Swimming Against the Tide

Writing OUR Story.

I’ve been getting ready for the Protest Sign Work Party at SOHO20 on Tuesday, as well as my submission to 100 Days Action. As I’ve brainstormed messages and actions I’d like to see in the world, I’ve been thinking about these wise words from Just Seeds:

The more we represent [Trump]—no matter in what light—the more we re-inscribe him with power. Instead, focus on graphics that support the social movements that existed before Trump and will be fighting to exist after he is long gone.

This is from their Inaugurating Resistance call for graphics. Their statement of principles is worth sharing:

It is enticing to want to use his image to belittle him, but no matter how successful we are at doing that, ultimately we’re still left with another picture of him. This sets him up as the center of our visual dialog, and makes it even harder to imagine our world without his toxic presence. This is even true—if to a lesser extent—when we play off and reproduce catch phrases and language.

We existed before him, and we are fighting to exist after he is gone. We need to create a graphic front of refusal. Those of us with the skills and resources to design and produce it have a responsibility to do so. We have a responsibility to force into the public consciousness the things we WANT. … We have to fight the incoming administration and their agenda, but not at the expense of the power we were already building. We will only stop the machine when our movements get stronger.

…we want—and need—to focus on building people’s power.

I’m trying to extend this thinking to how I focus my attention and efforts.

Bad news is available daily in unlimited quantities. I’ve been thinking about it as a river current; pervasive negativity will carry you downstream if you let it. Sometimes you have to swim to stay in the same place. What is the counteraction? How do you preserve psychological wellbeing?

I am trying to craft my own news feed, and inundate it with the individuals and organizations building people power with resolve and exuberance. It’s like making a daily mood board and the mood is “F*** YEAH.” (Insisting on optimism is challenging for some; I think it’s worth remembering that the human mind is over-attuned to the negative, so intentionally focusing on the positive is a movement towards balance.)

Here’s what I’d put on my “F*** YEAH” board:

The Amplifier Foundation-supported posters for the Women’s March

Stephanie Syjuco’s Reap What You Sew banners

Writers organizing:

Theatre folk organizing: Action 1/19 at 5:30 pm in front of theaters across the US. (At first glance it looks like a selfie meme but the action kit is a well-thought-out how to intended to kick off further organization.)

Queens Museum’s Sign of the Times event: The museum is closing for ArtStrike on 1/20 but open for poster-making. Lots of partners involved. Taking a stand, holding space, and forging alliances… Fantastic.


Inaugurating Resistance, Creativity, and Self-Determination

[Updated 1/13/2017]

If you want to make things happen in this democracy this month and beyond, there’s lots to do.

Christine Wong Yap, Strike!, 2017, ink/digital. Preview of a forthcoming project, available as a downloadable graphic for protest under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

Christine Wong Yap, Strike!, 2017, ink/digital, dimensions variable. Detail of a forthcoming project, available as a downloadable graphic (PDF, 22kb) for protest under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

When I attended an upstander training last month, it was really emotional for me to say, in unison with others, “You belong here. We all belong here.” It was a fraught, and powerful, thing to say. We have to keep saying it, and backing it up with actions.

I’m heartened to see that the disbelief and grief have not led to pessimistic apathy. Instead, many are mobilizing to protect our democracy from hate-mongering billionaire conservatives.

Rights are not won nor defended easily. If we let our vulnerabilities limit us, we’ll never know the extent of our capabilities.

I’m happy to use my modest platform to spread the word about these opportunities for enacting our agency…

January 8:

January 14:

  • Rolling for the People: Self-defense, wrestling-coloring, and an ACLU fundraiser. 3x power: Oakland + Women + Jiu-jitsu.

January 14–15:

What is a propaganda party? It’s where we invite dozens of organizations, activists, designers, and artists producing materials around a political issue to hang out, meet each other, and distribute their flyers, stickers, posters, buttons, and more. All propaganda is FREE, and we encourage all to come by, grab a drink, and load up on as many posters and stickers they can carry.

