Trolling Trump: The Art and Satire of the 2016 Campaign Vol 2


In the 1988 film They Live, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper stands in the streets of Los Angeles and looks through a pair of propaganda busting sunglasses that reveal the hidden alien messages behind the city’s billboards. The ads encourage everyone to STAY ASLEEP, BUY, WATCH TV, MARRY AND REPRODUCE, and the command which New York artist Hal Hefner has adopted as the title of his viral series: CONSUME.

In January 2015, while Kim Kardashian was breaking the internet by using her ass as a Champaign tray, artist Hal Hefner saw that image through the eerie lens of a cult classic, “I decided to take Kim Kardashian’s visage and transform it into a bulging-eyed, blue-skinned alien with its ass hanging out.” Hefner says.

“To me Kim Kardashian was the perfect person [for this project] …she is the epitome of the narcissistic culture that distracts her prey with vapidity and leads them with materialism and consumerism.”

“I decided to take Kim Kardashian’s visage and transform it into a bulging-eyed, blue-skinned alien with its ass hanging out.” Hefner says.

2_Trolling Trump Hal Hefner

At the time, Hefner was a storyboard artist with an interest in propaganda art and a love for cheesy 80s action films. One film in particular, They Live, stuck with him from the day he saw it as a child. Hal imagined the President, Madonna, and other pop culture icons as wide-eyed alien overlords until he was able to bring these images to life through his art.

“I chose the word CONSUME as a headline without realizing that this one word would shape my art career in a whole new way.” Hefner told the Plaid Zebra of his series which went viral after it was released on social media last year. With his Kardashian photo making its way across the internet, Hal wasn’t sure whether he should expand the concept, but a friend and fellow artist, who passed away that same year, encouraged him to go on.

“I am so grateful and humbled by all of the people who have rallied around my art,” Hefner says, “In honor of my late friend Brian Clark, I continue to push forward with the series.”

According to Hefner art has a critical role to play in society. “I believe artists owe it to the world to bring value to their culture. How they do that is up to them.” He says, “For me, art is a weapon…I want my art to punch you in the face aesthetically and philosophically.”

As a student of propaganda art, Hal understands the damage that an image can do, but he believes that artists and art lovers have a choice.

“With art, we can either choose to be asleep or we can wake the fuck up and take a stand against racism, bigotry, hatred, consumerism, materialism, and greed. We can tell big corporations to shove their cancer causing foods up their asses.”

Ending with humorous cliff hanger, They Live has left its story to be told by fans like Hefner who went on to create alien images of celebrities like Bill Cosby, Tom Brady, Ronald McDonald, Steve Jobs, and all the people he sees as being forced on the public in order to promote a culture of consumerism.

3_Trolling Trump Hal Hefner

4_Trolling Trump Hal Hefner

A child of the 80s, Hal lived through the decade that made Donald Trump and is now reviving the cult films of that era to fight against his campaign.

“Nobody so clearly defines the word CONSUME like Donald Trump.” He says. “Trump has made this election a reality TV farce, bombarding people with sound bite after sound bite.”

According to PEW Research, 75% of Americans think Trump gets too much media coverage. Since he announced his candidacy last summer, the Republican front runner has dominated headlines, airwaves, social media, and most of CNN whose Trump stories have, at times, taken up nearly 80% of Republican primary coverage.

“[Trump] bullied his way into the national spotlight by declaring a war on political correctness and the elite, but he is an elite.” Hal says. “He is the poster child for the corporate garbage he wants to throw out.”

“Nobody so clearly defines the word CONSUME like Donald Trump.”

5_Trolling Trump Hal Hefner

On the trail and the campaign stage, Trump has often claimed to have been personally involved in a corrupt campaign finance system and believes that this experience has made him the perfect candidate to fight against corruption. Whether by charisma or sheer luck the argument that an arsonist is the ideal man to put out a fire has caught on and left the Republican Party with such a gripping fear of its own frontman that a member the Colorado GOP couldn’t help but tweet in celebration of Trump’s recent loss in the state.

“It’s sad to see it happening, but perhaps it’s not as much of a shift as we think.” Hal says. “He speaks to the fear in America that is held by those who are educated by YouTube conspiracy theories and reality TV…who are afraid of what they don’t understand.”

But for Hal and those Americans who say they’ll leave the country if Trump is elected, what’s most distressing is that the campaign has become a national side show that the whole world is watching. “It’s embarrassing to watch the world cringe at what’s happening in America.”

And the embarrassment doesn’t stop with Trump. Hal’s art has also featured former candidates, Marko Rubio and Jeb Bush as well as Ted Cruz who Hefner believes is a frightening alternative.

“Dick Jokes and insults are the ties that bind the 2016 Republican barnyard together.”

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“Cruz is using the bible to inspire hate.” Hal says, remembering how the church taught him hypocrisy as a child. “The woman who handed out communion at the Catholic church I was forced to go to was cheating on her husband with another married man, yet was preaching to me as a Sunday school teacher.”

With the party divided between the Don’s loyal supporters and those who say #NeverTrump, Hal expects both Democrats and Republicans to oppose President Trump’s policies in Congress leaving the country paralyzed.

“Dick Jokes and insults are the ties that bind the 2016 Republican barnyard together.”

It comes as no surprise that Hefner is a supporter of Sanders whom he refers to as a, “Yoda-like” figure. Bernie is one of few politicians that don’t appear as an alien overlord in Hefner’s work with one piece featuring the Vermont Senator with rapper Killer Mike in the Oval Office dressed as the heroes of the film and surrounded by alien versions of the other candidates.

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“They live, we sleep’, could not be a more appropriate phrase,” He says, referring to the films tagline, “not only to describe the candidates, but the followers they’re collecting.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Hal’s art.

All Photos © Hal Hefner

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