A series of satirical flyers belonging to an art exhibition at the recently concluded Singapore Night Festival has been circulating online, creating outcry and distress among netizens.
Eville by local art collective Vertical Submarine held at the Artspace@222 gallery was meant to explore the theme of evil, making a mockery out of societal issues including animal abuse, racism and the death penalty. According to the collective, one of the installations involved a series of flyers conveying “intentionally distressing and morally questionable messages”, including committing adultery, cheating clients and littering in public.
The “Kill Stray Cats!” flyer in particular has stirred up anger on social media. The Cat Welfare Society have expressed their displeasure in a Facebook post, which calls the makers “irresponsible” and proclaims that “artists have a civic responsibility and should not express such messages of cruelty under the guise of art”.
In response to the controversy, Vertical Submarine have cleared up the issue on their Facebook page, pointing out the satirical theme of the exhibition, and stressing that it would have been clearer “if the exhibition had been viewed in its entirety, rather than looking at one flyer outside of its context”. They also go on to assure that the collective is not advocating anything, and are actually “pleased that the issue of cat abuse is highlighted”.
An artist we talked to that was involved in Eville was not surprised by the negative reactions but did not expect the controversy to go viral, as the posters were done up in an “obviously sarcastic manner”. Furthermore, he’s also received positive response from attendees that welcomed — loved, in fact — Vertical Submarine’s artistic concept of mockery.
The Cat Welfare Society has since apologised for publicly spreading the poster without providing context, but explained that the exhibit has understandably “hit a very raw nerve with the cat loving community”, especially in a period of increased frequency of cat abuse.
Photos: Emma Loh (top); Vertical Submarine Facebook page