Mourning After: Badlands Unlimited

WE KEEP GETTING CALLS AND EMAILS AT THE OFFICE, TELLING US “IT’S COMPLICATED.” They say we don’t “understand them.” Be “reasonable” they say. The more ambitious ones go on to explain that while there were definitely voters who acted on racist, misogynist, and xenophobic instincts, most voted simply out of the sense that their economic hardships were being ignored.

This is when we hang up. Or turn on the vacation responder. (Paul told us to.) If we could engage, we’d tell them that they’re right, and that’s why they’re wrong. They’re right that many voted for Trump because they believe he spoke about their economic plight. But Trump won by explicitly connecting their economic plight to the rise of nonwhites and women. Racism, xenophobia, and misogyny are economic issues because those who voted for Trump believe their economic wellbeing depends upon a dominant, white, Protestant, male, hetero, social order that exploits minorities, women, and immigrants to thrive. No one we know who is not white has ever been able to disassociate their race, sex, or ethnicity from their economic wellbeing. No one at the Badlands office can. No one in any office can. People voted for Trump not in spite of his hate, but because they believed racism, xenophobia, and misogyny were economic agendas worth pursuing.

Paul says it’s a waste of time talking to Vichy Americans. He says the question of how complicated the situation is, to him, is not an epistemological one: It’s a political one. And maybe also a question of courage. He says he thinks Dietrich Bonhoeffer had this in mind when he made the decision to no longer abide by how “complex” the situation was in the 1930s. We don’t know who that is either.

But we know it’s not complicated. It’s pretty simple, actually. That’s why we wrote this last weekend:

“New No’s”

Photo: Daniel Leyva.

Founded by Paul Chan in 2010, Badlands Unlimited publishes e-books, paper books, and artist works in digital and print forms.

For our special focus on art and politics in the November 2016 issue of Artforum, subscribe or read online at