breaths between the tip of a finger and any canvas.
Of late I feel I am running from, and I am over it. It is exhausting and I have blisters. I don’t even know if these metaphorical saline bubbles are on my heels, my toes or surrounding my soul. I just know that my own desire for escape has given rise to a game of chase. So here we are, a pause and an Abando train.
I have watched the Nost Fiasco with cautious interest, cringing at what people have to say about how angry they are. Yesterday I took a breath and finally read the Age article, albeit quickly, and nearly a week later. I was as underwhelmed and frustrated as I knew I would be.
As predictable as geometric copper and pastel peach triangles on hanging plant pots, the article oozed middle class outrage. How was such a dreadful act committed on such a sacred wall? The article also predictably misinformed us about the philosophical distinction between ‘graffiti artist’ and ‘tagger’. Thank you, anonymous authority, for your insight into the ‘graffiti culture’. I had not realised how despised this nasty NOST is.
The inner North is a vibrant mix of cultures, but over the years, it is increasing white, gentrified, and middle class. I know I say that as a derision, but can I just raise my hand again and say I am one of you. The inner North has loads of cash, and buckets of post graduate scholars. No wonder we vote Green, we can afford to, and have the nous to. We are also prone to the odd grandstanding, because we can. This makes us perfectly ripe targets for satirical observations on walls. It is no surprise to me that there is ‘public outrage’ that this feminist work has been ‘capped’ by such a terrible, criminal, shameful vandal.
Who is NOST? Contrary to The Age article, he is not necessarily ‘notorious’for capping others. He does cap other peoples tags, in much the same way everyone does. He is not universally disliked either. The offending tag at the centre of the NOST Fiasco was up for five weeks before the Age noticed. Local street art bloggers of very high repute had already documented it. Comments from other (graffiti) writers, photographers and street art fans were overwhelmingly positive (so nice, massive roller, sick, double punch emoji etc). NOST is a prolific, interesting, and yes at times controversial writer. The best type, I reckon.
You don’t need to like his work. I do. I loved it when he got up on the mesh barricade at the garden show last year, for instance. I love that friends who are not at all street art connoisseurs know who he is when I mention him. He evokes debate, and I think sometimes he means to. Other times it is incidental to the fact that he is an enthusiastic writer who puts his name in many places.
So, my thoughts on the article. I will respond to a couple of specific quotes that made my eyes roll:
“City of Yarra mayor Roberto Colanzi said the mural was so badly damaged that it probably could not be saved”.
Well, no, not really. The NOST tag actually covered a heap of tags that had been there for months. These tags, along the bottom of the wall, covered what had for many years been a faded, neglected and in my humble opinion, outdated public mural. It was not lauded. You drove, walked, or trammed past it with a cursory glance and went about your day. I personally thought the images were poorly painted, average likenesses of the people represented. The type of depictions that almost nail it, but the perspective is wrong, shadows not true to where they should fall, and the eyes look dead. I don’t like that type of naive realism. To me, if you cannot draw real faces (NB: if in doubt check out Adnate or Kaffeine as a bench mark), you should maybe stick to abstractions. That’s just a matter of taste, I know, but it is a polite way of saying I personally think the mural is a bit uggs.
“Ms Evans, said …” …it was very badly damaged anyway across the bottom because of many years of graffiti, it was never really looked after,”
One of the artists even agrees the mural was neglected.
“The extent of the criminal damage is extraordinary”
Is it though? extraordinary? I seem to recall Pell having the same difficulty with that word on the stand over the past few days. It is useful to consider this: Extraordinary is something far more than ordinary. Is the NOST tag ‘extraordinary’ on a mural covered in tags, in an area pitted with walls of tags?
Anyone who knows the area where this mural is posited, knows there are some pretty fugly old buildings and empty land, and that graffiti is everywhere. The council do jack shit to clean this area up. The streetscape is a shocker compared to it’s surrounds.
I wish I could find an old image of the wall, with it’s pre NOST tags. I would like to illustrate how well placed he has been, to cover such shyte. So well done, in fact, that I question what ‘damage’ he has done at all? My point is, that wall needed to be buffed in any case. Now, thank you NOST, it looks good and the buffing isn’t so desperately needed.
“But the thing that I didn’t like …was the symbolic writing over the women. I felt angry on behalf of the women. here was the woman who was the Lebanese milk bar owner and her two boys …there were a whole lot of women that he obliterated.”
Oh please …. this is reflective of what is commonly referred to as the old “storm in a tea cup” fist thumping “public outcry”. It is infuriatingly misinformed. It is a long bow to say that a tagger, who was probably at primary school with the Lebanese milk bar owner’s kids, was so affronted by the strong feminist message of this faded, neglected and capped wall, that he felt compelled to dominate and break that power down.
I find it ironic that the intention of the artists of the original mural was to comment on negative images of women in the media. NOST is being vilified as though his sole intention was to slap women in the face. I suggest he had no ambition of any sort. My message to my fellow middle class feminists who are angry right now, is that graffiti writers are not your oppressors. Might I suggest, however, that you might be theirs?
I have taken a lot of photos around Fitzroy, since I began this blogging caper. Before Flash I was just someone walking the dog, discovering my phone camera (Nokia N73) and getting into this thing called Facebook. It was the birth of my awareness of audience, as separate to my ‘connection with people’.
Audience is not the same as connection. The audience is the ‘masses’ that we fantasize are watching and reading us. Audience is sometimes the voice in my head that reacts to thoughts that I have before I even write them down. Audience can feel like a cheering crowd or an empty room – a party with the cool people or a party where no-one shows up. I wonder about the implications of giving the entire western world the same neuroses previously bestowed only on writers.
Before all this self-consciousness, like so many as vulnerable as I to the reward of public approval, I started to share. I jumped eagerly from the bandwagon into the ‘social media’ river and floated with it as it got bigger, faster and more difficult to navigate safely. I could talk forever now about the ocean of technology and the tides of privacy and ownership that ebb but rarely flow onto the shore of the individual’s ego. I probably will, but not today, because it is midday and I am still in bed and, well, it is time to get up. I will leave you with some snaps from 2011.
I rarely post on WordPress. I apologise to die hard yahoo/wordpress people. I am southside – you know, google/gmail. Such a divide. So 2014 heads towards 2015 now and I reflect on some good, decent men who made a difference in this world and left it in our hands, this year.
1. Allen Martin – the man who got Ventolin on the Medicare pharmaceutical list, and steamrolled out submissions on things that really mattered to people in dire need. You wouldn’t know because he never bragged. He just did it. He founded the Victorian Brain Injury Recovery Association and was a genuine decent human.
2. Ben Naz – the one and only Guerrilla artist who lived life without regrets, and championed principles of equality, fairness and truth. He truly was and is, Manila’s finest. He gave many in the street art community a feeling of solidarity and reminded us of what matters, and why.
3. Gough Whitlam – 21st Prime Minister of Australia – the man who gave us Medicare. He believed in the rights of the Indigenous traditional owners of this land we live in. He gave us legal aid. He gave us an awareness of what equality is. There has never been another like him.
4. William Wood Cullen – My Uncle Bill – by his own description, he was a laborer. A fighter in his youth with regret in later years, but he came from Springburn, Glasgow, where razor gangs bumped up against survival daily. He was kind, decent, principled and pragmatic. He was my Dads keeper, his best friend and confidant. He could croon, recite the International call of Marxism and every line of Tam O’Shanter.