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An Orwell-inspired Billboard Project Considers the State of US Politics

“Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020” will present 20 artists, including Deborah Kass and Mel Chin, on 20 billboards around New York City.

Mel Chin’s billboard imagery for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020” (all images courtesy of SaveArtSpace)

In George Orwell’s 1984, the Ministry of Truth is a Panopticon propaganda machine, engaging in cultural gaslighting and misinformation that undermines the very nature of truth itself. Nowadays, we just call that the internet. In October, Art at a Time Like This Inc., in collaboration with SaveArtSpace, borrows the moniker “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020” to present 20 artists on 20 billboards around New York City, providing “a platform for artists to comment on the current state of US politics and increasing polarization just in time for the election,” according to a press release.

Marilyn Minter for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

The exhibition is curated by Barbara Pollack, Anne Verhallen, Jerome LaMaar, Carmen Hermo, Sophia Marisa Lucas, and Larry Ossei-Mensah. An open call for participants yielded nearly 1,200 submissions, and the winners from that open call, announced this week, are: Lola Flash, Angela Portillo, Akinbo Akinnouye, Rachel Hsu, Ruj Greigam, Mel Chin, Holly Martz, Terry Berkowitz, V.L. Cox, Helina Metaferia, and Ileana Hernandez.

Dread Scott for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

This cohort of applicants joins a pantheon of artists who are participating by invitation of Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen: Shirin Neshat, Dread Scott, Abigail de Ville, Marilyn Minter, Dan Perjovschi, Aaron Gilbert, Deborah Kass, Sue Coe, and Guerilla Girls BroadBand.

The project is sponsored by V. Hansmann, Jane Lombard Gallery, PPOW Gallery, Galerie St. Etienne, Guerrilla Girls, Broad Band, and Publicide Inc, with Hyperallergic as media sponsor.

Shirin Neshat for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

The upcoming billboards will be sited around the five boroughs of NYC, and a digital map will encourage viewers to take a self-guided tour to all the artworks. Inspired by the divisive and contradictory edicts of Orwell’s Ministry — and their concerning relevance to the current political situation in the United States and beyond — artists submitted ideas ranging from a bleak outlook on democracy to concerns about political rhetoric.

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