The Graduate Projects of Six British Art Students Were Inspired By Donald Trump


It’s a beautiful thing when people are able to channel sadness, frustration and anger and turn those negative emotions into things that are ultimately meaningful, inspirational and can affect positive change.
Which is exactly what 6 students from Europe’s largest arts university, University of the Arts London, did with their recent graduate work. After witnessing Donald Trump be elected as the President of the United States, the young creatives felt inspired to either comment on the divisiveness, hateful rhetoric and sheer idiocy of his administration, or to try and help Americans better understand how the US Government functions, with their year-end projects.

From a fashion collection to and art installation to a digital application, the bodies of work are as varied as they are complex, which makes sense considering the UAL spans across six very different colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Chelsea College of Arts, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Art.

We caught up with the students to hear why they felt compelled to address America’s current leader through their work, and to see how Trump’s campaign, policies and morals lend themselves to creative critique.

Lily Harte, 22

Jewelry Design major at Central Saint Martins

Teen Vogue: Tell us about your project and how it references the Trump administration.

Lily Harte: My graduate collection focuses on the current leaders in US and UK politics and is inspired by media headlines that have depicted their actions. In a post-truth/fake news world, how do you know what to believe? Each piece was inspired by a serious happening and is presented in high polished gold-coloured brass; a representation of how these leaders gloss over these events, eliminating their harsh realities and ironically emphasising their own economic and social distance from these issues.

For example, one of the pieces is a crown, gilded with fake gold leaf and put together with screws: a DIY crown for your DIY president. Enamelled circles replace precious stones, and depict a caricature of his face along with the words ‘King Donald’ and ‘King Donald is a Twat’. It displays his childlike nature to insult and references the fact he decided to play dress up as one of the most influential leaders in the world, despite having no political experience. Other pieces such as the number patches refer to his more harming actions, like the comment that putting Muslims on a registry would ‘just be good management’. His idea is eerily similar to one proposed in 1930’s. Germany now has safeguards in place that stop the rise of a far right party. Why is America allowing history to begin to repeat itself? The sooner Trump is out, the better. America can begin to heal itself.

TV: What inspired you to channel your political frustration into art?

LH: The feeling of emptiness I had when I discovered that a large portion of the country supports a party that systematically oppresses the vulnerable. I think if I had to pin it to one major event, it would be Brexit. If Nigel Farage, a main leader in the Leave Campaign, could kindly tell me whereabouts that £350 million is that was promised to the NHS, I would be very happy.

TV: Is art inherently political?

LH: Always. No matter what, you are putting your perception and your experience out there. Something as simple as a flower pendent is prescribing to socially created ideas of femininity. A flower painting does just the same – the idea of gender is currently at the forefront of political debate. I’m just more overt with my politics.

TV: What do you ultimately hope your project conveys? What do you hope people will take away from it?

LH: I want people to laugh; politics is presented so seriously and socially unavailable, it needs to be broken down into humour for more people to be attracted to it. The next reaction people have is generally shock. They forget that this orange child is actually affecting people, that the actions of Theresa May are creating an even bigger gap between rich and poor. I hope people take away this idea of fakery, of creating a golden front to cover the mess they create. Ultimately I hope people become more political, so they can contribute to a change that’s better for the majority.

Ingrid Kraftchenko, 26

Fashion Design – Womenswear major at London College of Fashion

Teen Vogue: Tell us about your project and how it references the Trump administration.

Ingrid Kraftchenko: The collection is titled ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ after Pedro Almodovar’s film of the same name. Trump’s time in office has highlighted the prevalent power struggle dynamics between genders that are still present within our society. My collection focuses on those dynamics by referencing femininity along with emotions of anger, despair, euphoria, mania and desire. The looks also embody various archetypes of powerful women: La Femme Fatale, La Boss Bitch, La Femme Next Door, La Riot Grrrl, La Lesbian Goddess, La Bio Bride and La Matriarch.

I was previously a performance artist so I performed each character as the starting point of my research. My main inspiration was the women around me; their fights and struggles as well as their strengths and beauty.

