In early March 2017, photographs of “Lot reserved for Future Internment Camp” signs captured at various construction sites began circulating on social media, usually without context or background:
The signs bore a QR code, what looked to be the Presidential seal, the White House logo, and text reading as follows:
Lot Reserved For:
Future Internment Camp
By order :
Donald J. Trump.
President United States of America
Executive Order 9066
The Executive Order referenced on the sign (9066) was one signed not by President Donald Trump, but by Franklin Delano Roosevelt on 19 February 1942, an order that paved the way for the mandatory relocation of Japanese-Americans away from America’s Pacific coast during World War II.
According to the Detroit Metro Times, the most widely-shared photograph of the sign depicted one that appeared in that city on 3 March 2017 and was the work of Los Angeles-based artist Plastic Jesus:
A sign bearing a presidential seal has been posted on a fenced-off plot in Eastern Market designating the area the site of a “Future Internment Camp.” Printed in dull government hues and scrawled with President Donald Trump’s signature, the sign citing “Executive order 9066” almost appears real.
Fortunately, it’s not. But the street artist behind the message says the notion that Trump will someday put people in detention centers for their ethnicity is not farfetched.
The sign on Winder Street near Orleans was created by Plastic Jesus, a Los Angeles-based artist known best for public works of social commentary. A total of ten signs are expected to go up around the U.S., according to a source who spoke with those who hung the one in Detroit.
Although the “future internment camp” photographs were genuine, what they pictured was not an actual government-produced or government-posted sign. However, as noted in one caption in a Dropbox gallery of those photographs, what the sign represents may not be so improbable:
A few month ago the idea that people would be prevented from traveling to the USA whilst holding the correct credentials would have sounded crazy. Or that people having travelled here legitimately would be detained for no reason and without legal representation. Or that Immigration snatch squads would wait outside schools or public meetings to apprehend people even though their immigration status is currently being processed by the USA government… Not so far fetched now?
We contacted Plastic Jesus to ask about the concept behind the “future internment camp” signs, who explained that the “idea of the sign installations was to ‘jar’ people” into examining “what is happening in this country” and that “this idea of internment camps may not be far fetched.” The artist opined that art ought to prompt thought rather than simply provide aesthetic value.
Attempts to scan the QR code on the sign lead to Plastic Jesus’ web site, which shared via Twitter additional versions of the sign photographed at ten different sites:
— Plastic Jesus (@plasticjesusart) March 6, 2017