Wiping the ducks clean?

Wiping the ducks clean?

A mural of ducks in Kensington has seen a second instance of vandalism during Melbourne’s extended lockdowns, reigniting a hearty discussion about street art.

The mural, at the corner of Wight and McConnell streets, depicts several ducks running on a beach and was commissioned by a local resident and painted by the artist Heesco back in 2020 before it was first defaced in August the same year.

New resident Nicole Hunter initiated a GoFundMe campaign to have the ducks restored once lockdown limitations were lifted.

“I walked past when it was being painted, and I kept walking past each day until it was all painted and I just loved it, it’s just a happy image,” Ms Hunter said.

“I’d just moved to the area and I didn’t know anybody and I couldn’t have anyone to my home and I was trying to think of ways to connect, so when I saw that I was like ‘Oh, maybe I can do something’.”

With Melburnians currently in their sixth lockdown in two years and movement limited to a five-kilometre radius, many have taken a more active interest in their local area.

“That’s how I got involved really, it was lockdown and that’s what you do, you walk around your five kilometre [radius],” Ms Hunter said.

The image is based on a photograph taken in Vietnam by former resident and owner of the wall in question, Peter Binks.

“It was such a random thing and so appealing, it’s always been my favourite travel memory and photograph and it was nice to share it,” Mr Binks said.

The GoFundMe campaign triggered public debate among some residents, with some wondering, “why should we pay?”, while others argue that is the nature of street art.

The latter is a sentiment that the artist, Heesco, agrees with.

“It’s just the nature of working in the public space.  Anyone can potentially touch that wall. In a way the ownership moves on from me to the public, it’s everyone’s wall, you know?” Heesco said.

Street art is a large part of the culture of cities and Melbourne takes a lot of pride in its support of street art, occasionally commissioning large street art works to “brighten dull spaces”.

In May 2014 the City of Melbourne’s Future Melbourne Committee approved a Graffiti Management Plan which continues to focus on eradicating graffiti through education and cultivating high-quality street art.

In Melbourne the annual cost to remove graffiti exceeds $100 million.

The tagging artist was not the first to think of enhancing the ducks in this particular way, Peter Bink had originally considered dressing the ducks up.

“I had visions when it was first painted and I thought maybe we could make up some real bras and bikini tops to put on them and mount on the wall in 3D, but that was too hard,” Mr Binks said.

Peter Binks is leaving the Kennsington community and while thoughts of the future of the ducks stay with him he is happy for locals to decide the future of the ducks.

“A lot of communities wouldn’t care about street art if it’s tagged or defaced, but for some unknown reason the ducks have really captured the imagination and love of an incredibly wide cross-section of people across Melbourne,” Mr Binks said.

“If people get it in their mind that they are going to deface something they do it under darkness and without warning. You gotta have rocks in your head to think there won’t be someone out there who for whatever reason decides they want to add their little bit to the image.” •

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