The newspaper prints assigned purposefully to each archetype are comments on why each type of woman is prominent in the resistance today. The CCTV camera that I placed on top of the head of of the La Matriarch films the other models, or “seven sisters,” through the eyes of the female gaze.

The newspaper clip with the headline reading ‘Grab Them by the Pussy’ was purposefully placed on one of my designs exactly where you would imagine. It was part of the look called ‘La Femme Fatale,’ which opened the show and was a very important piece in regard to the entire concept of the collection. My modern day Femme Fatale uses her body as a site of protest. She is radical and her main ambition in life is to challenge gender power conventions. It is a reaction to a sadly oppressive political era we find ourselves in–but we will not be entering it silently.

TV: What inspired you to channel your political frustration into art?

IK: It was a very personal project inspired by my own experiences and women around me. It reflects our political struggles in the current youth culture.

TV: What do you ultimately hope your project conveys?

IK: The collection embodies a sense of rebellion and awareness. In a world plagued with constrictions and media propaganda, it is time to push the normative voice with a flare of theatrically, violence and freedom.

Adam Ziver-Murray, 27

Graphic and Media Design major at the London College of Communication

Teen Vogue: Tell us about your project and how it references the Trump administration.

Adam Ziver-Murray: My project is all about giving Americans the ability to easily track, understand, and learn about the US government through an app. It will cover Trump’s policies and time in office. The most important aspect of it is that all information will be presented in a way that is void of opinion and/or analysis. I do not want to tell people how to interpret information; I want them to come to their own conclusions about it. It is unfortunate that today much of our news is no longer just news. Instead, so-called “experts” analyze news and draw conclusions from it (often with extreme bias), essentially shaping public opinion. News channels can also tend to run one story over and over again, while a much more important story gets only 5 minutes of air time. These are major issues present within mainstream news media in America and are problems I hope this project would work to subvert.

TV: Have you always been interested in both graphic design and politics?

AZM: My interest in creative things has always existed but my specific interest in graphic design came about when I was 22 and got my first internship at the chamber of commerce in my hometown. My interest in politics began late in high school but it wasn’t until I found out about Bernie Sanders that I became more actively interested/invested.

TV: Do you think it’s important for artists and creatives to reflect the current political climate in their work? Why or why not?

AZM: I think it is up to the individual artist to decide. I personally don’t believe that including politics within artwork goes far enough to address the issues. It just acts as somewhat pointless commentary. I’d much rather see people trying to actively improve and change the current political climate rather than just make a piece of art about it.

Sara Tavasolian, 35

Interaction Design Arts major at the London College of Communication

Teen Vogue: Tell us about your project and how it references the Trump administration.

Sara Tavasolian: After the 2016 election I decided to explore the controversial campaign strategy of Donald Trump that paved his way to one of the most powerful offices in the world, the Oval Office. I looked into his patterns of speaking and the narratives of his public speeches that resonated with many American voters. Trump delivered attacks and insults to various communities, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds which surprisingly resulted in more support. Despite having a chaotic campaign unlike any prior US presidential campaign, Donald Trump didn’t back down. I think his resilience was the main reason he stayed at the forefront of the race. In the field of politics, he came across as an inexperienced person who continuously repeated the same words and sentences in his speeches to gain credibility. Studies have shown that repeating information can influence people in their decision making. Therefore, this type of behavior can also be mistaken for an honest trait. Donald Trump positioned himself as a trustworthy preacher by manipulating his supporters who had lost hope in their leaders.

I wanted to visually demonstrate this misleading campaign and the irreversible impact it has had on not only Americans but the rest of the world. I decided to project Donald Trump’s commonly used words and phrases onto the walls of an abandoned church in Peckham, London to highlight the magnitude of the words, making Trump seem like a preacher in the church.

Entitled ‘Fake News,’ the installation is about the current phenomena of Internet culture and the spread of misinformation, which can lead to and has resulted in toxic consequences. The installation highlights the transitional state between moral beliefs and assumption.

TV: What inspired you to channel your political frustration into art?

ST: I wouldn’t say that my ‘Fake News’ installation was created out of frustration but rather out of curiosity about the public relations and communication strategies present within the political sphere. I wanted to understand Trump’s audience as well as my own, projecting his almost iconoclastic personage through my visual exploration. Just like many others, I was left shocked and in disbelief of his derogatory opinions and attitude throughout his campaign. This was my way of visualizing its controversial aspects.

