Graffiti has been a part of Copenhagen's urban image for so many years now that most people have become oblivious to the colorful works that are visible all over town and engulf pretty much every inch of Danish State Railway property.
That said, you can't help but notice when one of the many red subway trains that roam the greater Copenhagen area pulls up to the platform emblazoned with two giant, pink, hairy assholes shooting cascades of semen at each other. In between them, in bold letters, is the slogan: "I always feel like straight bashing."
EDES (short for "Evil Duck Eat Sperm") is the man behind the images—using spray-paint to provoke homophobes and ridicule intolerance, via the rolling canvas of the city's subway trains, rail tracks, parks, walls, and lampposts. I met with him to discuss the motivations behind his work—from his repressed Christian schooling, to being alienated in the street art community and why we could all benefit from dick cartoons in our public areas.
Though VICE is aware of his true identity, EDES prefers to remain anonymous, because his street art is vandalism from a legal perspective.
VICE: Hey EDES, how are you?
EDES: I'm great. I was out last night tagging a spot with some dicks and arses. Creatively, I'm going through a really active period right now.
Tell us a bit about how you got started with all of this.
Well, if we're going to go all the way back to the beginning, it probably started with me going to a Christian school and being brought up with values that didn't exactly harmonize with being gay. For a long time, I repressed my sexuality. Rock bottom for me was praying that God would turn me straight.
When I finally came out in 2008, it sparked a reaction in me. My temperament began to change and these ideas just started growing in my head. I was already tagging by then, but I never did anything with the ideas until 2012, when we had the whole debate about gay weddings in Denmark. I was so pissed off and frustrated listening to all these ministers fighting against it that I just had to find a way to express it. Instead of going out and like, burning down a church, I started drawing for real. I drew a pastor wearing rainbow sunglasses, and then came the dick. The ideas kept coming to me, one after the other. Now my sketches have made their way on to stickers, walls, and trains all over town.
But looking at your latest pieces, it seems like the church is far from being your only target. Who else are you going for?
Homophobes, in a word. I'm actively trying to provoke them and I'm doing it by transforming gay bashing into straight bashing, by slathering homosexuality all over, and shoving it in their faces. I also kind of wanted to piss off the rest of the street art community, particularly the ones who have a problem with gays. A lot of graffiti artists view trains as one of the most hardcore spots to tag. It nags at their prejudices, because if a gay guy like me can go out and paint a window-down, anyone can do it. And then all of the sudden you can't really keep monopolizing the tough guy image, can you?
So how do you see yourself?
I just don't feel at home in the stereotypical gay scene, where it's all ABBA, Eurovision, glitter and glam. I grew up with Dr. Dre, beers, and dirty dive bars. And graffiti, for fuck's sake. That's why my pieces cause such a stir. I don't really fit in anywhere.
How has the graffiti you've started doing been received by other street artists?
I've had mixed feedback. I've been called a resentful fag with a chip on my shoulder, people have said I have AIDS and tagged the word "BØSSE" ("FAG") across my pieces. But really, the overall reception has been pretty decent. My own crew, DRA (Den Rå Alliance, or "The Raw Alliance"), is behind me 100 percent.
Have you ever considered that your motifs might actually make homophobes think even less of gay people?
People who think that way are already hardwired to be negative. I have to really hit a nerve to get reactions. If I'm too PG, my work will drop below the radar. On the other hand, my work's not meant to just be provocative at all costs. That's why the style is so cartoony and not realistic. It's edgy and funny, but it will make you think.
Can you elaborate on what else motivates you—aside from wanting to piss off homophobes?
I make no attempts to hide the fact that it's also a form of therapeutic self-help. I need an outlet after being repressed for so many years and I love the idea of random people being faced with what I've been creating in the darkness of the night. Imagine some guy sitting on the train one morning, just staring out the window, when he suddenly spots an arsehole spraying out cascades of cum. That "wtf did I just see" feeling that people get... that really gets me going.
"Even if you're gay, you can still charge headfirst into a fight, help your friends, and be a tough son of a bitch. And then go home and suck a dick afterwards."
What's wrong with traditional activism like trying to change the law?
In mainstream circles, being gay is pretty broadly accepted. We have heads of state attending Copenhagen Pride now even. But out on the fringes of society, in underground environments, there is still a thriving hostility and hatred towards gays and these are people you're not going to reach by slapping some article in the paper.
Are they even worth reaching?
Yes. Because I would like to fundamentally change the perception that homosexuals are automatically weak people. Even if you're gay, you can still charge headfirst into a fight, help your friends, and be a tough son of a bitch. And then go home and suck a dick afterwards. I have never had any aspirations of being in a biker gang or becoming a hooligan, but I do want my work to bring people out of their shells into these macho environments.
How long do you plan to keep this up?
Who knows. Even though I've been doing traditional graffiti for almost 20 years, I've only recently found my true mode of expression through this stuff. It allows me to vent some feelings and frustrations and at the same time hopefully jostle some prejudices—I think I have the perfect instrument.