As Will Coles (CBD News February, 2015) now resides in Spain, V-T-R is out there on his own! Sadly, there are no-other artists putting 3D sculpture, political or otherwise on our streets.
Originally from Nambour in Queensland, V-T-R (also known as Van T Rudd) worked in a casino for a short time. This he maintains was partly a trigger for his social conscience.
Moving to the “big smoke”, he studied humanities at Griffith University and the experience set him on the path to activism.
Major changes in the 2000s were to radicalise him. Meeting his Chilean partner was to increase his awareness of how the US oligarchy treated Latin Americans and, joining the dots, he began to see a connection with Vietnam/Indo-China.
“I think this is where the political stuff comes in,” he said. “I was also doing 2D paintings but frustrated with artist-run gallery spaces as they were becoming more expensive and only getting small numbers through their doors. Hence not many people were seeing my work.”
“So I took to carrying my art around the streets. Sometimes in protest against the art establishment but with a political content.”
This was the start of a more street and political focus. Exploring the street and political content, he was also getting his work censored.
In 2007 V-T-R did a national tour carrying his works through all major Australian cities. The content was politically heavy and questioned terrorism! He was stopped both by the police and transit authorities. However, he was building alliances and understanding how the system worked. At this time he began to take an interest in the street scene.
He began to experiment with sculpture, and this was to cause conflict for him!
“If I’m leaving it on the street I don’t want to be too precious about it and therefore not invest too many hours in its execution,” he said.
V-T-R’s technique is a simple one of casting a body by wrapping it in sections –first with cling film and then tape. The mould is cut off, repositioned and covered in papier maché for stability. The total body is then reassembled and manipulated into position.
As it’s too difficult to ask someone to model for you, Van is his own model – with some modifications making the body bigger, thinner etc.
One of his most successful installations was for the 2013 Anzac Day Parade. Aware of his father’s past as a Vietnam War veteran, his sculpture of a wounded soldier, bandaged and with limbs missing, was placed on Princes Bridge. Even though the response from the “vets” in the parade was positive, because it looked like a person who was about to commit suicide, the installation only lasted a short time before the police were called and it was taken down. Such was the realism and power of V-T-R’s piece!
V-T-R’s work courts controversy. Other installations he’s placed in the CBD that have attracted police attention were protesting against government cuts to education (cnr Bourke and Swanston streets) and pensions.
Pensioner Handstand depicted a female pensioner using a walking frame to do a handstand. Placed in the Bourke Street Mall, it was to have a reasonably long life, as it lasted the best part of a day.
The photo accompanying this article was V-T-R’s submission for the Footscray Big West Festival. It’s impact was such, concerned passersby called for an ambulance. This happened twice prompting the organisers of the festival to request that the sculpture to be moved inside to a gallery space, thus changing the dynamics of the installation and causing it to lose its impact.
V-T-R says very few people are currently doing anything of interest in the street art scene. He said this was possibly because of government crackdowns on the movement resulting in considerable fines and even jail sentences for repeat offences. Also, he said, economic times are forcing artist to make money by exhibiting in gallery spaces. The street art aesthetic is being bought out.
“There is great political work internationally but sadly, not here,” he said. “My sculpture is not permanent but a documentation – the act of doing it . However, I see the political message as a bigger challenge. The work is temporary and much less likely to cause trouble because it’s not damaging property. But the problem is that the work can be SO convincing that it creates tension.
Messages of social injustices loose impact in a gallery space. I see my work as puncturing the lameness of the streets.”
V-T-R has several interesting and provocative projects planned for the future and whilst there’s social injustice, there’ll always be a need for a V-T-R installation!