The Unseen Artists of UCI
There’s a movement brewing.
An unseen hand tucks a water bottle behind a rock, with something inside. A picture is posted to Instagram, and then all of a sudden a crowd comes running. The owner of the bottle is nowhere to be found.
A figure in all black sits down at a table on the UC Irvine campus. He looks like a shadow, a silhouette, but upon further examination you see that he’s wearing a morphsuit. On top of his head sits a bright red beanie. Around his waist is a black fanny pack.
It’s Petr the Anteatr.
No, that’s not a typo. The owner of the unseen hand tells me later that “Petr” is pronounced “Pet-urr,” in ironic homage to the UCI mascot, Peter the Anteater.
Petr opens the fanny pack and pulls out sticker after sticker after sticker, and on every single one is a little doodle well-known to the Irvine community: A bow-legged anteater with a big snout and a triangle on his chest. He stands on two legs, has crossed eyes and looks constantly bewildered.
Once Petr is spotted, his location is broadcast on Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat and, presumably, over text. The line begins to form and then snakes outwards, each person queuing up to get a sticker from his fanny pack and then leave. They compare “Petr”s later. Some received holiday-themed stickers from this shadow benefactor, while others bring home cowboy- or Pokemon-themed ones.
Who is Petr the Anteatr? I had seen his work all over the /r/UCI subreddit, but was unclear on exactly what was going on here. There seemed to be several people posting original versions of the sticker online, and it was impossible to tell who was behind the sticker craze, or even to figure out how many people were doing it.
As it turns out, there are two Petrs on campus: The original artist, and an even more secretive individual. I got in touch with both, though only was able to get a sit-down chat with the latter.
For clarity, both individuals are being referred to as “he.” I’ll be referring to the original artist as Petr the Anteatr (Original Petr). He is the one who is frequently seen around campus. The one I sat down with in person I’ll refer to as “Cardio Petr” (CP). He is never seen; he runs the stickers all over campus. He explained the situation.
So, I asked them both, who is Petr the Anteatr? Who is Cardio Petr?
As Cardio Petr helpfully explained, he himself is only one thing — a UCI student with a passion for building culture on campus and making people aware that there’s more to Irvine than beige buildings and great public schools.
As for what Petr is, that’s more complicated — he’s a person, an ironic character and a community asset. Petr the Anteatr is a stressed-out UCI student who’s cautious about being identified. He’s a guerrilla artist, a funny little anteater on two legs, a new tradition.
As it turns out, Cardio Petr is less a guerrilla artist and more a guerrilla … organizer? Distributor? In his own words:
“If you want to refer to me, you can refer to me as The Community Petr. That’s what I really am. People will submit their own designs of Peter, and I’ll hold a competition, and the community (in my particular case, people on Reddit and on Instagram) will vote for what design they want to win. That’s the design that’s printed and then distributed.”
Petr had become a sort of cultural touchstone on campus, from what I could tell off the UCI forums, and I asked both of them about that. Why the anteater, specifically? Was there something inherently funny about it, or something about the UCI student body that would naturally endear them to Petr the Anteatr?
“If you look at our meme accounts, et cetera, that’s where most of our culture comes from,” Cardio Petr pointed out. Original Petr said that it was always his intention for Petr to become such a widespread and well-known symbol of campus culture, and both seemed to agree on that:
“So, back to the origins of Petr.” Cardio Petr was prepared to explain from top to bottom how the whole movement started. “It popped up on reddit as a design and the whole pretext was, we want to bring something to UCI culture.”
He complimented the student body’s event planning, but noted that some students are not as interested in social events, and he feels very positively about helping them experience college in their own way. Petr, compared to events like Shocktoberfest or Freshman Orientation, “is a lot more spontaneous. It pops in and out. Somebody will show up and be like, alright I’m here for like two hours. I have a bunch of stickers, come swarm me and I will give you all the stickers … it’s a lot more spontaneous, and it’s a lot more sarcastic.” Original Petr seemed to be in agreement, adding that he wanted to add to the culture in any way he could.
“Sarcastic?” I asked. He clarified. “I mean, [the anteater] is just a funny looking icon. [Petr the Anteatr] is a community interpretation of what our mascot really is.” The community interpretations haven’t just stopped at the anteater himself, as both Petrs pointed out.
“About my Petrs,” Original Petr texted. “I love them all so much, but it’s also within my creative mindset, so they don’t excite me the way other people’s renditions do.”
And what was your favorite version? I asked.
“I once got a Peter of me,” he responded. “It had my beanie, gloves, and the whole get up. It was holding a Petr sticker as well!” There had been other interpretations, too, more unusual ones — engineering projects, rave totems, photo mosaics and Cardio Petr’s personal favorite: A rendition of the goofy little anteater with a tear running down his face, clutching a midterm bearing a red “C-”.
When asked about what’s in store for the two most famous, secretive Petr-sticker vendors on campus, both had big answers. Original Petr kept it vague, saying that he has much in store both Petr-wise and “not directly Petr-related.” Cardio Petr alluded to a larger citywide version of his notorious online scavenger hunt.
You can follow Original Petr for updates on Instagram at @petr_the_anteatr, and contact Cardio Petr at his email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Both Petrs can also be tracked easily with the #petr tag on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.