Join the #J20 Art Strike on Inauguration Day!

by Paddy Johnson on January 13, 2017 Rise Up


Come inauguration day, many New York Galleries will be closed and art websites gone dark. It’s all part of the #J20 Art Strike, which has been debated over blogs and facebook for the last month and a half. The protest would be in solidarity with the J20 General Strike, which is intended to send an economic message to Donald Trump, a leader many feel will lead us into fascism. If no one works or buys anything on that day, the economy would quickly grind to a halt. An art world strike might also address concerns many have that the culture wars will be renewed again, and federal arts funding will disappear entirely.

Critics of the strike worry we’ll be preaching to the converted, that the symbolism of closed doors to those who already feel excluded from institutions will not be effective, and that there won’t be enough participants for the action to be legible. There are also a myriad of arguments for the strike. Some believe that solidarity with other groups will create a sense of unity. Others see acts of silence being superbly effective protest actions. And others still think the visual statement of nation-wide shut down of institutions being an incredibly powerful statement.

Of all these arguments, perhaps the only one that really matters is that we achieve more unity in our fight against a President Donald Trump. I hesitate to describe Trump as being good at anything, but he has at least been successful at dividing people and distracting them from his agenda to limit the freedoms of the press, personally profiteer from the office of the president, and institute policies that threaten to undo decades of environmental and human rights progress.  We need everyone working to keep this country from falling into authoritarian rule.

Past that, it’s clear that absenceor the fear of absenceactually works. In 2012, a co-ordinated set of protests based on concerns that S.O.P.A., a bill many feared would infringe on freedom of speech, stopped the bill in its tracks. That’s because thousands of websites, including Reddit, English Wikipedia, Tumblr, Twitter, Google, Mozilla, WordPress (and AFC!) shut down their sites or participated by making the campaign more visible in some way. We can do that too.

It is important to participate in this strike. It will bring like-minded concerned citizens together and will be felt across the country. Additionally, I don’t see the benefit in questioning the importance of anything that could strategically undermine Trump. So, to those critics who want fear absence won’t be enough, I hear you. But don’t let those reservations curb any effort you can offer, however small, to bring attention to the protest. We may not have your hands, but we still need your voice.

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