PETA Washington, D.C. USA, 2015
For the past few years my street interventions have been mostly concerned with activism on behalf of the disenfranchised. This often means using aggressive tactics—shocking unsuspecting passersby into confronting disturbing truths. As an artist who works without permission on the public commons, I recognize that this can be troubling.
But my response to the NIH’s brutal hidden experiments demanded images that are in your face, unavoidable, and as daunting as the hideous cruelty of this program. With all this in mind I set about painting the most heart-meltingly adorable baby monkeys I could.
Or at least that was the plan. I was using the NIH’s photos of the actual baby monkey victims to paint from, and soon the sadness of spending time with these images became overwhelming. But the PETA people advised me that I would get used to it. Which, sadly, I did. I realized though that this was exactly the point of the project. This thing we humans do, this compartmentalizing of horror, this stuffing the unthinkable out of sight and out of mind—this is why such aggressive, confrontational tactics are necessary.