"NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small." -- Parks Department spokesperson Sam BiedermanThe statues of a grotesque, flabby, emasculated Trump that appeared in public spaces on Thursday in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Seattle were, depending on one's view: (1) a brilliant takedown of an offensive demagogue or (2) a tasteless body-shaming joke that diminishes our politics.
The project was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson's The Emperor's New Clothes. As reported in the Washington Post, "hoping to strip away the Teflon Don’s legendary confidence to reveal the fleshy mortal beneath the expensive suits and long ties, members of the anarchist collective INDECLINE decided they would showcase the aspirant president in the most humiliating way they could imagine: without his clothes."
The idea that this guerilla art project does a disservice to the political process by being disrespectful to a presidential candidate, and thus proves how low our country's politics have fallen, has it exactly backwards. It is the nomination of Donald Trump that demonstrates how diminished our politics have become. This art project is an apt reflection of the fact, to paraphrase Andy Borowitz, that the bar cannot be lowered any further. Certainly not by art.
One thoughtful writer questioned the value of a "humiliation mode of politics":
Are we laughing at Donald Trump because Donald Trump is naked, and fat, standing in front of us? Are we mocking the fact that anyone who has cellulite or a gut or a figure that’s not valued by a capitalist, health obsessed, body-shaming society dares to be nude in a public space? Are we laughing at Donald Trump because we believe that men should be manly, and that manly means to have a big penis, and that anybody who doesn’t fit into that violent, cissexist masculinity is worthy of contempt?I very well could have a blind spot here because of how much I loathe Donald Trump and all he stands for, but I truly think we are mocking Trump because he is Trump -- regardless of body type. Of course we would be -- and should be offended -- if an unflattering, vulgar, naked statue of Hillary Clinton appeared. But she is not an arrogant, bigoted, misogynistic vulgar white man who prides himself on being a "ladies man," has bragged about the size of his penis during a presidential debate, and attempts to diminish, disparage and humiliate anyone who deigns to criticize him. In my view Trump is fair game for all manner of humiliation.
At bottom, these are not normal times. Donald Trump should not be treated by the public, by the media or by the art world as just another candidate for president. He is a unique danger to the country. He is grotesque whether he is wearing a suit and spouting hateful lies or, presumably, when he is fully exposed. And he needs to be fully exposed.