I, like millions of Americans, was disgusted by the outcome of the election. Most of the time we focus so hard on exhortations to our fellow countrymen to be better people that it feels very ugly to consider that maybe they don’t have better. And what we wanted was better.
Children who are well able to think for themselves and don’t need to fear-mongering from their blue-bleeding parents cried when a man won that was endorsed by the KKK was elected, or a vice-president who helped push some of the most anti-LBGT legislation in the country in Indiana, coincidentally also the birthplace of the KKK.
Kids from my camp that come from every background imaginable and know for a fact that their families now have confirmation that they are correct in how inhuman they view them. Transgender students that fear for their safety because of having the highest authority so embraced by destructive and milky-white hyper-hetero-masculinity.
It seems that we are living through a difficult time. How do we save ourselves? Art.
Do I think that Donald Trump has the faintest regard for or capacity to understand art that is not a painting of himself?
No, and for a few days, it felt like it was possible he had killed the artist in me. It felt that it was possible that disgust for my country, disgust for perverse values, and hopelessness in the face of hate could be enough to drown out my artistic voice.
But the artist’s voice is not like other ones, and refuses to die.
We will make art regardless, because art is a response to power, and art is power in the face of the absurd.
The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.” – Gertrude Stein, Midnight in Paris
I am reminded of an exhibit that I saw at Palazzo Vecchio when I was in Florence, Italy. It centered on Spanish painters and their work before, during, and after the Spanish Civil War. Tableaus of shipwrecked men and clowns with sinister realism dominated the art that became darker by the day. Picasso created one of his darkest pieces, La Guernica, which was about the merciless bombing of a basque country village in Northern Spain.
These painters felt pain, they felt disillusionment, they felt powerlessness. But they did not stop, because none of those things precludes or prohibits art. Some of the brightest lights come from the darkest rooms.
And none of those things stop us from passing that crucial knowledge on to the world that we live in and the world that we leave behind us. This should be a lesson to all that works should never be created without pain, beauty should never reside far from horror, and hope never too far from hate.
Art is a response to power, and art is power in the face of the absurd.
This is what we will create in order to get out. We do not run or even walk. We crawl out of the depths and limitations of history and human empathy, we will crawl along the ground steadfastly, snatching up the crumbs of justice wherever we can have them, because we will never die.
We will make art that makes us laugh and cry and scream and think. We will create art that challenges the world to love and hate us. We will upend tradition, and we will exceed norms. We will celebrate human diversity to represent ever more than the small America that resides inside a man’s small imagination. We will rise to the challenge of raising or teaching children with love in a world that has never held any love for them, and teach them that when they find themselves in the powerful void, it’s best to light a match. We will be the guardians of culture, criticism, satire, and beauty, and look to youth to take over when the world is born once more.
We will shake power and rattle authority, because that’s what we’re here for. And there is nothing that he can do to stop that.
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Photographer: Eunbyul Sabrina Lee