BTW, Just Seeds has just added my solidarity poster to their database of downloadable graphics! I love Just Seeds’ statement of affirmation. We have to take the long view; recognize the freedom fighters whose shoulders we might stand on, and consider the responsibility to carry on the work.

We will be avoiding art with an explicit focus on Trump and his catchphrases. The more we represent him—no matter in what light—the more we re-inscribe him with power. Instead, we’re focusing on supporting the social movements that existed before Trump and will be fighting with us and for us long after he is long gone.

  • First 100 Days: United in Resistance @ PICA (Portland ICA, Portland OR). Numerous friends and allies, including make things (happen) artists and the fab c:3 initiative, are participating. PICA will host the first in a series of workshops on organizing, safety, and protest to encourage the resistance to the Trump regime. Artist organized by: Julie Perini, Sharita Towne, Ryan Pierce, Jodi Darby, Erin Yanke, Roger Peet, Amy Harwood, Esther Forbyn, Patricia Vazquez, and others with support from c3:initiative, Mississippi Records, and PICA.

January 17:

  • Protest Sign Work Party @ SOHO20, 6–9pm. I’m co-hosting this “informal protest sign-making work party, where we will share ideas and design tools.” Let’s make protest signs that are legible and memorable. I’m looking forward to dialogues, message brainstorming, and fun hand-lettering.
  • Resist Government Sachs. Actions taking place at Goldman Sachs, 200 West Street, NYC at 3pm.

Inauguration Day/January 20:

  • J20 General Strike. In case you don’t know, a general strike invites everyone to strike—no business, no work, no school. There are marches planned in multiple cities.
  • J20 Art Strike. Not sure that artists and cultural institutions need to distinguish from a general strike, but in any case, strike. No business as usual. The right to assemble is part of the First Amendment for a reason.
  • Not My President silent action in Washington DC
  • Wall of Song Project goes live with its inauguration iteration. It’s the project of Bay Area artists Michael Namkung and Mel Day—a massed singing of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” to “mark this moment with something both permeable and powerful.” Submit your video by January 14 for the first version, or during the first 100 days for a larger version.

January 21:

  • Women’s March on Washington. They’re having a call for art, due tomorrow, January 8 at 2pm. (I have reservations about calls that violate NO-SPEC principles, but maybe it’s for you if you already have suitable graphics in their required dimensions.)

First 100 Days/January 20–April 29:

  • 100 Days Actiona counter-narrative to Trump’s one hundred day plan. A calendar of activist and artistic strategy, 100 Days Action is a call to thinkers, artists, and writers to propose gestures that can be carried out either at home or in the world. Many of my artist-friends in the Bay Area are organizing this effort. It’s a chance to be creative and enact some much-needed poetry in the world. Submit here; the first review is on January 15, with more dates following.

With my 1,000-balloon project and interest in happiness, I enjoyed learning about this UK artist’s project. It’s cool, ambitious, and experimental. And it’s about challenging fears. Welcome, 2017.

Noëmi Lakmaier, Cherophobia, 2016, a 48-­hour durational living installation with 20,000 helium party balloons.

Noëmi Lakmaier, Cherophobia, 2016. Photo: Grace Gelder // Source: East End Review.

“Cherophobia is a durational 48-hour live installation. It is an attempt to lift the artist’s tied and immobilised body off the ground using the force of 20,000 helium-filled multi-coloured balloons. Cherophobia is a performance and a gathering, a one-off event that intertwines people in their shared suspense and anticipation. It takes its title from a psychiatric condition, defined as ‘an exaggerated or irrational fear of gaiety or happiness.’”

“Commissioned by Unlimited, a festival celebrating extraordinary new works by disabled and Deaf artists, in September 2016.”

Checkout a sweet video. More project info at


See: Noëmi Lakmaier’s Cherophobia


2016 Holiday Sale

I’ve assembled some projects as gift sets this holiday season.

