Fifty masked rabbits don't go unnoticed.The Human Rabbit Action was intended to provoke the public with amusing and quirky images of people walking around central Melbourne wearing rabbit heads made out of cardboard. And it worked.
When volunteers and RMIT students from the Master of Arts (Art in Public Space) placed large cardboard masks on their shoulder and marched down the busy Swanston Street on 28 July, they instantly turned heads at the first pedestrian crossing.
The Human Rabbit Action was part of Spanish collective mmmm’s eponymous exhibition at RMIT Gallery, which closes on 9 September.
The only human rabbit wearing a suit was Juan Carlos Gafo Acevedo, the Consul General of Spain in Melbourne, who said it was great to be out in the streets and part of the action.
"It was amazing to interact with people and to be thought provoking, that was the whole purpose. It was a fantastic event."
The action was well-received by Melburnians and was also picked up by Herald Sun. Mmmm gave the public something to smile about. The action was widely seen on social media platforms where users shared photos with the hashtag #HumanRabbits. But what did the action really mean?
"In Australia, rabbits have negative connotations of invasive animals that destroy the local ecosystem, but universally rabbits are seen as cute and cuddly animals, and are considered pets in many countries. These contradictory associations, negative and positive, openly reflect with a touch of humour about the concepts of immigration, invasion, group, and identity," said mmmm member Ciro Márquez.
"We don't want to scare people, given what is happening around the world in public spaces, but we are aware that after the terrible Bourke Street mall incident at the beginning of the year, people are wary of unusual actions on the streets."
Spreading positivity through their art is one of the main reasons why mmmm constantly engage with audience in public spaces.
But just three weeks after mmmm held a talk at RMIT Gallery with academic and performer Dr Mick Douglas about actions in public places in an age of terror, the collective returned to Spain – where new terror attacks happened.
On 17 August a van attack on the busy Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona resulted in the deaths of many pedestrians, including a young Sydney boy Julian Cadman, aged 7.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull immediately announced new safety measures designed to keep Australians safe in crowded places. What does this mean for public art actions like the Human Rabbit Action?
Unfortunately for the mmmm collective, terrorism is nothing new. It has been a constant in their lives since they were children with different terrorist groups in active in Spain.
Taking the sense of negativity that they grew up with, mmmm puts a positive spin to the public art actions that they have been creating around the world for nearly 20 years. Marquez also pointed out that it is the artists' responsibility to extend, and open "possibilities of freedom".
He said that "Mmmm will continue to do that by spreading optimism and positivity through their art especially in times like these, where we need a little more hope".
Alberto Alarcón, a member of the collective, added: "The barbarians want to make us feel the terror and fear, and they want us to be scared when we walk on the streets and what they want to do is to reduce our liberty, using the streets. The work we do is opposite of that. We try to open up the streets".
Story: Ariani Adam
Ariani is a third-year Bachelor of Communication (Media) student at RMIT University, currently doing an internship with the RMIT Gallery.