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Trump Baby. Photo: Elliot Wagland / @elliotwagland.

Artists and Activists Mobilize in Protest of Trump’s Visit to the UK

United States President Donald Trump’s arrival in the United Kingdom on Thursday, July 12—his first state visit—has prompted hundreds of thousands to protest across London. The activists are carrying signs, chanting anti-Trump slogans, and even flying a giant “Trump Baby” balloon. The twenty-foot blimp of the diaper-clad Trump took flight above Parliament Square earlier today.

Spearheaded by Leo Murray—who penned an impassioned editorial on the project in London’s Metro—the balloon is meant to be a symbol of resistance against the Trump administration, as well as a message telling the American leader that he is not welcome. The helium-filled effigy, designed to hurt the president’s fragile ego, will also soon be touring around the world, visiting other locations where Trump plans to travel. To stay abreast of Trump Baby’s whereabouts, check out his twitter account, @TrumpBabyUK.

While people are harshly criticizing Trump’s policies on immigration, women’s rights, and climate change, among other subjects, the demonstrators expressed that the rallies are not anti-American. Brits were also up in arms over Trump’s harsh criticism of British prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan and his comments regarding how her actions may “kill” what he described as a lucrative trade deal with the US. In an interview with The Sun, he also praised one of her conservative rivals, Boris Johnson, saying that he would “make a great prime minister.” He has since backpedaled from these remarks and declared that she is doing a “fantastic job.”

Leading members of the UK’s art world have also spoken out against Trump’s visit. Norman Rosenthal, the former exhibitions secretary at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, told the Art Newspaper that Trump’s presence at a banquet that was held at Blenheim Palace on Thursday was an insult to artists such as Ai Weiwei and Jenny Holzer who had previously exhibited their work at the historic space. “If you want to show artists such as these, you have to accept the moral consequences,” Rosenthal said, noting the importance of Ai’s recent documentary on the refugee crisis, Human Flow.

British artist Ryan Gander, whose works will be featured in the Liverpool Biennial, which kicks off tomorrow, told the Art Newspaper that Trump’s remarks are reminiscent of words spoken by former conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who in 1987 said that “there is no such thing as society.” Trump is “all about a culture of me rather than a culture of the collective,” Gander said. “If someone falls in the street, you don’t help them—that is Trump’s attitude.”

According to Artnet, the UK–based cultural initiative the Rapid Response Unit has launched an art contest seeking artistic responses to Trump’s visit. Since the announcement, RRU has been receiving entries ranging from political cartoons to naked statues. The winning work will be chosen by a panel comprising Rachel Parris, of BBC’s satirical news digest The Mash Report; women’s rights activist and writer Helen Pankhurst; Jude Kelly, director of the Women of the World Festival; the Liverpool-based artists the Singh Twins; photographer Tom Hunter; and British political cartoonist, Martin Rowson. It will be gifted to the Newseum in Washington, DC.

In anticipation of Trump’s UK invasion, the Mexican-born, Brooklyn-based artist Bosco Sodi performed his work Muro, which originally debuted in Washington Square Park in New York in September. The piece involved Sodi building a wall with 1,600 bricks made by local craftsmen in Oaxaca, Mexico. Once the wall was erected, the artist invited passersby to dismantle it, making it a social exercise for which people from all backgrounds came together to tear down the barrier.

Trump departed England this evening and arrived in Scotland, where he will visit his golf resorts. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Glasgow in anticipation of his arrival. Activists are also gearing up for an anti-Trump action to take place outside of Scottish parliament in Edinburgh on Saturday. Trump will then travel to Finland, where he will meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin on July 16.

 

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