What The Devil?

On the morning of Tuesday, September 9, 2014, a nine-foot tall statue depicting a black-horned, yellow-eyed, red devil sporting a generous erection appeared in a park near the VCC-Clark SkyTrain station.

The ground shook. People ran for their lives. Children wailed and animals howled. The oceans turned to blood. It rained fire. The end had come.

Just kidding, none of that happened – except for the naughty demon part. That was definitely there. It was there until just after 3 p.m. when it was removed by city workers. The City of Vancouver claimed the piece had to come down as it was not commissioned and was on city property.

Public art? Offensive stunt? A bit of both? Whatever it was, the mysterious statue caused quite a stir and continues to do so. I touched base with members of Vancouver’s art scene to see what they think about the statue. What does it all mean?

Soledad Muñoz is an interdisciplinary artist born in Toronto, raised in Rancagua, Chile, now living in Vancouver. She will be performing along with rapper Young Braised at the New Forms Festival on Thursday, September 18 at Science World.

Muñoz: The thing with public art, it’s so hard to make a public piece. I absolutely agree with that. But at the same time, you have to be provocative, but not offensive, and maybe this could have offended some people. I find it beautiful as an expression and I really hope that more people start doing street art. There’s no street art – well, there is street art, but not a lot, like not as much as you see in Santiago or in Brazil. So, I really like it as an intrusive piece. I didn’t care about it being a devil. I think I’m a little bit more confused about the phallus [laughs]. Maybe if it was self-aware… I think it was, for sure, self-aware, in that respect, and I really hope it is. That would be the only problem that I had with it – that it crossed that violent, sexual [line]… in times where we don’t really need more of that.

But, don’t make me sound like a conservative [laughs], because I’m not! I’m super stoked that someone went through the whole trouble of putting it up. It’s just, like, think a little bit more of the people that you are affecting. 

David Jardine is a New Brunswick-born, self-taught painter. He is now based in Vancouver. Inspired by visionary, surreal, and abstract art, David creates psychedelic and dreamlike visions on canvas using a variety of styles.

Jardine: I don’t know what it means… I’m not going to pretend to know what the artist’s intentions were. [laughs] I think there’s some comedy involved though, that’s for sure. It’s hilarious. I was actually just watching a .gif today of the construction worker removing it, and he’s trying to lift it up, and he’s looking for a spot that’s a good grip to lift it off the ground. He originally goes for ‘that’…

I think the artist’s intention was just to have fun with the public a little bit. I think it was a success at what he was trying to do, because he enraged a lot of people, and he made a lot of people laugh. And he was really successful in that it ended up being all over the news. I’m pretty sure Vice already has a lead on it, I saw it in The Province, I saw it on Global. Even if his intention was just to put a small piece of art up that wasn’t commissioned by Vancouver or whatever, he was pretty successful in getting it publicized. I just thought it was hilarious. I thought it was a great and bold move to just put your art up and get a few laughs, and I think it was really well done to get the public so involved in it.

Originally from Toronto, mixed media artist James Rice now lives in Vancouver. Among other projects, he is the creator of SK8 Lamps, where he repurposes old and new skateboards into one-of-a-kind lamps and other furniture pieces.

Rice: I feel everyone’s entitled to their own artistic expression. I do believe that when it comes into a public place, there’s a line that has to be drawn with relation to religious icons, or not so much icons, but religious symbols, especially when it comes to sexuality and… phallic statues. There should be a line drawn to not force people into having to see this stuff. It should be a choice that they want to go see that type of art.

I do think it’s great being an artist in Vancouver, the freedom that it gives people to display their art publicly. I think [this particular event] just puts a damper on… you know, it’s abusing the fact that we have the freedom to do our art out in the open. It puts a negative spin on it. It takes for granted the fact that we have the freedom to put art pieces out in the open. It’s kind of stomping on that.

Malcolm Levy is Director of both New Forms Festival and Hybridity Music, as well as founder of the interactive audio-visual app, Generate. This year’s New Forms Festival runs from September 18 to 21 at Science World. 

Levy: I just think it’s like, people having fun, you know? Interventions in the city are always entertaining. They’re always interesting, and it always keeps people on their toes. Those are the conversations that people have. Whoever did that, or whoever does that again, these are just different ways that people express themselves in the city, and that’s what keeps the city bubbling and going.

What are your thoughts on the dastardly devil? Let us know!