O Say Can You See

Two-hundred-forty years after it was formally adopted as our country’s flag, the star-spangled banner is a no less potent symbol of our uniquely multifaceted, at times confusing national identity. Such is the nature of flags, which are simple but provocative signifiers of resistance and surrender, unity and division.

Beginning today—Flag Day, fittingly—Creative Time taps into the power and possibilities of flags with their new project Pledges of Allegiance. Conceived by writer Alix Browne, the arts non-profit commissioned 16 artists—including Alex Da Corte, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Robert Longo, Vik Muniz, Yoko Ono, Pedro Reyes, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Nari Ward—to design one-of-a-kind flags that speak to our current political climate. The flags will be flown one at a time for roughly one month each from the roof of Creative Time’s downtown New York headquarters. The organization has even offered to send copies of the flags to cultural institutions across the country, so they can fly concurrently. 

“I think everyone would agree that the political climate is not only stifling but terrifying,” says Nato Thomspon, Creative Time’s artistic director. “But rather than being reactive, we wanted to be proactive. And rather than talk about what we don’t believe in, we want to talk about what we do believe in.”

Earlier this morning they raised the first in the series: RESIST FLAG by Marilyn Minter, which spells out RESIST in rainbow-hued letters. (It had originally flown on a roof in Midtown as part of a separate installation, but was taken down for permit issues, though there were rumors of censorship.) Some of the flags are overtly political, like LaToya Ruby Frazier’s FLINT, 1,105 Days and Counting Man-Made Water Crisis, while others, such as Vik Muniz’s Diaspora Flag—a cloud set against blue sky—are less literal.

“Some are dreamy,” Thompson says. “I think we need space for clouds and dreaming, the right to not be obsessed with Trump.”

All of the flags will be auctioned off starting today, with proceeds supporting Creative Time’s programming. In the age of imperiled government arts funding, this, too, is a radical act.