Fabrizio Cammisecra, a London-based graffiti artist, posted several photographs on the Internet on Friday showing himself spray-painting the walls of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum with images of young boys and men executed by the Khmer Rouge.
By Sunday, angry reactions on the Internet may have caused the guerrilla artist to retreat. Mr Cammisecra quickly took down not only his Facebook page, but also his personal website and several in-the-act self-portraits he had uploaded to the Internet database Wikimedia Commons, which compiles images submitted by the public.
“This is bad to see. S-21 is a historical museum. How can people deface it?” said Bou Meng, an artist who was imprisoned at Tuol Sleng from 1977 to 1979. “They should not let this happen again.”
Mr Meng said Monday that Mr Cammisecra’s images, stenciled portraits of boys holding signs emblazoned with his pseudonym “codefc,” should be scrubbed from the prison walls.
The stenciled images could be seen Monday in two different sections of the museum.
Museum Director Keh Sobanaka said Monday that such stenciled images had been found and scrubbed away in the past, and flatly denied the existence of the two images remaining on the walls of his museum.
“There are no such pictures,” Mr
Sobanaka said. “There was one in the last four or five months but we eliminated it.”
Mr Sobanaka added that he considered those eager to deface the museum to be “mentally ill.”
Ill or not, many visitors have scrawled their thoughts across the prison walls: “God walks with you Cambodia through fire,” “I love u forever Ratanak!” “You’re the god of this City, You’re the king of these people.”
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Monday that such forms of vandalism are sometimes therapeutic.
“The people who visit, Cambodians and some foreigners, they get frustrated and want to leave something,” Mr Chhang said. “We have to replace the portraits of the Khmer Rouge leaders every three months or so because people vandalize them.”
Staff at the museum who declined to provide their names said Monday that they planned to wash away Mr Cammisecra’s remaining work.