Last night, Washington, D.C.’s Trump International Hotel got an unexpected surprise in the form of projections around the entrance to the building that read “Emoluments Welcome” and “Pay Trump Bribes Here,” a swipe at Trump’s refusal to divest his business assets while in office, leading to major conflicts of interest with foreign officials, many of whom have admitted to feeling pressured to stay in Trump’s hotels in order to curry favor with the president. The projections also included flags of the various nations where Trump is involved in business dealings and passages from the Constitution’s “emoluments clause” (which restricts the president and other government officials from receiving bribes from foreign nations).
— robin bell (@bellvisuals) May 16, 2017
The person behind the messages — which began at 9:15 p.m. and lasted for about ten minutes before hotel security guards began (both literally and figuratively) blocking the light — is artist Robin Bell, who has worked on similar, politically-charged public projections since 2001. Bell has done projections at the Environmental Protection Agency, during the Occupy Wall Street movement, at Trump’s “100 days” speech in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and previously on Trump hotels.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the best part about Bell’s work is that it’s perfectly legal as long as he doesn’t block traffic or “create an impediment on the sidewalk.” Bell’s solution? A tricked-out van that can do the projections, provided he and his team can find a good parking spot that lines up with the building, which they were able to last night.
“We’re the unofficial resident artists of the Trump Hotel. They keep on giving us material to work with,” he told the Daily Mail. “Something like the emoluments can be a tough concept, so whatever I can do to make it more accessible – it’s even better if it’s funny. I would hope that five or 10 years from now, people outside the country can look at this and have it serve as a visual cue that not all of America is on board with what’s going on.”
Despite the fact that last night’s display was curtailed, Bell says he has no intentions of stopping anytime soon, especially given the viral reaction social media has had to the stunt. “We need as much visual, positive reinforcement, as we can.”