Monthly Archives: October 2010

Sweet Streets – Week 1

This week at the Sweet Streets festival of urban and street art there was the exhibition opening at Brunswick Street Gallery. My mind was on preparations for the Thursday film night for most of the week. Organizing the film night has been my public bit of the festival, aside from all the secretarial duties and other little things. (My interest in the Sweet Streets festival has been stated.) I have only heard about the workshops and the live spraying events going on during the festival.

On Wednesday at 1000 Pound Bend a large temporary wall was being undercoated in preparations were being made for Secret Wars.  Secret Wars, for those who don’t know, is two street artists covering several square metres of black wall in competition with each other and in front of a paying audience. It was not officially part of the Sweet Streets festival but 1000 Pound Bend had booked it in for Wednesday night anyway.

Bandos Earthling at Brunswick Street Gallery

Wednesday night was also the opening of Sweet Streets exhibition on the top floor of Brunswick Street Gallery. It was part of their “Urban Art” series of exhibitions (see my review of previous exhibition in the series). Although Tessa Yee curated both the Sweets Streets exhibitions at 1000 Pound Bend and Brunswick Street Gallery the exhibitions are a distinctly different. Under the broader category of “urban art” this exhibition has more illustration, comic book, photography and stencil art. It is a broad category that includes everything from Heesco’s fantasy illustrations to Debs aerosol paintings. But the street was not far away, even in, Jo Waite’s paintings of four panel comic strips that showed a vision of Melbourne with Spanish instead of English graffiti in the background. Bandos Earthling made an appearance in costume, carrying a large blank speech bubble made of cardboard and posing for photographs (I’m meant to catch up with him sometime during the festival). There were also some small Ben Howe’s stencils at the foot of the stairs at Brunswick Street Gallery. Last year Howe was highly commended emerging artist in the 2009 Melbourne Stencil Festival’s award exhibition.

Besides my own biased view you can read what other bloggers wrote about Sweet Streets. James Donald writes a long thoughtful researched review of the Award exhibition and The Earth Died Screaming has some bad iphone photos of the Award exhibition opening. Images to Live By wrote about Dscreet’s film “Dots” at the festival’s Thursday Film night. And Invurt wrote about Sweet Streets@BSG & Secret Wars.


Clockwork Butterfly

Steampunk is a fictional retrospective, futuristic design style that exists in movies, role-playing games and books more than it does, or ever did, in reality. But the image of anarchic inventors in a steam-powered automobile with precision ocular devices is too good to just ignore.

Clockwork Butterfly” described itself as a “steampunk extravaganza” combining musical hall vaudeville, burlesque and a fashion show. Miss Ixia, the mistress of ceremonies and graphic designer, had the extensive lexicological vocabulary of the musical hall. The acts were enjoyable especially the illusions and prestidigitations of Madotti and Vega, Missy’s pole dancing, Antonia belly dancing, and Sarina Del Fuego’s “time in motion” burlesque act was the perfect end for a clockwork butterfly.

Miss Ixia introducing the Clockwork Butterfly

Miss Ixia introducing the Clockwork Butterfly

Interspacing the acts were parades of fashion. The clothes started with daywear and beachwear (something that you would never see at a goth fashion show) and moved on into eveningwear. Alex Chambers, assisted by Courtney Webber, designed all the clothes including the costumes of the performers, which give the spectacle consistency. The models showed great personality and professionalism. The whole show was a bit like I imagine an Alexander McQueen fashion show would have been like, a beautiful, visual circus of theatrical clothes.

The venue of the Thornbury Theatre provided an excellent backdrop to the “Clockwork Butterfly” with its arched ceiling complete with chandelier and gilded Victorian plasterwork.

Steampunk, for Alex Chambers, is like a neo-Victorian version of goth fashion with a different colour palette and different accessories. Toffee, caramel and umber replace the black, emerald green and ruby of the goth palette. Goggles, parasols and top hats replace the gauntlets, chains and studs of the goth world. Brass replaces chrome steel. And button-up boots with Louis heels replace platform boots. Cotton, linen and leather replace PVC.

The fantasy of steampunk style in constructing a futuristic Victorian era is informed by the time lags in history where people can live in the past, the present or the future. And every era creates its versions of the past, present and future.

Sweet Streets Award Exhibition

I’ve been involved in preparing for the Sweet Streets festival for over a year. There is still a lot to do and I’m very tired, so I’ll keep this brief.


Junky Project, Don't Shoot, 2010


The opening Sweet Streets Award Exhibition at 1000 Pound Bend kicked off the festival. The Melbourne Festival was also opening that night and the Melbourne Fringe Festival is still going and even though Sweet Streets was competing with a two larger festival for the attention of Melbourne’s public 1000 Pound Bend was packed with hundreds of people.

I had been around the award exhibition earlier in the afternoon with Fletch who writes the blog Invurt. It was the first time that I’d met Fletch, although we had exchanged emails before. We were both amazed at how affordable the prices were with very few works over $1,000. Expanding the festival to more than just stencils appeared to be a good move; the exhibition had a lot more variety with sculpture, illustrations, painting, soft toys and yarn bombing. Although without as many stencils there were only a few works with political messages.

