On Friday evening, about two dozen people gathered in a small art space in New York City's East Village to take in a fairly terrifying sight: A bright orange wall dotted with 500 copper IUDs, each bearing Donald Trump's outstretched hands as the device's arms and his head perched atop the stems, lips puckered with frightening accuracy.
But before people could even get up close to the wall to inspect the faux birth control devices, they had to pass four oversized Trump IUDs displayed on doll stands.
"Oh my god," I exclaimed, as the copper wire gleamed under the lights. Everything was perfectly recreated, from the swoop of his hair to the bags under his eyes. A video playing on a projector screen highlighted the patented "Grab’Em By The Pussy" (GEBTP) security arms that hold the device in place. The gallery had even painted the floor orange for the occasion.
While the art space, SSHH, was indeed selling the devices—the window bears a decal reading "Trumpcare® IUD, Official Retailer"—they aren't for medical use. No, this was an installation dreamed up by two artists in the fall of 2016, when Trump was elected President weeks after he was heard boasting on leaked audio about his ability to assault women. "When you're a star they let you do it. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything," Trump said.
The artists, who didn't want their names used, said they couldn't believe he got elected and the exhibit is meant to illustrate their disgust. "We wanted to make a physical embodiment of the horror of Trump," Artist 1 said in a statement. "An internal foreign object/person is in control of the body. How does it feel?" To date, almost two dozen women have accused Trump of sexual assault or misconduct.
"To be very precise, [the project is] about rape and rape culture, and how someone who has bragged about assaulting women is now in charge of things, and how that affects you internally," Artist 1 told VICE. "The state we're in now is that, psychologically…this kind of rape culture is just always with us."
The day after we spoke, The New York Times published new sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Trump, who vociferously defended Kavanaugh during his confirmation process, went into a rage, saying it was Kavanaugh who'd been assaulted and that he should sue.
The exhibit is also a commentary on how healthcare has been affected under the Trump administration. The artists said they chose to make IUDs over other birth control methods for a few reasons, chief among them being: People rushed to get the devices in the wake of the election because of concerns that Obama-era insurance rules requiring all birth control methods to be fully covered might get repealed.
That hasn't happened—yet—but the Trump administration is actively dismantling a decades-old program that helps low income people afford reproductive healthcare. In fact, the exhibit opened days after Planned Parenthood said it would have to close two clinics—ones that don't even provide abortion—as a result of the Trump administration changes to Title X, the country's only federal birth control program which began in 1970. At other clinics, people who paid nothing for their monthly birth control are now facing costs of $120, while others who paid $30 a month are stuck with $200 bills.
"In reality, an IUD costs around $900 [without insurance]. It's extremely expensive and unaffordable for most people," Artist 2 said, noting that IUDs will be even less accessible under changes to reproductive health programs like Title X.
In their imagined Trumpcare world, they take it a step further, noting in a press release that the Trumpcare IUD would be the only one allowed in the US. "Under our fantasy of Trumpcare, you have no other options. which is basically what we're coming to, is not having options," Artist 1 added.
The Trumpcare IUD "costs" $200,000 for people with insurance and $100,000 for people without, which speaks to how our health insurance system inflates the cost of medical care, Artist 1 said.
The IUDs were designed in a CAD program, 3-D printed in China, and wrapped in copper wire during gatherings at Brooklyn's NYC Resistor. While the exhibit is now closed, people can buy their own for $10, with half of the proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. They hope to do the installation in other cities.
I told the artists it felt eerie that their project launched so soon after the impact of changes to the Title X program took effect. "Yeah it is. We didn't want that to happen," Artist 1 said.
Artist 2 added: "After the election [I had] a lot of hope that things would not be as bad as they are."
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