“Uniquely American” – The Mask of Power

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States is taking place tomorrow, and Yngvar Larsen´s Trump Masks are thus eerily up to date. The ArtLego artist made the series while living in USA during the presidential campaign. Larsen´s photos are based on Snap chat’s face swap, imprinting Donald Trump´s face on his own, resulting in portraits merging the characteristics of both men.

Larsen´s idea is to try to step into the role of being a 50 (something) white male, living in USA under Trump. The series offers Larsen´s personal approach on viewing the world through the eyes of another man, investigating what that might feel like. As viewers we – on the other hand – have to reflect on what a portrait is. Who are we looking at; Larsen or Trump? And who is looking back at us?

The Trump Masks might be seen as political works, where Larsen questions how it feels to be Donald Trump or one of his supporters. Does identifying with the man make you feel powerful or alter your personality or values? And does identifying with Trump alter the way other people look at you?

The portraits are also interesting objects of philosophy, on how to describe what it is to be human. Who are we genetically, and how do we relate to cultural, social and political settings? Is it possible to obtain integrity, being an individual in ones own right, or are we left to be defined by the interpretation and power of others?

Facing at least four years with Trump as one of the worlds most powerful men, one might be tempted to reflect on the inauguration theme: “Uniquely American”. The phrase highlights the inaugural ceremony as “a uniquely American expression of our Constitutional system”. The theme also stresses a peaceful transition of power. A power that many Americans are reluctant to transit to this highly controversial president elect.

Larsen gives us no answers on how to interpret his Trump Mask photos. But the many possible ways to read his portraits is also why they will have a life way beyond inauguration date 20. January.

View works by Yngvar Larsen