MEXICO CITY — Earlier this summer, artist Mitch O’Connell approached over 30 US ad companies about hoisting up a billboard in which President Donald Trump is depicted as a sinewy alien in the style of John Carpenter’s 1988 They Live, with “Make America Great Again” emblazoned on the American flag. After the ad companies showed trepidation, O’Connell decided to move the project to Mexico with money from a Go Fund Me campaign, which he originally raised for a billboard in the Washington, DC area. Now, the cheeky image hangs over one of Mexico City’s main thoroughfares connecting the city to its suburbs. The billboard has drawn attention here and in the United States, where not a single company was willing to display the inflammatory image, according to O’Connell.
The mock campaign feels especially apt because it’s mixed in with real campaign propaganda for the upcoming 2018 presidential election in Mexico, which begins in the State of Mexico, where O’Connell’s billboard is on display. Unsurprisingly, the billboard has been subject to both trolling right-wingers and adoration from liberals. “So far, I’ve just heard positive feedback from folks in Mexico,” O’Connell told Hyperallergic. “The only people who are offended are Trump supporters.” The artist seems to be reveling in the ire of the extreme right. He shared some of the “great feedback” he received via email. “Go live in Mexico, you Liberal maggot,” reads one anonymous message sent to the artist.
Another particularly vitriolic attack reads: “Early reports from Mexico are that Mexicans and their children are terrified by your billboard, and think President Trump is a monster that is going to get them if they try to cross the US border. Good work! Can you please post more of these signs in Mexico and the other Latino countries? I’m sick of the Third World sneaking into my country to turn the USA into a copy of the dung hole they crawled out of.”
In a way, the billboard only illustrates the intense divide that we’re all too familiar with in American politics. The artist sees it as a joke: “When I’m sitting in Guantanamo Bay after Trump sees [the billboard], we can all have a good laugh!” he wrote for the Go Fund Me campaign. And in Mexico City, the reaction has been mostly laughs, but, while comedy surely has a place as protest against the times, the mock ad has also inevitably inflated the sensationalism of the Trump phenomenon.
The billboard (Periferico Norte 69, Naucalpan) is slated to be on display until August 31, but may stay up longer, according to the artist.