“I read this book called The Dictator’s Handbook, and if Trump could read, I would have said he was taking that book verbatim.” I speak with artist Phil Buehler, who recently installed a 50-foot-long banner called the Wall of Liars and Pentacles, centered on Donald Trump’s ‘big lie’ that the 2020 presidential election was stolen . Comprised of the tens of thousands of lies Donald Trump has told since his election as president, and culminating in Trump’s big lie, the project aims to break through the desensitization that has inevitably set in after years of wall-to-wall coverage. Trump policy wall. career. “It’s really corrosive to our democratic system that people stop believing in free and fair elections,” Buehler said. “It really is a danger to our democracy.”
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The Wall of Liars and Deniers is the successor to another Trump Wall of Lies that Buehler created and installed in the summer of 2020. Buehler’s previous project was called the Wall of Lies, and it documented some 30,000 lies Trump had told while in office – it was an offshoot of a plan to spend a week reading all of Trump’s lies on Radio Free Brooklyn that had been shelved due to the Covid pandemic. The would-be 50ft Wall of Lies, set up on an unassuming Bushwick street, became the center of great fanfare, even attracting at least one major politician.
“We set up to do a live radio show in the street as people approached the wall. This old man walks over, leans over, says ‘who’s in charge here?’ It was Chuck Schumer! I look around me, there are all these black cars and the secret services around. He was looking for his own name, sure it must be there somewhere.
The original wall of lies looked a bit like a pixelated abstract painting, with each color-coded lie comprising its own little rectangle. It towered high above the heads of onlookers, who spent time poring over the lies and taking photos of them. Eventually, it was vandalized with graffiti attributed to the Proud Boys, including the slogans “Vote Trump or Die” and “Stand Back & Stand By,” which Trump said to the Boys during the 2020 presidential debates when told asked to distance themselves from hate. band.
Resembling Trump’s own lies, the new wall of liars and deniers is recursive in nature: it’s a reproduction of the original wall of lies, crossed by a thick white band with large gray capital letters “liars and denarii,” made up of all the lies Trump and others have told in service of the big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. It was important to Buehler that this new wall not only present lies made by Trump himself, but also those made by others in support of his Big Lie. “I really wanted to shine a light on the hundreds of Holocaust deniers who are running for office,” Buehler said.
Many of the lies collected on the wall amaze with their sheer audacity. There is Trump ally Rudy Giuliani who confidentially claims that the votes in the 2020 election were counted by Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro. There’s Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, calling the 2020 election “the biggest heist in our history.” And of course, there’s Trump himself with his oft-repeated “I won twice” lie, despite actually being routed by 7 million votes in 2020 by Joe Biden.
Buehler sees Trump’s lie as emerging from the thousands of individual lies the former president was allowed to tell during his tenure. Arguing that Trump’s big lie has endangered American democracy because it has become “a litmus test for any Republican candidate running for office,” Buehler sees it as radiating through our entire political system, corroding everything around it. . “These people have internalized that they can just keep saying these things. This turns the Republican Party into a bunch of opportunists. This is what Trump attracts, the greatest opportunists, this whole generation of opportunists.
Buehler hopes that by seeing the lies exposed there, voters can overcome their sense of desensitization and regain a sense of shock and outrage. “In a way, seeing is believing,” he said. “30,000 is just a number. As Stalin said, one death is a tragedy, 10 million is a statistic. Do you remember when a single lie from a politician made the headlines? is kind of meaningless now. People can’t catch Trump because people don’t care anymore. But when you see the wall, it’s a dramatic demonstration of his enormity.
In addition to a tool to help restore some of the shock value of Trump’s lies, Buehler’s Wall of Lies and Wall of Liars and Deniers have become places of community healing and connection. Buehler said many people came to him to say “thank you” and shared feelings of anxiety around the election and the huge number of voters who believe Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen. “Someone said to me, ‘You hear about the big lie, but when you see how many people are spreading it, and on top of all the other lies Trump has told, it hits you in a new way. You don’t just read it, it is viewed, which brings it to the fore.
According to Buehler, if there’s a silver lining to Trump’s emergence as a political force, it’s that his presidency has shaken a sense of complacency. As evidence, he points to the art world, which he says has become much more political since Trump took office. Buehler also thinks the generation that came of age under Trump has been changed forever. “It impacted a whole generation,” he said. “It’s been there forever, this worry about how our country can be hijacked.”