The judges for the award show were: Alex McCulloch (Metro Gallery), Din Heagney (editor Un-Magazine and the Art pimp) and Luke Matthews (director/founder of Gorker Gallery). Din Heagney announced the winners: Highly commended (with a $300 cash prize) were Junky Projects, Ben Ashton-Bell, Jonathon Fischer and John Koleszar. The winner of the $1000 Sweet Streets Award Exhibition prize was Jussi TwoSeven for “Go East” a work of spray paint stencil on stickers, incorporating two forms of street art in one piece. Congratulations to the winners. The prizes are not a lot of money compared to many other Australian art prizes but the Sweet Streets festival did not have any sponsors providing cash for these prizes.

It was good start to the festival – another 15 days of exhibitions, workshops, films and other events to go.


Apeseven applying the finishing touches before the opening.


Vandalism @ Brunswick Station

The large wall at the far north end of Brunswick Station has been covered with excellent aerosol art for years and repainted annually sponsored by Villain (stockists of spray paint, designer toys, art, books and clothing). Villain has been presenting this wall for three years, with a different mural each year. These murals have been defaced before but this time something different happened.

Adnate, Slicer, Itch, Morta, Deams, Zode, AWOL and UDS were repainting it this year. It was almost finished when the painting was defaced by a vandal, who slashed it with lines of pink spray paint. It was an angry and aggressive attack. The vandal revelled in ruining the work of these artists before it had even been completed. The vandal was some guy called Paul – he wrote his name along with angry messages with the same spray paint. It was like he looking for a fight.

Part of the wall in its slashed state.

Paul also trashed some of other pieces and not others – so obviously he had a particular antipathy towards the artists painting the wall. He also damaged two new pieces just around the corner from the large wall and a large blockbuster style AWOL that has been up at the station for many years. Paul clearly doesn’t like AWOL’s work and has been spraying over it around Brunswick.

Part of AWOL's restoration that was again slashed.

Inspired by the vandalism, AWOL cropped the piece by buffing parts of it with a paint roller into a blockbuster style version of AWOL. Undeterred, Paul vandalized this but with the cropped buffing form it was easy for AWOL to quickly return it to its second state incorporating Paul’s spray-paint into the piece. Now that he was just another contributor to AWOL’s piece, Paul gave up. AWOL retouched his old piece, but two pieces were not so easy to repair and remain slightly damaged by Paul’s aerosol slashes.

Both AWOL and Paul are spraying on Brunswick Station walls; the difference is that AWOL’s work is beautiful and creative whereas Paul’s actions are ugly and destructive. Finally AWOL added the last word to the large wall in this aerosol battle: “AWOL – Always Winning Over Losers”.

Sweet Streets

This is not the insides story of the Melbourne Stencil Festival 2009, I haven’t got time for that, not with the Sweet Streets festival about to start. But briefly, after the entire previous committee resigned and imploded the Melbourne Stencil Festival 2009 was run by a small emergency committee that included Phil Hall, Tessa Yee, Anna Briers and myself.  We put the festival together in three months with almost no budget and only in-kind support from sponsors. It needs to be said to dispel any idea that it was being run by paid administers in an office with lots of sponsorship dollars. After managing to put together a festival last year the new committee became even more ambitious for the 2010 festival.

This year the festival is called Sweet Streets and it is bigger and better than in previous years. It is now a real arts festival with a program of events and multiple exhibitions with multiple curators in several locations in Melbourne, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Abbotsford.

There was an obvious need to re-brand and redefine the Melbourne Stencil Festival this year to include more than just stencil art. The festival’s initial focus on stencil art came in 2004 at a time in Melbourne when stencil art was very popular and there were a lot of stencil art on the street. Since then street art in Melbourne has expanded, new techniques and ideas have come along like yarn bombing and street sculpture. So the Melbourne Stencil Festival became Sweet Streets – a festival of urban & street art. The use of the subtitle “urban & street art” was used to sidestep the debate about street art in the gallery (see my entry about this debate).

Fortunately this year we have had a lot longer to plan and more than just an emergency committee and a few volunteers to help put it together – we had a few more volunteers. And we could do with a few more. We still don’t have an office and we still don’t have any sponsorship dollars, just generous in kind support.

My role as the secretary for the festival is not the most glamorous of jobs – lots of emails, typing minutes of meetings, organizing meetings, finding meeting venues and other mundane or bureaucratic matters. On a more interesting note I have been organizing a night of short films at the festival hub, 1000 Pound Bend, 361 Ltl. Londsdale St. on Thursday 14th October. There have been so many documentaries made or are currently being about Melbourne’s street art scene. My selection of films is aimed at showing the diversity of approaches and voices.

Melbourne Stencil Festival Inc. presents

Sweet Streets – A festival of urban + street styles

8th to the 24th October 2010

Follow the Sweet Streets festival on Facebook.

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