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Friday, 14 October 2016
Political leaders as a manifestation of a nation's state. Who's dumber/crueller/uglier/more corrupt?
Bing, Bing, Bong, Bong, Bing, Bing, Bing by Kenneth O'Halloran is a very simple book. It's an oversized series of pictures of people responding to the Trump star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In fact the most complicated thing about the book is the title, which comes from a speech Trump made in 2015. But it's simple in a good way, in a topical way, in a way that connects to what we are all thinking. Loathe him or loathe him, we all have an opinion on Trump after all.
The pictures in the book start with a series of portraits of people walking past the star, so in that sense it's a kind of cross section of America in the Year of the Trump.
Fingers are pointed. Index fingers are raised as people respond in a variety of ways. There are smiles, sneers, frowns and then the phones come out - and we see people photographing the star; so we go from half-page spread to a line of thumbnails all lined across the top of the page.
The star shots are broken up with more Trump quotes and images of Sunset Boulevard during a movie launch. Then we go into details shot long; a raised finger, another finger but this time down the throat, then more fingers, raised and on cameras and phones.
Muslims, Jews, African-Americans and Mexicans look at the star. It gets spat at, stamped on, and splattered with tomato sauce. It's scrawled over, defaced and modified in a variety of ways. There's a couple of pages of Instagram images of the star defaced.
'Someone drew a swastika on Trump's star on the Walk of Fame and there's no way to know if it was done by someone who hates him or supports him,' reads one of the captions.
So there you have it. It's a book about the Donald Trump star.
I was given the book by Kenneth O'Halloran at Gazebook in Sicily and I had a quick glance through it.
Then I took it home some more and looked some more. Despite or maybe bccause of the simple subject matter, there's quite a lot going on which all hangs together.
First and foremost, it's a book of street photography; imagine Beat Streuli crossed with Paul Graham crossed with a lot of Californian sunlight and high body-mass indices.
But then again, it's a kind of cross section of US society and its response to an explicitly divisive man, all shot with an eye on ritual grimacing that links (if only slightly) to the Stump work of Christopher Anderson.
Stick all that together and you end up with a sickly book, a big book (too big perhaps) that's a fetid mix which is as much about the end of an empire and the mythology that created it as it is about Donald Trump. Trump ends up just being a symptom of the disease, as does the star, as do all the people in the book, as do all of us who watch in gobsmacked horror and fascination as the impossibility of Donald Trump becoming POTUS becomes ever more real.
We stand in awe of the stupidity of a nation that might elect this buffoon as president. Oh, but then again, who am I from the Brexit nation to talk? Our situation is so bad that you can't buy marmite for your toast here anymore. It's like the Blitz all over again. God Save the Queen. Land of Hope and Glory, When I'm Cleaning Windows, Bombay Duck and powdered egg. Truly greatness beckons once more.
It probably won't happen, as we say in the UK. But it might.
Buy the book here.
And watch George Formby here.
And here's Marlene Dietrich.