Krzysztof Wodiczko Was Resisting Trump 30 Years Ago

THE DAILY PIC: Wodiczko's 'Homeless Vehicle' from 1988 – a vintage Trumpmobile just acquired by the Hirshhorn Museum.

THE DAILY PIC (#1675): Back in the late 1980s, under Reagan, Krzysztof Wodiczko was making art about the growing gap between rich and poor in America, and the role that developers were playing in New York’s budding homeless crisis, now in full bloom. Even back then, Wodiczko saw Donald Trump as a notable contributor to the problem. When Wodiczko built a series of so-called Homeless Vehicles, which actual street people helped him design, it was a no-brainer to photograph one of them in front of Trump Tower.

He’s recently pulled out that old image, and sent me some words reflecting on its moment and the present one.

“A homeless vehicle is a design that should not exist in a world we uphold as civilized. There should be no need for its design. While pragmatically responding to the homeless’ needs, the appearance and function of the Homeless Vehicle primarily aimed to provoke public attention on the unacceptability of such needs,” he wrote. And also, of today: “Artists are well equipped to undo the fantasies that politicians want people to live through, die in, or die for…. Artists should deconstruct politicians’ language and reveal the lies, contradictions and absurdities within the programs which populist politicians are promising.” (Read his entire text here.)

Here’s one bright spot in this grim picture. One of Wodiczko’s actual vehicles was just now acquired by the Smithsonian’s Hirshorn Museum, which is our national venue for the latest art. The acquisition itself must have been well underway before last week’s election. I wonder if the Hirshhorn might not be too afraid to acquire another such piece next week. After the Inaugural, would the new Powers That Be even seek ways to forbid it? (Image courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York)


(“Homeless Vehicle – Variant 5,” now in the Hirshhorn Museum collection, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York)

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