To my old, new and potential Red Bubble friends – especially those who have followed Johnny and Dave over the months and now years – here’s a bit of a Johnny and Dave explanation and context
I’ve been described as a visual poet. I have an arts background in design, photography and performance. I am also a writer and a community health worker. I am impacted by homophobia and see its effect around me daily.
I created ‘Johnny and Dave’ in 2009. They have helped me re-think myself as an artist in Sydney. They have given me a voice, a gift which I endeavour to honour.
This project began with a Red Bubble challenge in 2009 and quickly became a journey. These photographs are probably the only record of this inner-city love story between two young fictitious characters which I created – Johnny (street poet and dreamer) and his street-wise lover-buddy Dave (protector and lighthouse).
Johnny and Dave use walls, hoardings and street surfaces of inner city Sydney as canvases for their love, passion, dreams, fears, joys and pain. Sometimes they use chalk, other times paper paste up words, but they always use the street to share their extra-ordinary and sometimes naive love for each other.
With the street as their place of belonging, Johnny and Dave’s ‘private place’ is other people’s public space. Johnny and Dave aren’t oblivious to this. Johnny in particular sees the potential for the street to be used as a canvas for his messages and dreams.
For me this project is about claiming a place of belonging through the lives, eyes and words of these two young lovers. Over time the project’s focus, themes and characters have shifted yet at the core the project has remained focused on the tradition of urban guerrilla street art.
As an essentially impermanent form of art, guerrilla street art fits well with the projects’ themes of love, loss and belonging – love as an often impermanent or fleeting thing which seeks a belonging place. This format is also a snug fit with a paucity of visible public affection between people of the same sex or gender, and thereby revealing a heterosexual assumed entitlement to public affection.
The project reclaims and makes large a public space for ‘same sex’ love and intimacy – repopulating it with acceptance, hope and honesty. Johnny and Dave contradict fear and hate by replacing it with love and courage. Whatever and whoever they are (maybe they are our conscience or a kind of salvation) Johnny and Dave hopefully offer something good to people who notice and see their messages.
In terms of my relationship with them, Johnny and Dave are fundamentally a part of me and I’m certainly a part of them. They are me, you, us, our lovers or anyone who has ever lived a big love or a hidden encyclopedia of a story.
Look for them…the love continues…into the wet, city night.