspect of my heritage. My mother is my direct connection to immigration; we all have an immigrant story.”

But some artwork also lives in Oakland at the Royal Nonesuch gallery. Some artworks currently on view include Jenny Odell’s “Flowers for Mr. Trump,” a digital print that reads “Flowers for Mr. Trump” made of flowers, and Katina Papson-Rigby’s “100 Days Action, Values Vault, 100 Days Action/ How will you Resist,” which a vault is mounted on the wall and visitors are invited to write down what you value most on her own design of a deposit slip and keep it safe in the vault. In one year, Papson-Rigby will call/email you to revisit your slip and to have a conversation about whether or not your values have stayed the same, changed, or have been compromised. The gallery is also exhibiting a “presidential” podium that was used to make a video broadcast live on social media that asked citizens to propose their own presidential oath at the “Inauguration of the People, by the People” on January 21.

A closing reception for these artworks will be held on February 11.

Galleries in other cities are also taking part, like the Walter Maciel Gallery in Los Angeles, which is exhibiting “With Liberty and Justice for Some” co-curated by Monica Lundy and Walter Maciel. The exhibition includes the work of over 100 artists who have each contributed an 8 by 8 inch portrait of an immigrant. These were installed together in a formation depicting the American flag.

“100 Days Action is a direct response to Trump’s 100 Day plan,” said Maysoun Wazwaz, curator and co-coordinator of 100 Days Action. “It’s almost like an eye for an eye. Every day that Trump works on policy that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-science, etc, we will respond with the counter-narrative. This is our protest. This is everyone’s protest.”

Among Trump’s efforts in his first nine days of his presidency are imposing a hiring freeze on some federal employees to reduce the federal workforce through attrition, announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and lifting some roadblocks that may allow the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline projects to move forward.

100 Days Action has an ongoing call for proposals on their website with four rolling deadlines: Jan 15, Feb 10, March 10, and April 10. Proposals are reviewed by a curatorial committee—Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Surabhi Saraf, Katina Papson-Rigby and Maysoun Wazwaz—who are also art educators in mediums ranging from writing to sculpture, painting and videography.

Other suggested projects on the 100 Days Action calendar include “banner making for protests, writing and calling your congress people, senators, and representatives from other states as an action, raising money for an organization that is at risk of being federally defunded,” said Wazwaz. “With that said, it may not be physically possible to protest for the first 100 days, let alone every day of the next four years. 100 Days Action hopes to inspire people that even small actions can make a difference.”

Other small actions that can be taken include writing a love letter (100 Love letters), something anyone can do from home.

“Some of the works represent actions an individual is taking on their own. So perhaps instead of it being an event with a place and time and location, it’s a prompt for you to take action as well,” said Wazwaz. “For example, The New Urban Naturalists have proposed 100 Days of Gratitude, which is writing a note of gratitude and translating it into another language.”

The 100 Days Action calendar of each new daily released up until April 29 is here.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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