For Street Artist Hanksy, It’s Not Politics as Usual
**** originally published on UTMOST.
On the border between Chinatown and the Lower East Side, spray-painted on a stretch of wall flanked by a bodega and some dumpsters, is a several-foot tall piece of shit with the face of presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Complete with buzzing flies and the billionaire’s signature comb-over, this masterpiece (dubbed “Dump Trump”) quickly became an Instagram favorite, and yet another in a line of viral hits by street artist Hanksy.
No, that wasn’t a typo. We are not referring to Balloon Girl/Exit Through the Gift Shop’s Banksy, but rather a New York City based artist who started gaining momentum after he customized one of Banksy’s stencils to resemble Tom Hanks–thus birthing Hanksy.
Sounds silly doesn’t it? Well, it is. And Hanksy is the first to agree.
“I just want to have fun,” he told us back in the summer of 2015, having just closed his LES pop-up art show, aptly called Best of the Worst, in which he covered an abandoned Chase bank wall-to-wall with pop culture mash-ups like Bill Murrito (yes, that would be Bill Murray’s mug crossed with a burrito) and Drake-O Malfoy, Degrassi’s field trip to Hogwarts.
While some street art can polarize viewers with arresting imagery meant to shock us from complacency, Hanksy opts for a more lighthearted route by appealing to viewers’ sense of humor rather than their emotions. His work is accessible, and his lack of pretension a breath of fresh air in an art scene that can sometimes take itself too seriously.
“Let’s face it, [people] want easy to digest content. Look at it and once you get it within two seconds, then move on. That’s what I’m all about. That’s the age we live in. They want it fast, they want it quick, and they want it easy,” says Hanksy, and he appears to be onto something, having racked-up 103,000 Instagram followers.
But as any fan could tell you, while Hanksy’s work remains as goofy as ever, a more serious undertone accompanies his latest string of releases. A stencil of an unshaven and grimacing Bill Cosby was mounted early January with the blurb, “New year new me.”
But perhaps nothing personifies Hanksy’s willingness to tread into more controversial territory as his latest pieces tackling the upcoming presidential election. Afterall, the primary race is a shit show of epic proportions, and consequently, every satirist’s wet dream.
Giving the candidates the Hanksy treatment, the world was gifted with Mr. Berns (Bernie Sanders meets Mr. Burns of the Simpsons), and a personal favorite: Netflix and cHillary, complete with a bubblehead of Madame Secretary cooing, “Email me?” However, it is for Mr. Trump whom Hanksy has reserved the majority of his venom.
“I originally painted the mural near the end of summer,” Hanksy told us of his now iconic Dump Trump in the LES, “Trump had announced his presidential run a few weeks prior and it was all a big joke back then. Unfortunately, the punchline never came.”
In true Hanksy fashion, he responded to the humorless prospect of a Trump presidency with wordplay, launching an online anti-Trump campaign called #DumpAcrossAmerica. He released all his Trump themed prints for free, making his art available for public distribution. All you have to do is hit the download button on their website, and you can print out your very own mini Donald turd. Perfect for customizing your MacBook Pro/everything you own.
Rather than stopping there, Hanksy took it to the next level by creating yard sign templates with, Join the (bowel) movement today! plastered across a red, white, and blue color scheme.
“I didn’t choose the dump life, the dump life chose me,” says Hanksy.
All jokes aside, what Hanksy is doing here is making an unprecedented plunge into the bloodstream of American politics. He’s taking his art off the side of a building and putting it on banners, in people’s’ front yards, distributing Dump Trump pins at rallies.
It seems a small feat, but in today’s world shareability is nearly as important as the message itself. Just look at the reach and subsequent effect Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash (a series of Facebook memes devoted to proving Sanders a superior candidate to Clinton) has had.
While the content of the memes range from half-baked critiques of Clinton’s policy platform to personal jabs about her appearance and cool-factor, their accessibility has made them a powerful campaign tool: Sanders’ polling with voters young enough to know what memes are is off the charts.
With the ability to click share, millennials feel as though they’re playing a tangible role in the election process. The validity of the information takes a backseat, much to the upset of political analysts. For even they can’t refute the reality that regardless of whether or not what is disseminated across the internet is true, it will undoubtedly reach an audience… and most of the time, it will be believed.
No one understands this better than Hanksy–after all, he’s built an entire career on shareability. He begins with familiar images we all recognize, then turns them on their ear making us stop and go wait, is that…? Then–and this is perhaps the most important step of all–he makes us laugh (or groan, or both). And in the process of making people laugh, he is making people think.
What began as an “immature joke” has turned into a movement with tangible momentum. In March, Hanksy and his #DumpAcrossAmerica team could be seen marching through Midtown Manhattan dressed in white jumpsuits like political Ghostbusters, dabbing for justice on the steps of Trump Tower. “New Yorkers loved it,” he said of the impromptu anti-Trump parade, “people react positively because we keep it light-hearted and jovial. We’re combating Trump’s hateful message with a poop joke.”
This is just the beginning for Hanksy and his “grassroots (bowel) movement.” When asked what’s the next phase of #DumpAcrossAmerica now that Trump has by default, won the Republican nomination, he assured us the fight is not over, “we’ll get on the road and take it coast-to-coast.”
Granted, anti-Trump demonstrations are nothing new, but what sets Hanksy apart from other protesters is his method. He is not challenging aggression with aggression, but rather cracking a dirty joke, and in the process, pulling off an impressive mindgame.
Donald Trump morphing into a big piece of poop is a hard image to shake. Add a little pun into the mix, and before you know it, Hanksy is subliminally programming us to associate feces with the Republican nominee.
“It’s not politics. It’s common sense,” reads the manifesto of #DumpAcrossAmerica.
Already deflecting like a true political player, Hanksy.