Monthly Archives: September 2012

CCTV or not CCTV (Act 1)

Melbourne City Council’s plans to spend $60,000 on installing two CCTV cameras in Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane could destroy a world-class cultural asset. The street art in Hosier Lane is Melbourne’s 3rd most popular tourist attraction. You can read in The Age about the council meeting where Fletch (of Invurt) spoke to Melbourne City Council and got them to defer the decision.

Rutledge Lane, September, 2012

There are so many levels to this issue that need to be discussed from the philosophical, the political, the aesthetic, criminological and the practical, empirical evidence. After so many meetings, emails, phone-calls and other communications… I don’t know where to start.

Concerns for the future direction of Hosier Lane emerged after the departure of Andy Mac, who lived above the lane for over a decade and established Until Never Gallery in the same building. Andy Mac acted as an unofficial curator for the laneway, a moderating influence on the madness of this graffiti tolerance zone. It is a beautiful and dynamic place. There is often someone painting in Rutledge Lane when I visit. Earlier this year I was showing my parents the lane and my mother started talking to a guy spraying the wall. The guy, Wons proved to be an excellent cultural ambassador for graffiti, explaining that: “the work underneath had been ruined with tags…‘capped’ is the correct term”. (Cheers Wons – see Arty Graffarti for the piece that Wons was doing at the time.)

Looking up Hosier Lane with wedding party arriving. Hosier Lane is a popular site for wedding photos.

On Friday the 7th I was listening to a paper by Prof. Saul Newman, Reader, Dept. of politics, Goldsmiths, University of London at the Victorian College of the Arts. Prof. Newman argued that there is a need for anonymity in the coming politics, considering Giorgio Agamben’s state of exception, and the desire for governments to have a monopoly on appearance. Issues including Foucault’s interpretation of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon were being discussed. Philosophy is not isolated from the world and current events; it is, in away scouting out new territory, way ahead of the frontline. This time philosophy proved prescient and on the weekend I plunged into this current issue of trying to stop the installation of CCTV cameras in Hosier Lane.

What are the problems that the CCTV hopes to solve? The most important issue on the mind of Mayor Robert Doyle was assaults – there have been several assaults in the two lanes and reducing assaults should be a high priority.

Will CCTV cameras do this? I’ve been looking at systematic reviews of the effectiveness of CCTV cameras; a systematic review is an independent assessment of all the evidence gathered from multiple studies. According Skinns to “the introduction of CCTV had no effect on the personal crime offences such as assault.” (Skinns, D (1998) ‘Crime Reduction, Diffusion and Displacement: Evaluating the Effectiveness of CCTV’ in Norris, Moran and Armstrong (eds.) (1998) Surveillance, Closed Circuit Television and Social Control, Ashgate) The only strong evidence for crime reduction due to CCTV cameras is when they are used in car parks to stop vehicle crimes.

There are a range of other problems with installing CCTV cameras include the targeting of minority groups by police and the supply of data to US intelligence via TrapWire (see Darker Net). Trapwire has prompted Anonymous to call for the destruction of all CCTV cameras (see their video) adding another problem to this mix – the likely destruction of these expensive cameras. This is not the ravings of a conspiracy theory blogger; the residents of Hosier Lane are concerned about damage to their property as a resident’s window was broken when the mirrors installed in the lane were broken.

What would be the likely outcome of installing CCTV in Hosier or Rutledge Lanes? Even though there are street art permits for some part of the lanes the artists that worked in there will not feel anonymous and worry that they will be tracked through the network of CCTV cameras in the city. The consequence of this will be to drive the better artists away leading to a reduction in quality of the art in the lane and ultimately the loss of this unique cultural location without any reduction of assaults.

Various artists, Hosier Lane

Wisely Melbourne City Council has already installed lockers for bins to prevent fires being lite in them and budgeted for increased street lighting in Hosier Lane (a parallel systematic review about street lighting found a reduction in crime by 20%). This is a complex the political, the aesthetic, criminological and social issue and there must be a better way to spend $60,000 (plus maintenance and the cost of staff to monitor the cameras) to reduce assaults in Hosier and Rutledge Lane. The story continues in CCTV or not CCTV (Act 2).

Security camera (artist’s impression)


Doyle’s Subtopia

I am acquainted with Doyle – he is a “friend” on Facebook (whatever that means). “Just call me Doyle,” he said when I first met him in 2008 and he was indispensable in organizing the Melbourne Stencil Festival but for two years – he didn’t know my name and was calling me “punk”. I didn’t care; Doyle calls everyone “punk”. A man about Melbourne’s art world, Doyle is the initiator and director of Dark Horse Experiment (formerly Michael Koro Galleries) and Blender studios in the building behind it, Melbourne Street tours and the Napier Crew. I’ve seen a couple of exhibitions of Doyles paintings, they are good paintings, combining fine art and street art techniques. (See my 2009 blog entry about Doyle’s paintings.)

Doyle – suburban house stencil – Fitzroy

When Doyle told me that he was going to be the subject of a reality TV I felt that this was typical the way that the world was going. (Would the ABC really sink so low? Yes, easily, I thought.) I saw the documentary crew following him around at an exhibition opening at Blender and rough cuts on his computer. It didn’t sound like a good idea,  – Doyle as a representative artist in a reality TV show sounded like a horrible idea. (I could think of worse, like Kevin Rudd curating the Australia’s pavilion at the Venice Biannual, but I had to put my imagination into gear, whereas, Doyle is all too real.) He comes across as a wide boy, a bit dodgy, always talking in self-obsessed but engaging manner  – “we are going to open a gallery and sell all this shit to big end of town.”

