Activism

Shocking ‘Future Internment Camp’ Signs Pop Up in Artist’s Very Believable Installation

Passersby get a hair-raising taste of the future with a glimpse into the past.

Photo Credit: Plastic Jesus

"Lot reserved for: future internment camp." The signs sit quietly on chain-link fences in 10 cities across America, seemingly sprouted overnight. They're rendered in blue and white, in innocuous colors and fonts that in these signs have taken on new meaning as the coldhearted banality of evil. They are complete with an Executive Order number, the seal of the President of the United States and the signature of one Donald J. Trump. 

Perhaps if the signs' installation wasn't timed to the release of the second Muslim ban, the thousands of passersby might have spotted the QR code in the corner, or that the EO referenced, 9066, was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940s to put Japanese Americans in internment camps. The signs were not the work of Trump or his minions, but of street artist Plastic Jesus, in a sly commentary on what many fear is yet to come. 

The Los Angeles-based artist, who works anonymously and with the help of a network of collaborators across the country, is a British citizen with a green card who first came to the United States 20 years ago as a photojournalist.

"I'm an immigrant myself," Plastic Jesus explained in an interview with AlterNet. He is well acquainted with Europe's own troubled history of immigration. Still, he maintains things are worse in the U.S. In fact, he said, "I was staggered with how much immigration, race, is an issue here. It seems [there is] way less acceptance of race in a country that was founded on immigrants." 

His own experiences, as well as the new threats posed by the Trump administration, influenced the project. When he came up with the idea for the signs a month ago, "I thought the concept would be so farfetched that no one would believe the concept would come true."

If the signs look real, he said, "That was the plan, the intention." He and his collaborators intentionally placed the signs on vacant lots and construction sites, places with "some question or possible ambiguity about what they can be used for."

The artist thought that by referencing Roosevelt's 1942 order and including a QR code—which when scanned leads to the Plastic Jesus website—viewers would realize that the signs are fake. 

This isn't the first time Plastic Jesus' work has addressed our current president; in April 2016, "NO TRUMP ANYTIME" signs began popping up in parking lots across the country. During the summer of 2016, he built a wall around Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He's also featured the president's face on fake $100 bills, and in another notable installation.

Trump has obviously been a source of inspiration, but he's one Plastic Jesus would gladly live without. As he put it, "I take no pleasure in saying this, but there will be a wealth of inspiration for four years. Personally, I'd rather that there wasn't." 

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

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