Nari Ward’s Breathing Flag, 2017. Photo: Creative Time

Creative Time Raises Nari Ward’s Breathing Flag

This morning, the New York–based nonprofit Creative Time raised Nari Ward’s Breathing Flag in tandem with four other cultural organizations across the nation. The flag is part of the organization’s series “Pledges of Allegiance,” comprising sixteen commissioned flags that address the country’s current political climate.

“We realized we needed a space to resist that was defined not in opposition to a symbol, but in support of one, and so we created a permanent space,” Creative Time artistic director Nato Thompson said. “The flag seemed an ideal form to build that space around both practically and symbolically.”

Ward’s Breathing Flag references both Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association flag and an African prayer symbol known as a Congolese Cosmogram, which represents birth, life, death, and rebirth. The hole patterns depicted on the upper-left corner of the flag can also be found in some of the oldest African American churches in the country, such as the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia. The holes were drilled into the floorboards of the house of worship so that slaves escaping the South on the Underground Railroad could breathe while hiding underneath. “The union of that moment and of Garvey’s black nationalist flag acknowledge the resilience of the human spirit to survive even as we continue the need to remind America that Black Lives Matter,” Ward said in a statement.

The flag is also flying above New York’s Queens Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, North Carolina’s 21c Museum Hotel, and the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. Other artists participating in the project include Tania Bruguera, Alex Da Corte, Jeremy Deller, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ann Hamilton, Robert Longo, Josephine Meckseper, Marilyn Minter, Vik Muniz, Jayson Musson, Ahmet Ögüt, Yoko Ono, Trevor Paglen, Pedro Reyes, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.