A 100-day counternarrative through art
Ingrid Rojas Contreras and Jeremiah Barber were sitting on their couch, horrified by Donald Trump’s 100-day plan.
“It occurred to us that he’s such a performative person, and that he was speaking our language in some way,” Contreras, a writer, said. “We wanted to see what it would be like if we were to do 100 days of artistic response.”
They posted a call on social media and were soon sitting in a cafe with 20 other people — some of whom they knew, all of whom gathered to explore this nascent idea to form a counternarrative.
Barber, an artist and teacher, pointed out that in that same week “there were probably a half dozen other gatherings, exact same idea — maybe not artistic necessarily, but just brainstorming, political; what are we going to do; how are we going to react.”
“I think we all felt like we were under siege,” Contreras said, “and we were just trying to figure out how our work could be a voice together.”
They’re sitting at a conference table at SOMArts Cultural Center, with three other core members of what they’ve come to call 100 Days Action. The group has formed organically, with each person contributing skills toward the project and helping to define its vision.
“The main thing was we wanted to do a calendar,” Contreras said. “That was the central idea: We want to make a calendar that is point by point a response to misogyny and xenophobia and the (proposed) Muslim ban, and all these terrible things — if we could do the exact opposite.
“Whereas the Trump plan is written to be vague and to just electrify people and flatten out meaning, art is already something that does that: It gets across nuance in a very concentrated way. So it seemed like a natural jumping point,” she said. “If we’re in a post-truth place, our only argument is an argument that is artistic.”
The core began to meet weekly; among its 15 members are an activist, an elementary school teacher, a neuroscientist and a software designer. They’ve put out a call for performances and gestures of all kinds, which they’ll feature on the website. As the 100-day plan is meant traditionally to set the stage for a president’s four-year term, the goal of 100 Days Action is to provide a means for people to find their place within a more sustained resistance.
“Trump is a storyteller, even with his tweets; he’s constantly trying to lay down plot points, I think, for future arguments,” Contreras said. “I think we have an opportunity with 100 Days to tell a different story.”
Readers can learn more about the project, and how to submit their own ideas, at https://100daysaction.net/. The first deadline is Sunday, Jan. 15.
An open meeting is scheduled for noon Saturday, Jan. 14, at Royal Nonesuch Gallery, where the project is in residence through Feb. 15. The gallery will also host the 100 Days Action Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20; anyone can take the oath of office over the book of their choice.
IF YOU GO
100 Days Action meeting: Noon Saturday, Jan. 14. Free. Royal Nonesuch Gallery, 4231 Telegraph Ave., Oakland.
Image: “Lies, Lies, Lies”: Stephanie Syjuco, fabric banner
Other book events
Why There Are Words celebrates its seventh anniversary with readings by Tamim Ansary (“Road Trips”), Rebecca Foust (“Paradise Drive”), Joan Frank (“All the News I Need”), Kate Milliken (“If I’d Known You Were Coming”), Joshua Mohr (“Sirens”), Naomi J. Wiliams (“Landfalls”) and Olga Zilberbourg, author of several books of fiction in Russian, and music by Turk & Divis (7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, Studio 333, 333 Caledonia St. Sausalito, $10). Full disclosure: I am part of Turk & Divis.
Diesel, A Bookstore presents its Fresh and Best Poetry series, with Tongo Eisen-Martin (“Someone’s Dead Already”) and Wendy Trevino (“Brazilian Is Not a Race”) (7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, 5433 College Ave., Oakland, free).
Writers With Drinks features Sara Benincasa (“Real Artists Have Day Jobs”), Jeff Chang (“We Gon’ Be Alright”), Antonio Garcia Martinez (“Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley”), Wendy C. Ortiz (“dreamoir”), Aya de Leon (“Uptown Thief”) and comedian Jennifer Dronsky, with guest host Baruch Porras Hernandez (7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., $5-$20).
Bay Area Writers Resist, in concert with an international movement and co-presented by nearly a dozen local organizations, presents an evening of readings with a lineup that includes Jane Hirshfield, Bich Minh Nguyen, D.A. Powell, Ishmael Reed, Kevin Simmonds and many others, a benefit for International Institute of the Bay Area, Southern Poverty Law Center and Transgender Law Center (7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, Starline Social Club, 2236 MLK Jr. Way, Oakland, free).