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Billboard on Highway 80 outside Pearl, Mississippi. Photo: ForFreedoms
Billboard on Highway 80 outside Pearl, Mississippi. Photo: ForFreedoms

Four Freedoms on a billboard

Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.

Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The first artist-run super PAC (Political Action Committee), For Freedoms, has raised a billboard in Pearl, Mississippi, displaying the President-elected slogan Make America Great Again over an iconic photograph of the Civil Rights Movement, taken in 1965 by Spider Martin and titled Two Minute Warning.

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Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.

Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The first artist-run super PAC (Political Action Committee), For Freedoms, has raised a billboard in Pearl, Mississippi, displaying the President-elected slogan Make America Great Again over an iconic photograph of the Civil Rights Movement, taken in 1965 by Spider Martin and titled Two Minute Warning.

The reactions facing the polemic image haven’t wasted a second and are overcrowding the social media. They tend to focus on the irresolute confusion that emerges from questioning the political commitment of the Artistic Collective, assuming that they are actually supporting the new commander in chief.

On a state with a wide record on racial divisiveness – Mississippi – such bulldozer image, especially in the middle of the public pace, couldn’t go unnoticed.

The Governor Phil Bryant has replied emphatically and openly against the manifest, arranging its dismantlement with Lamar, the advertising enterprise.

For Freedoms it’s an artistic collective that has found shelter under the legal model of PAC - that allows a funding organization either supporting or against any political party or candidate, according to the Federal Election Campaign Act.

According to this legislation, any organization becomes PAC when receives or spends more than $2,600 with the purpose of affecting a federal election, and depends upon the federal electoral laws.

The For Freedoms movement has made their mission explicit: “encouraging new forms of critical discourse surrounding the upcoming 2016 presidential election. Our medium for this project is American democracy, and our mission is to support the effort to reshape it into a more transparent and representative form”.

Founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, For Freedom represents a cornerstone in the artistic political commitment, echoing punctual and aisled manifestations.

The debate around the boundaries between arts and politics it’s nothing new. Clement Greenberg (New York 1909 – New York 1994) was one of the fiercest critics of politically committed art, and a great number of the abstractionists where as well.

But After WWII, art couldn’t disassociate itself that easily from politics.

During the 21st Century, the harshness of the reality has manifest itself as a unique source of discourses and art, in words of Lucy Lippard, has become its relief valve.

Therefore, since the multiple narratives that came after 9/11th, it’s the culminating Presidential Election what has served as a commodity for a new artistic urgency.

This is the phenomenon that For Freedoms seeks to address, reformulating the Franklin D. Roosevelt speech Four Freedoms, on the basis of a rockwellian nostalgia for a “simpler America”, out of a visual language.

Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear, are the missives of the President’s speech that are being reformulated from the headquarters of the first artist-run PAC in history.

In this political limbo, much of society is looking on hesitantly from the sidelines, urging new narratives and new critical platforms that seem to be the order of the day.

As a comeback to the interpretations that have arisen from their last intervention in Mississippi, For Freedoms have manifested that “what we’re trying to do is use art to provoke people to talk about these things and bring them to a different kind of conversation, one that goes beyond symbolic gestures of what America is supposed to stand for”, said Eric Gottesman, according to CNN.

This is a simply rhetoric questioning and the reactions coming from it are merely approving its manifesto. What does Make America Great Again really means? This is the question that For Freedoms pretend to bring to the table.

This is a key moment, not only for the United States but also for the entire world. The speed of the technological development and the mass media seem to overlap the reflection and criticism channels, transforming art not only into a necessary tool, but an urgent one.

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