Donald Trump: An enemy of the arts?
In the wake of his plans to cut funding for the arts, Donald Trump seems to have made an enemy of the arts world as a whole. The US president recently made the news once again in this context, as a version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar controversially depicting Caesar as Trump drew a huge backlash from his supporters. Their fury apparently knew no bounds as establishments with no connection whatsoever to the production were drawn into the fray by Trump fans who mistakenly addressed death threats to the wrong theatres.
This isn’t the first time that the arts has caused uproar with critical political statements, and it is unlikely to be the last. Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei, famed for his politically-motivated installations, once said that art and politics cannot be separated and the very intention to separate the two is a political intention. It merely appears that Donald Trump has got no idea the power of the enemy he’s made in the artistic community.
Artists have responded to Trump’s controversial policies
Indian installation artist Owais Husain, who explores themes of displacement, identity and loss in the world today believes “we are all immigrants, driftwood in a ceaselessly dysfunctional world where a flux of identity in the nuclear and larger domains are elements of human nature.” Even though Husain has been examining these themes in his work long before Trump launched his presidential campaign, these are still important words which resonate in the current political climate.
Protest art directed specifically at Trump has become a regular fixture in the newspapers and our newsfeeds. Everyone from sculptors to street artists have used their art as a medium through which to have their say against his often contentious policies. Artist Andrea Bowers, who herself often finds inspiration in “the poetics of activist signs”, has said that the election results made her more committed than ever to protest art.
Even high profile celebrities are getting in on the artistic Trump-bashing. Household names ranging from the likes of Kathy Griffin to Snoop Dogg have been both praised and criticised for their now infamous anti-Trump statements through art in various mediums.
The power of statement art
To paraphrase the words of the Irish Times, artists do their best work when they’ve got something to work against. After all, the threats to cut funding for the arts have made this fight even more personal than it already was.
Trump has stated uncategorically that he wants to use funding previously allocated to the arts to instead further fund the military; even amidst press coverage stating that the Pentagon has never once been audited, and that it buried a report showing $125bn had been wasted by the Department of Defense.
These pledges make it very clear that Mr Trump considers the arts unimportant. But the arts and the statements they are capable of making are far from unimportant. After all, many of the most popular artistic responses to Trump have gone viral, and since a third of young people believe their vote will be influenced by social media, this is nothing to be scoffed at. The arts have a proven potential to influence public policy; something Trump would do well to remember.
The editorial unit
Photo: Gage Skidmore