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MELBOURNE, Australia — Melbourne-based street artist CDH specializes in presenting audacious and difficult challenges to institutions that explore the illicit nature of street art. Disguised in a bright safety vest, he is well-spoken and calm and on one occasion his demeanor has even been able to convince a few Melbourne police officers to help him install a street art work. He believes in giving art to the city if they want it or not and that art can be created even if permission is not granted. He dares people to destroy what is clearly art and so traps them in participating in his project.
On the 9th of September,2012, CDH “gifted” the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) a multi-panel circular work comprised of work by multiple street artists, aka the “Trojan Petition” (2012), by dumping it in the gallery forecourt in the middle of the night. The 20 panels represented all the common media of street art, including aerosol, paste-ups, yarn bombing, stickers, and sculpture created by street artists that CDH had talked into participating in the project.
The Trojan Petition dared the NGV to take the gift or to throw it away. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts as the central panel contained a petition to the state government about the anti-graffiti laws. “As we hold this alternate philosophical view on community enrichment, the State Government deems us vandals, criminalizes us and denies any cultural value or artistic merit in our efforts,” read part of the petition (read the whole thing on CDH’s website).
The following day after long negotiations between CDH and the NGV the Trojan Petition was moved inside and installed temporarily in the foyer. The NGV has a policy not to accept donations from living artists so it could not accept the Trojan Petition as a gift. CDH now plans to auction the panels of the Trojan Petition panels and use the funds to support street art projects in Melbourne.
The previous year CDH had given the city the “Atlas Intervention” (2011). The repetitive theft of the hammer from John Edward Robinson’s statue “The Hammer Thrower” had left the statue derelict for decades. As the hammer simply unscrewed and the statue was located in public-park it was impossible to prevent its theft. In a reversal of the theft, CDH replaced the hammer with a globe and the result is an amazing transformation.
According to the plaque that CDH added “Atlas” was “bestowed up the people of the City of Melbourne by courtesy of Rio Tinto and CDH.” (The statue is actually owned by the Rio Tinto mining company and is on long-term loan to the city.) CDH renamed the statue “Atlas.” CDH’s post-modern Atlas swings the world around unbalanced by the activities of man, including mining giants like Rio Tinto. The replacement lasted a week before council workers removed the globe. Melbourne city council offered to return the globe to CDH but he refused.
“Street art is generally cheap and is produced in multiples but I invested a lot into this,” CDH told me explaining the time and money that he’d put into the “Atlas Intervention,” not to mention that he had added welding to his skill sets and improved his angle grinding skills in the process.
I asked CDH how he felt about the “Trojan Petition” compared to the “Atlas Intervention.” “The Atlas hammer was more about placing an object in the path of the municipal council to expose the failings of their policy (forcing them to assume the role of the vandal and remove the hammer),” he replied. “The Trojan Petition was more about asking for an endorsement from our pre-eminent gallery that unsolicited works can still be art, to challenge the policy of the State Government.”