Thank you for your support. I’m a working artist, and I mostly engage with non-profit organizations. It’s been a pleasure to share my participatory projects over the past year. If you enjoy my work, consider giving or collecting one of these specially assembled sets, so I can keep making and sharing.

Payments are accepted through Paypal. Prices are listed for US shipping only. For international shipments or alternative payment methods, please email me.

Ways and Means Activity Kit
Set of 8 letterpress printed activities, plus bonus items

Ways and Means Activity Kit, 2016, letterpress prints with hot foil, pencils, crafting extras, dimensions variable.

Ways and Means Activity Kit, 2016, letterpress prints with hot foil, pencils, crafting extras, dimensions variable.

Get or give a set of 8 letterpress-printed activities to explore how we rely on and support each other. Cut and assemble linoleum prints to visualize your chains of cooperation. Set up a buddy system to reach goals with pledges and postcards. Draw a portrait of the friends and family who keep you afloat. Send a letter (four sheets of letter paper, including a bear with a top hat!) in a make-your-own envelope.

Also included are three hot-foil stamped Ways and Means pencils, a Ways and Means postcard, and a bell and ribbon (color may vary) to assemble your own Interdependence Door Charm.

The printing methods span hand-set lead type, hand-carved relief printing, pressure printing, polymer plate, and hot foil stamping. Printed by the artist on Vandercook presses at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA and the Center for Book Arts, NYC. Learn more about the Ways and Means project. While the project was on exhibit last fall, individual activities were available on a limited, take-one basis; this set offers a chance to enjoy 8 activities at once.

Ways and Means Activity Kit
$45 + $10 shipping and handling via USPS Priority Mail 

Ways and Means Decorative Pattern Postcards
Set of 10 blank cards

Ways and Means notecards, 2016, letterpress polymer plate print on cream laid paper stock, 5x7 inches each, set of 10.

Ways and Means notecards, 2016, letterpress polymer plate print on cream laid paper stock, 5×7 inches each, set of 10.

These letterpress-printed cards with blank backs can be used as postcards or notecards. They feature icons representing interdependence in my recent Ways and Means project. For example, balloons represent peers who keep us afloat, a drill and thread is for our skills and resourcefulness, and links stand for being part of a chain of cooperation.

I printed these 5-by-7-inch postcards on a Vandercook press at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA. Each card was printed with soft green ink on cream laid paper.

Ways and Means Cards
Set of 10
$10 + $2 shipping and handling via USPS First Class Mail


Positive Messages Postcards
Set of 10

Set of Five Postcards, 4x6

Five postcard designs, 4×6″ each.

This set of ten postcards features a selection of the five cards pictured above. Six cards depict three installations using only ribbons to create texts that are inspired by positive psychology. A make things (happen) postcard—which can be colored in—is included, as well as a postcard from the Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) project using discount store products to explore pleasure.

The backs have just caption info and a URL, with plenty of space for writing special notes to mail to friends.

Sample postcard back.

Sample postcard back.

Set of ten postcards
$10 + $1 shipping & handling via USPS First Class


Solidarity Poster
Set of five to benefit NYC immigrant empowerment

Nos Cubrimos Las Espaldas/We Got Each Other's Backs, 2016, letterpress pressure print with hand-set wood type, 12x18 inches.

Benefit set of five prints of Nos Cubrimos Las Espaldas/We Got Each Other’s Backs (2016, letterpress pressure print with hand-set wood type, 12×18 inches).

I made these in response to Trump’s election to express solidarity with marginalized groups. I have been giving individual posters out to local protestors and allies, and offering a downloadable file for self-desktop printing, but now you can order a set of 5 to distribute as you please.

I printed each of these posters on a Vandercook letterpress at the Center for Book Arts, NYC. The image is made with pressure printing using a hand-cut paper stencil; the text is handset wood type. I used fluorescent pink and royal blue ink on smooth, bright white, Cougar 80# text paper. The handmade nature makes each of these prints highly unique.

