Unessay 2: Exploring the Use of Text in Politics and Political Protest Art (new)

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(Photo from John McIntosh, Wall Graffiti in Nogales). Please note that all new blog postings for Unessay 2 are labelled with “new” in the title to differentiate them from the blog postings that comprised my first Unessay.

Unessay 2 continues the exploration of the use of text in art, but focuses on text in political art, political propaganda, political protest art and graffiti. First, I have created a personal art project that relies on text as an important element of expression. My art piece explores the reality of the Trump Border Wall and imagines the contrast between the American and Mexican sides of the proposed 2,000 mile Trump Border Wall (Daniel Stone, “A Border Wall Already Exists in Some Places. We Visited It), National Geographic).

Using an application called Sketchup, I created an approximately 4,500 foot section of the Trump Border Wall on the border between San Diego, California and Tijuana Mexico. I was compelled to focus on this location because USA and Mexico meet at the vast expanse of the Pacific ocean. First, I was struck by the boldness of trying to physically separate two countries at a location where the timeless power and vastness of the ocean acts as a silent observer. Second, like many places on the border, a border fence already exists between the United States and Mexico in San Diego. In fact, the San Diego Border Wall terminates into the waves of the Pacific Ocean. The eerie quality of a fence running into the Pacific ocean caught my interest.

When rendering the wall in SketchUp, I tried to implement the design requirements for the wall published by the Trump administration. For example, the federal government specifications require the wall to be at least 30′ tall, resistant to climbing, and “the north side of wall (i.e. U.S. facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment.”  (FedBizOpps Designs Requirements Published by the Trump Administration). After creating a single wall module, I places 141 of these modules into a geolocated SketchUp model, and added additional elements to make the scene more realistic.

However, with the wall finished, a natural question arises: What becomes of the 2,000 miles of stark vertical wall visible from the US and Mexican sides of the wall? As explored in the blog postings related to Unessay 2, walls attract expression and art–often political expression. Murals, graffiti, and protest art, including political protest art, are seen on walls. The Berlin Wall graffiti and art (which is explored in one of the blog postings) is perhaps the most famous example of graffiti and art used to oppose the literal and political function of a wall. The Berlin Wall–the most powerful symbol of the Cold War–was covered with graffiti and art by the time it finally came down.

In my project, I considered the parallels between the Berlin Wall and the design requirements published by the federal government for Trump’s wall. Like the east side of the Berlin Wall, the US Custom and Border Protection Department will limit access to the US side of the wall. I assume that the Trump administration would not want its “great border wall” defaced by graffiti and would work to prevent this from happening.

I was intrigued by the design requirement that “the north side of wall (i.e. U.S. facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment.” To me, it is paradoxical that a 2,000 mile, 30′ high wall separating two countries could ever be aesthetically pleasing or consistent with the general surroundings. It’s a wall!

For the US side of the wall, I envisioned each section of the wall (which provides an area of 30 by 30 feet) as a place to explore political propaganda and government controlled speech. As we all know, Trump is our first Twitter President and a prolific user of the platform. On Monday, April 17, 2017, President Trump has held office for 88 days and has published 432 tweets during those 88 days in office (Trump Twitter Archive).

My concept places a single President Trump tweet on each panel of the proposed Trump Border Wall, beginning with his first tweet the day he took office. I begin with the first section of the wall hundreds of feet in the Pacific Ocean and move eastward one panel at a time. My model has 141 panels (about 4,500 feet of wall), which allowed me to place all of President Trump’s tweets from January 20, 2017 through February 11, 2017. My modeled section of the Trump wall was filled with tweets after only 23 days of his administration.

My work asks what the Trump Administration might find aesthetically pleasing on the US side of the wall, and imagines that this administration (unconstrained by popular opinion or good taste) might find the President’s tweets enlarged and placed in gold text on black granite as not only aesthetically pleasing, but a monument to the President’s vision and ideas. When finished, the image of 141 of Trump’s tweets standing as a golden monument on the border between the US and Mexico was profound, as I will explore in more detail in my other blog postings.

Although my project is featured in the posting entitled The Trump Twitter Wall: My Text Art Project for Unessay 2, the project is meant to be considered in the context of all my new blog postings. The project is introduced in a minimal way in this first blog posting so that the viewer can consider the meaning, but subsequent blog postings raise new perspectives and questions for the viewer to consider.

The austere monumentality of the US side of the wall is contrasted with the more expressive and freeform Mexican side of the wall. More than a 1,000 miles of US border fence and wall already exists–much of it ad hoc and shoddy. Commercial, protest art and graffiti has sprung up on the Mexican side of the wall. In my project, I found actual examples of protest art and graffiti on the Mexican side of the current border fence and used it as a counterpoint to the US side of my imagined Trump Twitter Wall–where the US government controls and curates the message. I was unable to find 141 unique pieces of the art for the Mexico side of the wall. As a result, my project focuses on a section of the wall on the Mexican side near the beach–where there is already vibrant protest art.

Although I will leave it to the viewer to assess the meaning and value of my project, I believe it provides a meditation on time, history, authority, politics, relations between the US and Mexico, political control, propaganda, and ultimately, hope for the future.

In addition to the blog posting featuring my art project, entitled The Trump Twitter Wall: My Text Art Project for Unessay 2, the following blog postings are new for Unessay 2:

Building the Trump Twitter Wall

The Featured Trump Tweets on the American Side of the Trump Twitter Wall

The Featured Protest Art and Graffiti on the Mexican Side of the Trump Twitter Wall

The Berlin Wall Graffiti and Protest Art

Gerald Scarfe and the Wall