There are few joys greater than the unexpected discovery of a stunning piece of street art. Finding something with beauty and meaning and which you were totally unaware of gives a buzz very little else can match. While cycling along my well worn route into Shoreditch recently something caught my eye on a no entry sign.
I pulled over, I photographed it, I puzzled over it. My instant assessment was – it’s on a traffic sign; it’s well made; it’s perfectly placed; it must be something new by Clet Abraham. Something niggled though, the cluster of tight packed chickens didn’t make me smile which is a Pavlovian response to any Clet Abraham traffic sign subversion. As I cycled up the hill within 2 minutes another new bit of street art caught my eye.
This one had clear provenance, something trapped behind a grating in a wall clawing to escape is classic Dan Witz from NY. As I photographed these incarcerated chickens a possible connection sprung to mind, were the chickens I had just seen at the bottom of the hill therefore also by Dan Witz? A moment on google when I got home revealed London was hosting a new Dan Witz campaign which had somehow completely escaped my attention.
The last time Dan Witz was actively creating street art in London was around the time of his “Prisoners 2012 – 13” show at Lazarides Gallery in January 2013, inserting a series of artworks into our urban environment to raise awareness of the mistreatment of prisoners, a project he worked on in cooperation with Amnesty International.
Empty The Cages is a new PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals) campaign for which vegan Dan Witz aims to raise awareness of the cruelty inflicted on animals in the quest for more efficient and cheaper meat production to feed the worst parasite this planet has ever witnessed – mankind. Sculptural artworks of cows, pigs and chickens penned and caged have been placed around inner London, as well as the sign based image discovered at the top of the post.
Testimony to my 110% concentration on avoiding death when I ride my bike, I found out that the road sign had been up for almost a month before I spotted it despite having passed within yards of it many times. There is a map on the Empty The Cages website indicating the approximate locations of Dan Witz’s campaign pieces and armed with the map I was able to track down quite a few..about half of them.
Placement is everything with great street art and although the photographs from PETA have chosen not to highlight the placement, a couple of them were placed alongside street artefacts that resonated with the message.
Several of the pieces are placed around and on Smithfield Market, formerly London’s main meat market and therefore a building whose history lends resonance and direction to the Empty The Cages message.
Discovering the one below was particularly tricky but now it’s slightly embarrassing to be reminded on every ride into Shoreditch that 4 of them can actually be seen from the main road I cycle along.
A number of the pieces would defy use of the map for their discovery, for example you could try finding the burined chicken foot in the flower beds around St Paul’s Cathedral but that’s a heck of a lot of soil and damp leaves you’ll be staring at. Some things though are meant to be just found rather than located with a map. Imagine the impact, the shock at the moment of discovery by someone who chances upon the charnel remains by chance.
Changing your mind about dinner yet?