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Monday, 14 May 2018

Waiting for the Punchline: Donald Trump as the world’s greatest performance artist

This post comes out of the regular email chain between me and some friends which mostly revolve around US politics and Donald Trump*.

I recently figured out why I have been enjoying the Donald Trump presidency so much.

It is, in part the random unpredictability of the man himself BUT on a larger level it is because Trump is now operating at the level only a few avant-garde performance artists have managed to reach.

Just as avant-garde art pushes the boundaries of what we consider normal or acceptable so too does it often cross over the invisible lines that societies try to place around “art” to keep it from distorting, disturbing or just plain offending the cultural sensibilities that it is critiquing.

In fact avant-garde art and its artists often consciously seek to challenge norms and limits and do so with any and all tools at their disposal and it’s not unusual for the artist to not only be or become the art but for the “art” itself to also be not recognized as art.

The artist own excrement canned and sold to the public as “100% pure artist’s shit”: its art with a capital “A” baby!

Being crucified to the back of a VW beetle: Art, arT, Aert!

Attempting a coup of Japan and killing yourself when it fails: Screw you and your bourgeois values its art!

And in this light it’s easy to see Donald Trumps avant-garde sensibilities at work in his great performance art project that he has called “Donald Trump: President of the United States”.

Don’t believe me? I’m not alone in this conclusion and it’s a damn sight easier to classify Trump and his art as commentary on the US politics, society and its economy than desperately attempting to apply standard political, sociological or even economic logic to the man and his actions when he can change his mind and views in a single tweet or lurch off in some random direction in his behavior.

Just as grade B actor and “artist” Shia LeBouf can try** to comment on President Trump with his “art pieces” so too can Trump turn his whole presidency into a spectacular piece of art which is bigger, better and larger than ever before.

You want to challenge the unfair system of the US economy; Trump has you covered. Vapid US celebrities as bastions of wisdom and possible candidates for political office; he has you there as well. Worried about the sickly and anemic US democracy; the answer is… wait for it… Donald Trump.

No matter where you turn Trump and his amazing art has shone the light on many of the ills in our society, you might not like it, you might even hate it but that’s not the point of the cutting edge of the avant-garde my little moppet.

If you want something safe, clean and neat, go subscribe to Netflix, watch Mike Hosking read from his cue cards or even (dare I say it?*3) check out the Spinoff*4.

In this light it’s easy to see why an artist such as Kanye West loves Trump because its takes one to know one and West is definitely one.

The Donald Trump presidency is the political equivalent of having unprotected sex with a stranger you just met. Its the ultimate frisson; that mix of pleasure and danger, just rolling around, all caught up in the passion of the moment, knowing you should play safe but doing it bareback anyway.

Its the lower lizard brain running its long wet tongue down the cheek of the higher consciousness and the convulsive shudder that it engenders in both parties.

So where will this immense artist and his stupendous performance art end up?

That’s the joke, we just don’t know and neither does he.

Trump has invited us to be part of his Art but so far we have timidly watched from the side lines or been too shocked or “offended” to respond which in some ways is understandable as Trump has harnessed the powers of the Theatre of the Absurd to such a degree that most people are unable to comprehend what it is he is doing.

And if we won’t join him in his art we are then just along for the ride, whether we like it or not, hoping, waiting and wondering when this end and what will come of it. Strapped to the hood of the Trumpmobile (like Zoe Bell in Deathproof), screaming wildly as the speed sucks the air out of our lungs and we flail in terror as the madman behind the wheel does his thing.

But if you want an idea of what Trumps plan is you need only look at the fate of another golden haired person oblivious to the danger of dancing on the edge; The Fool from the Tarot.

And that is the punchline, that is the final, possibly killing, joke that we have played on ourselves as we desperately try to rationalize what we are seeing as our higher brain screams "what is he doing?" in near incoherence while the primordial mind beneath, unfazed by our desperate attempts to impose rationality on the irrational, simply waits for punchline.


*-with only occasional twists into other topics or flame wars
**-and fail spectacularly with both his he will not divide us and Flag Project piece
*3-inner voice says “dare, dare!”
*4-just kidding guys, love your stuff. Specially as you are now taking over mainstream political news coverage in NZ