NUSAJAYA, 13 November: A DAP lawmaker today filed and emergency motion in the Johor State Assembly to debate a controversial mural by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevich. State Assemblywoman for Johor Jaya Liow Cai Tung urged the local authority MBJB not to remove the mural located in her constituency, saying it serves as a crime warning.
Liow is also running an public online campaign against the proposed mural removal. Members of the public are invited to post creative photos with the mural, the photos are shared on her facebook page.
Johor Bahru Mayor Ismail Karim was quoted by Chinese-language dailies to have warned that the murals would be erased as they were drawn in “inappropriate” spots. State Executive Councillor Tee Siew Keong also reportedly advised the artist to put his talents to better use, signaling that the mural’s message has ruffled some official feathers.
The mural near HSBC bank in Taman Molek, Johor Jaya features two Lego figures – a nod to the state’s popular theme park Legoland. One Lego figure is clad in a ski-mask clutches a knife in an apparent attempt to rob the other Chanel bag-toting Lego target. Its not-so-subtle dig at JB’s perceived high crime rate has drawn flak and support alike from various quarters.
“The only way to remove the sting of Zachas’ “high crime” mural would be to remove JB’s notorious reputation as crime capital of the nation,” said Lim who is the DAP Parliamentary Leader.
Calling the mural an “unpleasant truth”, he added that it was not the mural which “stung” (its viewers) but it was actually the high crime rate which it reflected.
Commenting on the incident, Zacharevic has expressed his view that ““art does not damage a city’s image, crime does”.
Previous work vandalised in Penang
This is not the first time that Zacharevic’s work has been tampered with. In Penang, two of his famous works were vandalised earlier this year, but were later restored by members of the public. The incidents sparked a debate about the fine line between graffiti and street art, with many citizens condemning the damage done to Zacharevic’s original murals.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng also spoke out against the issue and personally visited the mural site to inspect it. At a press conference to thank the good Samaritans who had cleaned the damaged murals, Lim highlighted the silver lining behind the vandalism incidents.
“Art brings people together, local and foreigners alike, regardless of race and religion,” he said.