Trump wigs, nudes with mirrors and musical rage: artistic protest at the Republican National Convention

From hairy installations to nude performance art to music filled with rage, artists are taking action at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to raise eyebrows, ire and, ultimately, to incite political change.

Wide range of protest art includes rap concert urging #MakeAmericaRAGEAgain

Artistic protest is alive and well outside the 2016 Republican National Convention. A woman exits the Trump Hut (left), while naked women pose as part of the latest installation from Spencer Tunick. (Reuters/Getty Images)

From hairy wigs as digs to naked dissent and rage-fuelled music, artistic expression is flowing at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week.

While the convention floor saw an inner-circle Republican revolt on the very first day, there's been plenty of protest outside as well, with artists taking action to raise eyebrows, ire and — ultimately —  to incite political change. 

Welcome to the Trump Hut

One such art project is Trump Hut, described on Twitter as a "livable protest wigwam modeled after the hair of America's most notorious real estate mogul." 

Perched in Willard Park, just outside the RNC headquarters, the art piece features 96 hula skirts made of straw — straw from Mexico

The idea comes from a Canadian who credits his homeland's satire-loving strain of humour as inspiration. 

Ottawa-born Douglas Cameron and co-creator Tommy Noonan created the huts, with the help of Mexican artist Roxana Casillas, as a welcoming place for protesters to rest. It fits four at at time. 

It was during the Occupy Wall Street protests that Cameron first got the idea to rectify the disparity between the luxury accommodations of "one-percenters" like Donald Trump and the surroundings of the open-air demonstrators, who lived in sometimes-unsanitary conditions amidst tents moved around by authorities. 

Although his artistic hut ultimately faced permit issues near its site close to the RNC grounds, Cameron was pleased to be able provide a few hours of comfort, where protesters could enjoy the "Trump-like" opulence of a Persian carpet and fancy phone. 

The attention-grabbing gambit worked, Cameron said.

"Whenever you get a protest, for the last 30 years or so, the esthetics have tended to look very similar; with placards and slogans," he told CBC News.

"A lot of people, especially the segment of voters that you might actually be able to reach, will see protest signs and roll their eyes and just think 'Ok this is a radical fringe.'

"But with the Trump Hut people are driving by and stopping, offering to talk and even buy us doughnuts. We're finding [people] from all political persuasions, so it's one of those things that disarms people when you use absurdity and humour." 

We wanted to do something that would stand out visually and make people laugh.- Douglas Cameron on his Trump Hut 

The next stop for the hut is Trump Tower in New York next week. There's also a kickstarter campaign in the works, with the goal of placing more of the huts throughout the U.S. as a non-threatening way to engage people in conversation about the polarizing politician.  

Spencer Tunick's naked truth

Famed photographer Spencer Tunick is another artist who taps into the power of original imagery. Since the 1990s, he's convinced hoards of people to voluntarily pose nude in public places, all in the name of artistic freedom and social commentary. 

Spencer Tunick's latest large-scale art installation, Everything She Says Means Everything, sees female subjects holding mirrors as a call for reflection on the role of gender in the current U.S. election. (AFP/Getty Images)

This time around, he selected only females to take part in this latest work of protest and armed his naked participants with large mirrors. The piece, Everything She Says Means Everythingis intended to "reflect the knowledge and wisdom of progressive women and the concept of Mother Nature." 

Prophets of Rage take the stage

One of the oldest forms of protests — music with a message — also showed up at the RNC grounds. 

Given the nature of the highly-charged political event and during this time of heightened tensions in the U.S., it wasn't one of those folksy sit-in concerts from the 1960s.

Prophets of Rage took to the stage Monday at a protest concert organized as part of the End Poverty Now Rally. 

Comprising members from Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, the band was dubbed a rap "supergroup" by Rolling Stone magazine. 

With more than 23,000 followers on Twitter, the group routinely employs social media as a platform and crafts explicit lyrics to express their feeling of violation by Republican Party policies. 

In a play on Trump's own slogan, they urged concert goers to join their cause to #MakeAmericaRAGEAgain. 

Beyond the hashtag, it's also the name of the group's latest tour. It highlights that the band isn't using its art as a flash-in-the-pan protest, but rather as a committed movement to continue their fight against the powers that be. 

About the Author

Jelena Adzic


Jelena Adzic is a reporter, writer and radio columnist with the CBC Arts Unit. Her eyes light up at the mention of design, visual art and architecture.


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