"It Is What It Is": All the Cards Issued to Donald Trump


Richard Kraft

  • 2017-Cards
  • 2017-Text
  • 2018-Cards
  • 2018-Text
  • 2019-Cards
  • 2019-Text
  • 2020-Cards
  • 2020-Text

Above: Cards and texts from mid-November of each year of Trump’s presidency. The first grid spans over two weeks, the last just three days.


When Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, artist Richard Kraft felt an urgency—like many others—to keep a close watch on his presidency. Every single day during the Trump administration, Kraft scoured the news and Trump’s Twitter feed, assigning—like a referee in a soccer match—colored cards associated with transgressing rules and codes of conduct.

This five-volume, slipcased set of artist’s books presents over ten thousand cards for Trump’s words and actions. It is a daily reckoning, a refusal of normalcy, a bulwark against forgetting, a work of art that creates an unrelenting record of Trump’s ignominious four years in office, while also transforming it—in the crucible of dark humor—into something quite beautiful. 

In soccer, yellow signifies a warning. Red is for more serious offenses—ones for which a player should be dismissed. The futility and absurdity of assigning these cards to Trump is part of the point: What power does a referee hold when norms, fairness, and justice have been eviscerated and a player refuses to leave the field?

Quite soon after the inauguration, Kraft began adding more colors for a variety of infractions: magenta for especially egregious transgressions, orange for days Trump spent at his golf courses, pink for those who played golf with him, and dark blue when someone in the administration was fired or resigned (Kraft calls these “fuck you as you go” cards). On April 23, 2020, when Trump suggested curing COVID-19 by injecting bleach into the body, Kraft added a purple card. In September 2020, when he repeatedly refused to agree to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election, Kraft devised a crimson card. There are also, conversely, many teal cards throughout, honoring acts of resistance.

Each book—one for each year of the first three years Trump’s presidency and two for 2020—opens with that year’s cards then ends with a textual log of the transgressions to which each card is assigned (2020 is split into two volumes—one for cards and the other for texts). The texts are succinct and as neutral as possible (researched from sources such as The Guardian, Washington Post, Politifact, Govtrack.us and the New York Times).

When asked about COVID-19’s staggering daily death toll by journalist Jonathan Swan in a September 3 interview, Trump replied, “It is what it is.”

This project takes its title from that callous dismissal. “It Is What It Is”: All the Cards Issued to Donald Trump, January 2017 – January 2021 asks readers to confront the erasure that results from the daily assault by the Trump administration: What do we remember? What have become inured to? What shocks us out of our complacency, our fatigue? How does memory shape our experience of what seemed impossible almost four years ago? As much a confrontation with the facts and phenomenon of a Trump presidency, it is also a truly durational work of art, marrying futility with vigilance, outrage with humor, and transforming toxicity into beauty. 



About the Artist

Richard Kraft is a British born artist whose multidisciplinary works engage many spheres of inquiry (language, literature, history, and popular culture) and incorporate a variety of media (film, collage, photography, drawing, and performance). This diversity of interests and methods is united in acts of alteration and transformation of the everyday world, and in the exploration of simultaneity, multiplicity and indeterminacy.

Kraft is the recipient of 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship, and his work has been widely exhibited at museums, galleries, and university spaces. He also uses public spaces (library aisles, sides of buses, city streets, cow pastures, abandoned air force bases) to interrupt and reconfigure the everyday. He is the author of Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera and the five-volume set of artist’s books “It Is What It Is”: All the Cards Issued to Donald Trump, January 2017-January 2021 (Siglio, 2021). He is the co-editor of John Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matter Worse)Marcel Broodthaers: My Ogre Book, Shadow Theater, Midnight, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Photostats.