After an artist printed out 62,000 pages of Hillary Clinton’s emails as part of an art exhibition titled “HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails” in Venice, Italy, the former Democratic presidential nominee showed up and spent an hour reading them. She even posed for a picture that she posted on Twitter Thursday morning, joking that someone should “alert the House GOP.”
The artist behind the show, Kenneth Goldsmith, downloaded and printed emails that were already publicly available on the internet — after the Clinton campaign and internal Democratic party email accounts were hacked — via WikiLeaks and the state department with the redactions intact.
Goldsmith, who teaches writing at The University of Pennsylvania, has created a makeshift White House in a historic Venice building that used to be an theatre hall. The space was converted into a supermarket in 2016 after being restored and renovated.
Heaps of documents sit on a replica of the desk in the Oval Office for the public to read through. They are pulled from the domain clintonemail.com between 2009 and 2013, per WikiLeaks, according to an online description from the curators.
The exhibition aims, its curators say, to show that “the pile of papers is rather unimpressive, rebutting Trump’s efforts to make them monumental.” And it’s also to examine how the case “”changed irrevocably” issues about privacy, transparency, propaganda and democracy in Western politics. Francesco Ragazzi, a curator of the exhibit, says the team behind the show wanted the art to center facts, instead of of “ideological narratives.”
“In this exhibit you can actually read all these emails by yourself,” Ragazzi tells TIME. “It’s an invitation to study, to research for the truth.”
Clinton flipped through copies of the documents for about an hour in a bizarre spectacle that the curators described as a “sort of vertigo.”
“The subject was in front of her portrait,” Francesco Urbano, a second curator of the exhibit tells TIME. They had no idea that Clinton would get involved, and had not formally invited her. She apparently found them after a friend visited the Italian exhibition and her staff later reached out. “At the beginning we were thinking it was a bad joke or something,” Ragazzi says. “We quickly realized everything was true when we saw the security services inside the supermarket on Tuesday.”
It was really her.
Clinton told Italian media after the visit that the show is “an artistic way of making the same point I made in the book I wrote.”
“It was and is still one of the strangest most absurd events in American political history. Anybody can go in and look at them. There’s nothing there,” Clinton said. “There’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing that should have been so controversial.”
Clinton has previously described her use of a private email server while serving as U.S. Secretary of States as “a very dumb mistake and an even dumber scandal.” She said former FBI director James Comey’s decision to announce he was examining newly-discovered emails of hers just 11 days before the presidential vote was “inexplicable.” After inspecting the emails, Comey said the FBI would not recommend charges against Clinton.
As Clinton’s visit to the Italian art show was unannounced, “I think everybody thought they were in front of a lookalike,” Ragazzi says. “Someone wrote to us on social media asking, did you hire a cosplay?”
The exhibit has been running at Despar Teatro Italia as part of the Venice Biennale since May 9 and should continue through November 24.
Asked whether President Donald Trump may be welcome to read the emails too, the curators said that they are ready to welcome him.
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