The Trump/'They Live' Billboard Is Up, Right Where Trump Is Least Popular

By Stephen Gossett in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 19, 2017 3:57PM

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Photo provided by Mitch O'Connell

It lives... finally.

Back in 2015, Chicago artist Mitch O'Connell first realized what he saw as visual and philosophical connective tissue between Donald Trump and They Live, John Carpenter's 1988 cult classic satire of the media-manipulated masses cowed by aliens in disguise. He soon had a design, then a plan: poster Washington D.C. with as many Trump/They Live billboards as possible. But perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that billboard companies pretty much nationwide don't want to touch anything so political. But their cold feet might be the project's best coup. The billboard at long last went up this week where Trump remains perhaps least popular of all: Mexico.

It didn't take O'Connell long to crowdsource nearly all the necessary funds (more than $3000), but the gatekeepers were quite a bit less enthusiastic about the artist's cheeky concept than his many backers.

"I reached out to every single billboard company I could possibly find [in America]," O'Connell told Chicagoist. He estimates calls or emails to at least 30 such companies—several of which didn't respond to inquires. When he did connect, the sales folks that he first encountered rarely quashed it out of hand, "but then it goes further along the ladder, and they realize there's no upside to putting up a billboard with the president, because it's only gonna bite them in the rear end."

After the unfulfilled search trudged for three months, O'Connell decided to think international. With some brokering help from Vertigo Galeria, a Mexico City gallery where O'Connell had previously exhibited, he said he finally found a "yes."

And now if you drive along the Norte 69, in Naucalpan, just northwest of Mexico City, at some point within the next month, you'll catch a glimpse of Trump, shot through with that distinct John Carpenter-style jaundiced sci-fi wit. And there's a sense of kismet in the forced-hand location since, as O'Connell notes, "Trump based his campaign on bashing Mexico right off the bat."

Still, as before, O'Connell underlined his love of public art and grand-scale amusement as more than politically motivated vehemence.

"I love the concept of installations that are out there for the public... It's a big, fun art project that seemed to grab the imagination of people. It's a fun thing, to make people smile and scratch their heads," he said.

"As long as I don’t get a notification that I'm being audited, everything went great," he added.

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Photo provided by Mitch O'Connell