Five dollars from every order will be donated to the Make the Road (New York), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that “builds the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services.”

Set of 5 Solidarity Posters
$15 + $3.50 shipping & handling via USPS 



You might also like to see the multiples for sale on my website, including a holographic sticker sheet, and pinback buttons about overcoming setbacks.

Citizenship, Community

Points of Reference, mid-December 2016

Right now it seems difficult to feel sure about anything—facts, news sources, impending policies, and even the appropriateness of one’s own emotions. I know that despair and inaction are recipes for depression, however. Here are some unconnected things that are affirming my faith in each other and the power of self-organization.

Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer invites you to a community Self-Defense, Anti-Bullying, and De-Escalation Training Learn self-defense, de-escalation, and upstander tactics from the Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE) and the Center for Anti-Violence Education to protect yourself and your neighbors. Wednesday, December 14, 6pm-8pm Sunnyside Community Services 43-31 39th Street, Sunnyside RSVP: 718-383-9566 or Free and open to all. Reserve your spot today!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 6:00pm
Fight Back Workshop: Secure Your Movement
Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 112 W 27th Street, NYC

AAWW’s responsive call for the Open City Muslim Communities Fellowship 2017, “a unique six-month opportunity for emerging writers of color from communities under attack from Islamophobia to publish narrative nonfiction about Muslim communities in New York City.” The program offers a “$2,500 stipend, skill-building workshops, and publishing opportunities to up to five writers.”

W.A.G.E.‘s responsive statement about the continued relevance of its advocacy for paying artists within the context of fighting for all workers:

Here is what we must do: we must put our exceptionality to work. Putting our exceptionality to work means claiming the privilege of having it both ways. It means dissenting from the industry that we serve by demanding to be paid for the content we provide. And this demand can no longer be made on the basis of being an impoverished, marginalized, and exploited constituency. …the demand for compensation must be made on behalf of a broader class struggle that extends well beyond the field’s impossibly high barriers to entry.

I’m excited about their teasing announcement of WAGENCY,

a broad-based coalition and artist certification program intended to provide working artists with the necessary agency to negotiate compensation or withhold content and services from institutions that refuse to pay them fees according to W.A.G.E. standards—a new form of labor organizing for an unpaid and atomized work force.

It’s time, artists. UNITE.

Southern Exposure’s goals of Abundance, Collaboration, Equity, and Agency—principles that I’ve written about in Art Practical, and explored in recent projects over the past two years…


Support SoEx.

Words matter. Why equity? Why not diversity? Diversity is “a much lower standard than equity” (Jeff Chang).

Jeff Chang‘s perceptive writing on race and protest in We Gon’ Be Alright:

But even for those who say they don’t like the bullying and don’t like the bully, the culture wars allow them cover to do nothing. Demagogues evoke restorationist dreaming, a deeply imagined past of order and tranquility. Reactionaries do not even need to sustain the belief or the anger of the fearful; they need only the silence and the complicity of the masses. In this way, from Wallace and Nixon to Palin and Trump, the energies of anxious whites have been diverted from class uprisings to racial division.

And this:

Protest of moral and historic force begins with people facing extreme vulnerability. For those who have been silenced, rising to the act of speaking is a perilously high climb indeed. For them, protest is not an expression of fear and doubt, but an overcoming of fear and doubt. And when it comes from those at the bottom, it can often be a profound proposition about how to make the world better for all. That’s the difference between the mob whipped into a frenzy by a demagogue and the protestors demanding that the institutions address harmful conditions that negate their very existence. One excludes, the other raises up.

The #NODAPL win at Standing Rock. Mobilizations work! Now let’s continue the pressure to permanently stop the pipeline. There are still #NODAPL actions scheduled throughout December, and you are still urged to divest from the banks funding the pipeline, such as TD and Citibank.

