The Editors of ARTnews for Mutual Art - 17 January 2017
A billboard created by the artist-run super PAC For Freedoms is being installed inside MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens. The billboard, which measures a sprawling 36 by 10.5 feet, will be officially on view as of this coming Friday, January 20,and marks the beginning of an artist residency at PS1 for the artist-run initiative For Freedoms that will last through the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
The billboard is the one that the For Freedoms super PAC, which was founded last year by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, put up last fall on Highway 80 outside Pearl, Mississippi, showing Donald Trump’s phrase “Make America Great Again” against the backdrop of a famous photograph of the “Bloody Sunday” march led by Martin Luther King on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. It went up two weeks before the US presidential election, and came down two weeks after it.
Speaking by phone, For Freedoms co-founder Gottesman told ARTnews that the artist-run initiative For Freedoms had started conversations with PS1 last fall. The residency is called “Laboratory for Freedom,” and will include “talks, events, town hall meetings, installations that try to figure out what For Freedoms does next.”
“We spent last year in the lead-up to the election developing this vehicle we didn’t know we would need,” Gottesman said. “We need it now more than we thought we might. The question is, what do we do with it.” He emphasized that the residency is “not an exhibition. It’s an evolving organic conversation we will have amongst ourselves and in the galleries and in public space.”
In placing Trump’s campaign slogan on top of an image of one of the most violent civil rights confrontations in history, the billboard caused tension while it was on view in Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant was quoted saying “It’s disappointing that this group would use this image as an attempt to divide the country.”