Visitors to the Northwest corner of New York’s Union Square park on June 8 were treated to an unexpectedly stark sight for a June afternoon: the name of the president spelled out in dry ice, slowly melting away.
The installation, titled “This Too Shall Pass,” is the work of Georgian-American artist David Datuna, who came up with the idea for the art performance after President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“What I do in my art, it’s for the future, for the new generation,” he says.
A previous installation, “SOS/ONE,” a mobile collage that Datuna took on the road last fall, spoke to the sense of alarm — and hope for healing — in a divided country on the eve of a contentious election.
With Trump’s ascendance to the presidency, and hostility to climate science, Datuna believes the “SOS” scenario has come to pass.
“I think it’s disgusting what he did,” Datuna says of Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement.
The dry ice piece, he hopes, leaves its viewers with the conviction that while destruction to the climate may be real and lasting, Trump himself, and his environmental policies, are temporary.
“Sooner or later, it’s going to end,” he says.
A few dozen onlookers gathered to take photos — and consider what the piece might mean — as the dry ice melted.
Reactions from those who stopped were swift — and often visceral.
“Ugh, Trump,” exclaimed a middle-school-aged child, walking by with a group of friends.
A park employee on shift briefly stepped up to the installation, only to turn away repulsed, shaking her head.
Some saw a rebuke to the president in the ice.
Steve Schuit, who noticed the installation on a walk through the park with his family, saw the instillation as an ominous omen for the president, especially in the wake of former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before Congress.
“I think Trump is in the process of melting down,” he said.
While others stopped to admire the craft of the piece — and how it reflects their concerns about the environment.
“It just stood out. It’s just very original,” says Karen Bass, a teacher in the park on an unexpected afternoon off.
Bass, who plans to attend a climate rally near her home in Forest Hills, Queens, on Saturday, recently attended a professional development workshop where she was shocked by a series of charts forecasting potential temperature rise over the next several decades.
“It’s scary what could happen with the sea levels rising. It’s very scary,” she explains.
Datuna was joined in the park by his 11-year-old son David Jr., who took the day off from school to help set up and explain the project.
“The oceans are rising. The islands are disappearing. And it might cover up New York or it might cover up the Netherlands or other countries,” he explains.
Like many ambitious children his age, he wants to be president one day. Unlike most of his peers, he knows exactly why.
“[The country] is divided into two,” he says. “I want to make it into one.”