A white car with “Graffiti Management” on its door driving in the dirt beside McCauly Station with a wall of solid graffiti behind it. The derelict switchbox near Coburg Station where the graffiti is assiduously painted over but the building has been allowed to stand derelict for decades. Managing graffiti and allowing a hundred-year old brick buildings to slowly crumble is like the proverbial dog in a manger. Melbourne’s railways are being covered in anti-graffiti grey paint. The preference for grey graffiti proof paint over the multi-colour calligraphy of graffiti is a strange preference. The grey monotone symbolizes control that is considered good and therefore aesthetically preferable to graffiti, even if in an industrial wasteland like McCauly Station. On the other hand graffiti is a symbol of loss of control that is considered bad and therefore ugly, despite being superficially appealing to the uninformed.
Know your enemy. And the hardcore extreme enemy of graffiti everywhere is Steve Beardon, Councillor for the City of Casey (2003, 2005 – present) and the president of a community group called “Residents Against Graffiti Everywhere”. Cr Steve Beardon associates graffiti with gang membership and chroming without citing any evidence. His rhetoric is full of phrases like “blight, “wage war” and “zero tolerance”. He believes that he can speak for the community, as if ‘the community’ was a genuinely coherent group. I presume that I am not part of Beardon’s community and nor are the little children who enjoy the cartoon character graffiti that they see from the train.
“Residents Against Graffiti Everywhere” is an extreme position and they are either potential vandals themselves or not really against graffiti everywhere. For if they advocate the removal of Roman graffiti or other graffiti of historic value then they would be potential vandals. I asked Steve Beardon some questions via email and within a day he had responded with five lengthy emails, from which I have found the answers to my questions amidst his electronic diarrhoea. It is clear these emails that Beardon is both obsessed and extreme in his anti-graffiti views.
I asked about the ‘tolerance zones’ established by Melbourne City Council? Beardon replied: “Its my belief that Melbourne council is wasting money and denying all of us a clean city free of graffiti. Tolerance zones send a mixed message that graffiti is acceptable and clearly has failed to stop the blight.”
I asked about the use of aerosol art for decoration of shop fronts etc. or, galleries that specialize in aerosol art? Beardon replied: “I advocate street art not be the standard used for murals. It needs to be remembered that the majority of graffiti is perfected illegally on residents front fences, walls etc.” And Beardon sent me an email with images of the kind of kitsch; tromp l’oeil and historicized murals that he advocates.
Laws and other forces can influence the quality and type of graffiti but it is extremely unlikely, given the millennia of graffiti history, that anyone could eliminate it. A realistic response to graffiti problems has to acknowledge that graffiti is an ancient human behaviour. A realist response also has to acknowledge that the current street art style is an attractive and successful graphic style. Beardon and his ignorant, unimaginative, extremist views will not eliminate graffiti, as he is part of the problem and not the solution.
(This blog entry is an edited version of two entries published in my old blog, Culture Critic @ Melbourne. My old blog has since been taken down for reasons beyond my control but I thought that this entry was worth republishing.)
December 3rd, 2009 at 5:48 AM
Hi, Excellent post. I think you are right when you say graffiti has been around for hundreds of years and will still be around when Beardon etc are long gone! At the recent Pompeii exhibition at the Melbourne Museum there were unearthed some examples of graffiti – so the whole concept isn’t exactly new! There is a whole industry set up now to remove graffiti hence the ‘graffiti management’ cars. What would these people do if there was no more graffiti to scrub off? Is Beardon correct when he says graffiti sometimes appears on private property? Then is this the real ‘nuisance’ graffiti, instead of the graffiti that appears on railway stations etc. Do you make that distinction? Also if graffiti appears on private property it is up to the owner to remove it. No help from the graffiti management cars I’m afraid…
December 20th, 2009 at 12:37 PM
QUALITY I really like this blog, now im not 1 for adding links in my replies but I feel this is a great exception, I read a blog like this on http://www.graffiti-art-murals.co.uk by a graffiti artist called Banksy & another great bunch of graffiti artists called the Graffiti Kings.
February 24th, 2010 at 7:49 PM
Yes, you’re totally right. The monotone grey is offensive to me (and my blog posse) on an aesthetic level at least. More worrying is the ‘CTCV’ (or Cops That Catch Vandals’ vigilante campaign designed as a smear to Graffiti artworks and excellent pieces to dismay public interest in the artform. The rail operators and Victoria Police deny involvement; but the fact remain they are the perpetrators of such an insidious campiagn. Somewhat like the person that went around tagging ‘Steve Beardon’; funny -but immature at best. Thanks for the article, I will link you on the INFX blog.
July 7th, 2010 at 8:00 PM
Good article, and even greater comments, good to read that the community have an opinion on the graffiti culture.
My opinion, well, I post video blogs on youtube under the name ‘Graff hunters’ to educate people on the artistic creativness of the culture within a true urban scape spanning from the suburb to the city of Melbourne and now venturing interstate.
I think if ‘Stevo’ was to watch a video of ‘Graff hunters’ his head will pop due to the freshness and truth the video’s display.
July 8th, 2010 at 12:05 AM
I’ve just watched the “Graf hunter” video on spudrokk.com and it is great fun. The compare has more energy than all other artists presenters combined. Thanks for the comment.