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Still of an animated web banner created by British artist Mark Titchner for the global project Hands Off Our Revolution.

Artists Launch Global Art Project to Confront the Rise of Right-Wing Populism

More than two hundred artists, musicians, writers, and arts professionals from forty countries have pledged to take part in Hands Off Our Revolution, a global art project that will organize a series of exhibitions and other programming to confront the rise of right-wing populism around the world.

According to its mission statement, Hands Off Our Revolution is an art coalition that will create radical art to “help counter the rising rhetoric of right-wing populism, fascism, and the increasingly stark expressions of xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia, and unapologetic intolerance.” It continues, “We know that freedom is never granted—it is won. Justice is never given—it is exacted. Both must be fought for and protected, but both have never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp, as at this moment.”

Hands Off Our Revolution kicked off on Thursday, February 16, with an animated web banner by British artist Mark Titchner that reads: “Hands off our borders; Hands off our water; Hands off our air; Hands off our land; Hands off our cities; Hands off our homes; Hands off our planet; Hands off our bodies; Hands off our health; Hands off our justice; Hands off our friends; Hands off our families; Hands off our loves; Hands off our lives.” Among the artists participating in the project are John Akomfrah, Laurie Anderson, Tammam Azzam, Yto Barrada, Sophie Calle, Olafur Eliasson, Okwui Enwezor, Douglas Gordon, Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge, Steve McQueen, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Ed Ruscha, Hito Steyerl, and Wolfgang Tillmans.

“We artists are united in our mission to counter small-minded prejudice,” Kapoor said. “Our art affirms our humanity and we insist on inclusion of all and for all. We call for action by people of good conscience to stand against the abhorrent policies of the governments that claim to represent us.”

The project’s inaugural programming will be announced on March. It will spotlight the rise of right-wing populism in the US, Europe, and elsewhere, bringing into view statements, questions, and reflections on the state of today. Taking place in central art institutions and alternative spaces around the world, the exhibitions and projects will bring together artists who critically and imaginatively engage with the complexities of today’s political and social realities and encourage us to reflect more profoundly on the world in which we want to live.

Hal Foster, a theoretician and art historian at Princeton University, said, “I signed on to the coalition for many reasons, but above all for one—its insistence on the radical nature of art. It is time for artists, critics, and academics to push back, hard, from the left, and to summon up, as they do so, past moments when cultural practice was animated by leftist politics and vice versa. At these moments art was more than a luxury commodity, a celebrity scene, a scandal topic, and it can be so again.”

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