TV: What do you ultimately hope your project conveys? What do you hope people will take away from it?

ST: I hope that my project starts a discussion around Internet culture and the impact that social media is having on our generation. I also hope that a similarity between religious beliefs, political figures and social media will be established in order to provoke lingering contemplation after the installation.

Emma King, 27

Communication Design major at Central Saint Martins

Teen Vogue: Tell us about your project and how it references the Trump administration.

Emma King: My project uses President Trump’s “alternative facts” to rewrite George Orwell’s dystopian fictional novel, 1984. Words from Trump’s archived tweets, which together form the entire first chapter of 1984, are highlighted in red and run vertically down the pages, while the tweets in full run horizontally. I used Trump Twitter Archive to search for each word in the entire first chapter of 1984. If a word from the novel hasn’t been tweeted by Trump then it appears alone (it’s usually the more descriptive words like ‘swirled’ or ‘sanguine’, or neologisms unique to the book such as ‘Ingsoc’, ‘Newspeak,’ ‘doublethink’).

I found that Trump’s use of Twitter has highlighted how effectively he uses language to promote his propaganda and rhetoric online. He treats Twitter as his own publishing outlet and is well aware of the power and influence it gives him. He can have direct conversations with his followers and supporters, retweeting their praise, agreements and admiration to feed into the ‘cult of personality’ that has risen around him and his celebrity. He appears relatable, approachable, and is able to repeat his slogans in effective, emotive language that spreads rapidly online.

The way Trump uses Twitter in the post-internet age really embodies the phenomenon of post-truth. It doesn’t matter if people believe what he is saying to be the fact, as long as they feel a connection to his messages.

TV: Have you always been interested in both communications/graphic design and politics?

EK: I’ve always been interested in the effect and influence of graphic design within politics, whether as part of a political campaign (such as Obama’s ‘Hope’ poster by Shepard Fairey in 2008) or when used as a form of protest through placards and counter-culture zines. Before this project I never incorporated my political views into my work, though. I think the radical swing in politics and its relation to language triggered that response in my work.

TV: What do you hope people will take away from your project?

EK: I hope that by creating a juxtaposition between Donald Trump’s tweets and the text of 1984, people will understand the parallels between the themes of the book and Trump’s rise to power. Orwell’s novel is critical of authoritarianism and depicts a world wherein the population must show love and admiration for their leader called Big Brother and express vehement hatred for their enemy. In this dystopian society, the government constantly edits the news, books and other documents to fit the party’s propaganda so the truth is always shifting. Citizens are supposed to employ ‘doublethink’, a method of believing something while knowing it is a lie, to accept the new truths.

How different is this from our world where Trump uses social media to boast about his empire and retweet praise from his followers? His tweets attack his enemies, the ‘haters and losers’, and decry any opinions or information that doesn’t fit his agenda as ‘FAKE NEWS!!!!’. He openly uses Twitter to share his own ‘alternative facts’ that can be easily debunked as lies, but he uses persuasive language and repetition to ensure his followers want to believe what he tells them.

By drawing these comparisons, I hope that people will pay real attention to the role of social media as a form of publishing that has a serious impact on our society and politics.

Tudor Crockford, 23

Interaction Design Arts major at the London College of Communication

Teen Vogue: Tell us about your project and how it references the Trump administration.

Tudor Crockford: Each time President Trump sends out a tweet, the saw in my project gradually cuts closer to its own power supply. Over time, it will eventually destroy itself. This represents Trumps aggressive demeanour and, I believe, ultimately self-destructive tweets. The use of the saw is a symbol of the blue collar workers’ frustration with modern politics, which inevitably lead to Trump winning the election. The carnage and destruction of the power source demonstrates how Trump could potentially unfulfill his promises to the people, which were fabricated to draw them in.

Anna & Alex Productions 3A

TV: What do you ultimately hope your project conveys?

TC: Humor as a means of addressing serious issues.

Related: High Schoolers Are Using Their AP Essays to Troll Donald Trump

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