Thinking about:

  • Self care” versus sticking your head in the sand.
  • Sticking your head in the sand versus mindfully withdrawing from the 24-hour news cycle. Being as careful about the media you consume as you are with the foods you eat (Thích Nhất Hạnh).
  • That 1980’s/1990’s slogan, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” The way it affirms our negative moods, but can whisper guilt and fear into our positive experiences.
  • The facts that working out helps relieve stress, and emotional stress is tied to medical illness. Knowing that this is going to be a long haul, and we must sustain ourselves with care for ourselves and each other.



We Got Each Other’s Backs: Downloadable Solidarity Poster

[Updated 11/19/2016: A bilingual Spanish poster has been added.]

Here’s a call for solidarity among all the people targeted by Trump. Download this poster in English or Spanish, print and share it under a Creative Commons License (Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International).

Christine Wong Yap, We Got Each Other's Backs, 2016, letterpress print, 12x18 inches.

Christine Wong Yap, We Got Each Other’s Backs, 2016, letterpress print, 12×18 inches.

Christine Wong Yap, Nos Cubrimos Las Espaldas/We Got Each Other's Backs/No Mi Presidente, 2016, letterpress print, 12x18 inches.

Christine Wong Yap, Nos Cubrimos Las Espaldas/We Got Each Other’s Backs, 2016, letterpress print, 12×18 inches.*

Today, passing Trump Tower amidst other shellshocked New Yorkers, I thought about all the people Donald Trump has alienated on his path towards the US Presidency. I thought about women, African Americans, Latinx, immigrants, Muslims, LQBTQs, and the disabled. I was reminded that other artists have responded in crises, and then I was motivated by how disparate groups can unite in spite of this targeting. The despair was real, but our skills, and our capacities for solidarity and resistance, are too.

I printed this poster today. It’s letterpress-printed, with pressure plate and wood type. B organized a meeting at an art non-profit*, and I intended to distribute posters there. But as I was finishing up printing, a group of Latinx came in to the printshop. It was an ESL class from La Guardia on a field trip. They did not like Trump and were delighted I gave them posters. It was clear they were really proud to express their resistance.

*Thanks Young Zo for the translation help! I could design this poster in different languages; translation is my biggest obstacle. If you can help with translating this idiom into other languages of those groups particularly targeted by Trump, let me know!

Addendum (December 5,2016)

“We Got Each Other’s Backs” is a principle. The poster serves to remind ourselves and each other. But we must also back up those words with actions. It is not enough to perform allyship. Trump and his Islamophobic, homophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-reproductive rights cabinet will wield real power, enact real laws, and hurt real people’s lives. We have to actively resist and take risks, especially when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and risky.

I am disheartened to read that NYC subway riders did not intervene when three drunk men recently harassed an 18-year-old Egyptian American woman wearing a headscarf. (Though the Times reported that bystanders on the platform tried to stop the attackers from escaping.) But I’d expected that subway riders would speak up. Silence is complicity. Passively allowing rights to be eroded is anticipatory obedience to white supremacy.

Yet how can I say that I would have intervened? It is indulgent to imagine scaring off attackers with righteous indignation. But the reality is that I wasn’t there, I didn’t feel the intimidation or fear, and I don’t know how to defuse a situation. I’d like to think that being present—as in #illwalkwithyou—would help. But what a gamble (and pretension) to risk your and someone else’s safety on the assumption that your untutored participation (or privilege) will stop a bigot.

So I’m going to a community workshop to learn tactics to intervene productively. Join me.

Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer invites you to a community Self-Defense, Anti-Bullying, and De-Escalation Training Learn self-defense, de-escalation, and upstander tactics from the Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE) and the Center for Anti-Violence Education to protect yourself and your neighbors. Wednesday, December 14, 6pm-8pm Sunnyside Community Services 43-31 39th Street, Sunnyside RSVP: 718-383-9566 or Free and open to all. Reserve your spot today!

If you can’t make it to Western Queens, invite trainers to conduct a workshop at your school, workplace, or community. Or, read “How to Help if Someone Is Being Harassed,” by Anna North (New York Times, November 23, 2016), including the links in the last paragraph.