Did Artist’s Trump Campaign During 2000 Election Predict the Future?

The artist stumped for Trump back in 2000.

David Henry Brown Jr., Trump for President Exploratory Committee. Courtesy of David Henry Brown Jr.

Before this election cycle, it was hard to imagine a world in which Donald Trump could be a legitimate presidential contender. And yet, his remarkable, at times seemingly-unstoppable run, which culminates in today’s final face off with Hillary Clinton, has a precedent, of sorts, in the work of self-described “immersionist” performance artist David Henry Brown, Jr.

For the debut episode of the new web series Art Histories, from VICE‘s the Creators Project, Brown shares how in the late 1990s he “became obsessed with Donald Trump and stalked him for a year.”

Going under cover as a “conservative, run-of-the mill white guy” to better blend in with “The Donald’s” milieu, Brown followed the gossip pages of the New York Post, and got into numerous VIP events. He was able to meet Trump five times, posing for photos with the casino magnate.

The Art Histories episode shows Trump in a interview in 2000, talking about his campaign and noting that “I’ve see polls come that say that I’d win.” In response, Brown became the loudest supporter of Trump’s truncated 2000 Reform party presidential bid through his art project, the Trump for President Exploratory Committee.

David Henry Brown Jr., signed photo with Donald Trump. Courtesy of David Henry Brown Jr.

David Henry Brown Jr., signed photo with Donald Trump. Courtesy of David Henry Brown Jr.

Brown’s archival footage shows him conducting man-on-the-street style interviews (filmed by video artist Richard Sandler), asking average New Yorkers what they think of the casino magnate for president. “If you’re tired of the bullshit, you should think about voting for Trump,” Brown told passersby.

“The reactions when I look at them now in the context of 2016 are like really loaded,” Brown admitted. “”It was like a goldmine. It was absurd beyond belief.” He likens the piece to predicting the future.

At a Trump rally held at Atlantic City’s 8th Wonder casino, Brown captured the fervor that the businessman inspired in his breathless supporters, eagerly seeking his autograph. (Brown, for his part, had all five photos signed in gold Sharpie.) “We need you Donald!” one man shouted effusively. “Donald Trump for president—Amen!” prayed an older woman.

The artist believes that Trump’s widespread popularity, despite his offensive comments toward minorities and blatant disrespect of women, is due to the fact that people naturally gravitate toward and are in awe of those in a position of power. “I feel that magnetic pull on myself too,” he admitted.

As for Brown’s personal opinion of Trump, he sees him as a “morally skewed” performance artist in his own right. “I just thought it was totally Dada,” said Brown of the 2016 campaign. Today, the artist believes Donald Trump should become president of the United States—but in a new television series, not in real life.

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