Every second school kid from Year 6 to 12 in Melbourne seems to be studying street art this year. I listened in to a group of school-boys interviewing San Francisco street artist, Chor Boogie at the stencil festival for a school project. Chor Boogie was not taking any shit, a twig permanently clamped in his jaw, carefully explaining the subtle distinctions lacking in the school project’s simple views. Chor Boogie wanted to emphasis that he understood the potential in tags, even if he didn’t like them.
I also got to speak briefly to A1one, who is very happy with his sales at the stencil festival, as it has paid for his trip to Australia. And that was worth it for A1one, he said difference between Tehran and Melbourne was “like another planet.”
Not that the Melbourne Stencil Festival is the only street art exhibition on in Melbourne. Around the corner in Johnston St. there is the “Luchador Collab-o-mask show” at Per Square Metre. And Spray the Word at The Library Artspace, which I hope to see later; I got caught up with photographing the excellent street art in the side allies off Johnston St.
A Luchador is a masked Mexican wrestler who fights in the ‘lucha libre’ style, like cartoon characters in Mucha Lucha. The “Luchador Collab-o-mask show” is the idea of American stencil artist Peat Wollaeger. Various artists have collaborated with Wollaeger painting the blank wooden masks. It is a fun idea, Luchador’s have been popular for decades and they are graphically appealing.
In the Per Square Metre show there is the usual crew of Melbourne street-artists, including Debs, Side Project, Reka, Meek, Phibs and Megs; and, some international artists, including Chor Boogie in the exhibition. Along with painted masks there are cloth-covered panels, collages and engraved panels. Both Miso and Ghost Patrol engraved their panels and both look good with the pale wood showing through the dark ground. Sears made an interactive pirate theme mask, pull the chain and watch the wrestler’s eyes move.
The City of Yarra is deeply involved with stencil art, sponsoring the Melbourne Stencil Festival and Spray the Word at The Library Artspace. It has also published a pamphlet “What do the New Graffiti Prevention Laws Mean to You?” explaining the draconian new anti-graffiti legislation and referring readers to the Napier Studio for legal aerosol art programs and Youthlaw for legal issues.
Not that it is all good news about street art. Four anti-graffiti vigilantes assaulted and held a 15 year old from Coburg captive for up to three hours after catching him spray a hire truck on June 6, 2008. Charmaine Camilleri reported the crime and the police investigation in Moreland Community News (5/8/08 Fairfax Community News Network). Police have not charged anyone and are still appealing for witnesses. This is one of the results of the anti-graffiti polemic; if graffiti is a serious problem, as the Victorian government claims, then vigilantism is partially justified. Creating a climate of hostility will have violent consequences as this incident demonstrates.