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24

THURSDAY

My emergency evacuation plan involves a novelty Swiss army knife, several cans of MET-Rx meal-replacement shakes, and one raggedy stuffed bunny named Benjamin. The plan predates the awful tumbling of the Twin Towers. Rather, it was spawned from a tale in a fourth-grade language-arts book, wherein a terrible disease obliterates the adult population, and bands of savage and pimply preteens rule the once-bucolic suburbs. Survival strategy has remained for me a favorite fantasy go-to during bookless train rides or extra-long Safeway lines. And I’m not alone. Many of us are paranoid enough to believe we’re courting dangers more devastating than missing a credit-card payment or forgetting a girlfriend’s birthday, and our willingness to be victimized makes fear a potent political tool. Jim Hodges’ new large-scale installation billboard collects translations of the phrase “Don’t be afraid” submitted by international U.N. delegates. The collage of handwritten slogans gains a deeper meaning from the times we live in and its placement in our nation’s capital, becoming a rare piece of protest art. The installation is on view around the clock to Saturday, April 1, 2006, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 7th Street and Independence Avenue. SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Kara McPhillips)