Then I heard that the director, Jacob Oberman was exposing Doyle’s idea of an artist who wants a reality TV show about him, I felt relieved. I was felt more relieved when I found out it was a two-part half-hour documentary. And after seeing the first part tonight on the ABC’s Artscape I was glad that there is a documentary that accurately captures the scene. The meat on the bone of the documentary is the art and the artists at Blender studios; the parts about Doyle and Pia Suksodsai’s relationship are a bit of a distraction and as shallow as suburbia.

Maybe Doyle still believes that it is a reality TV show; Doyle claimed on Facebook that it is “an art work in the medium of television by Adrian Doyle” and that it is “created by Adrian Doyle, Jacob Oberman, Piya Suksodsai,
Renegade Films, and ABC”.

“You’re making a documentary; we’re making a reality TV show.” Doyle says to the camera. I know which one I’d prefer to watch. (For those of you who want the reality TV version since the filming of the documentary Doyle has become engaged to Pia Suksodsai.)


The Trojan Petition

When the National Gallery of Victoria’s new director, Tony Ellwood was asked for his opinion of street art, Ellwood said it was “a very real, a very present art form” but he probably wasn’t expecting a present from Melbourne’s street artists. The Trojan Petition organized by CDH featured panels by 20 people involved with Melbourne street art was delivered to the gallery late Sunday night.

The Trojan Petition at the NGV

Full disclosure: I am one the participants in this action, sometimes a journalist has to take sides and I was an embedded reporter working with the front line troops. I am not a street artist but I did want to record the impact of the internet on street art on the panel the CDH asked me to do – so I included a piece of text from this blog about the internet and digital cameras on my panel. (For the full text see my blog post Street Art, the Internet & Digital Cameras.)

Not since Ivan Durant dumped a dead cow in the forecourt of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in 1975 has such a large work of art been dumped so provocatively in that location. Melbourne writer, Barry Dickens explains: “I recall turning up to The National Gallery of Victoria when it existed in St Kilda Road, and enjoying the bizarre but perfectly natural sight of a butchered cow draped over the arch, like an invitation to take up butchery instead of Impressionism. But folks were nauseated, and the media courted Mr Durrant, called him several things, but not genius. Dr Eric Westbrooke was then Minister for the Arts, and he purchased a new Durrant, which was the perfect model of a fibreglass butcher’s shop window, complete with replicant pigs’ snouts, imitation Black Pudding, or Tubular Pig Blood – bloody delicious they are; and trays bearing mounds of dead-spit cutlets, right-on-the-money lamb chops and lambs’ brains you wanted to crumb and sizzle upon the spot.” (ABC Radio National 11:45 Sunday 23/05/2004)

It wasn’t such an easy mission for CDH and the crew that including Fletch and Calm. The huge work had to be bolted together in the park opposite and by that time the NGV had sent over its spy, Sylvia to find out what was happening. Sylvia works in “assets and facilities” at the NGV and after some initial bullshit she did enter into a 30+ minutes of negotiating with CDH about where the petition could go. CDH slowly wore Sylvia down and a compromise was agreed to: the petition could be left on the forecourt (but not standing up for reason of health and safety) after the wedding party at the NGV departed. Taking the petition across St. Kilda Road proved to be one of the easier parts. Tomorrow morning the curators will have to decide what to do with it – throw it in the rubbish or take the Trojan Petition into the bastion of gallery.

Sylvia and CDH reach an agreement

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Trojan Petition, photo by CDH

The full text of the petition on the central panel reads:

We didn’t say please. Does that void artistic merit?

Melbourne’s street art is consistently ranked among the top in the world [1-6], unlike any of Australia’s fine art institutions. Street art is also inherently egalitarian and freely accessible. However, rather than being endorsed with substantial tax payer subsidies [7] street art is actively stifled by the State Government; the Graffiti Prevention Act (2007) requires artists to provide lawful excuse if caught carrying a graffiti implement (aerosol can, sharp object, pencil) and thus reverses the burden of proof, to a presumption of guilt [8,9].

For the State Government, propriety in street art begins and ends with property rights. We believe the hallmarks of urban neglect (extensive tagging, peeling paint, cracks) demonstrate an owner’s tacit indifference to a site’s appearance. Formal permission is unnecessary; it is already implied. Unsolicited mural painting of a dilapidated site doesn’t damage the property or the community aesthetic. As community stakeholders, civically minded citizens have a right to intervene to restore dilapidated sites, to the betterment of the community. As we hold this alternate philosophical view on community enrichment, the State Government deems us vandals, criminalizes us and denies any cultural value or artistic merit in our efforts.

References

1. ‘The 9 best cities For street art spotting’. The Huffington Post. [Online] 03 09, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bootsnall/the-worlds-best-cities-fo_b_1327741.html.

2. Five great cities for street art. The Guardian. [Online] 01 29, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/jan/29/street-art-cities.

3. The World’s Best Cities for Viewing Street Art. Internaltional Business Times. [Online] 10 08, 2010. http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/69974/20101008/best-cities-street-art.htm.

4. The Best Cities for Street Art. Travel and Leisure webzine. [Online] 06 2009. http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-best-cities-for-street-art/1.

5. Cities that bring art to the streets! Total Travel. [Online] http://au.totaltravel.yahoo.com/travel-ideas/galleries/g/-/13073266/1/cities-that-bring-art-to-the-streets/?src=y7homepage&fb_source=message.

6. Best street art cities on Earth. Travel Glam. [Online] http://www.travelglam.com/best-street-art-cities-on-earth/.

7. Funding Summary 2009-2010. Australia Council. [Online] http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/about_us/strategies_and_policies/funding_summary.

8. The Graffiti Prevention Act [2007] s.7. [Online] http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubStatbook.nsf/edfb620cf7503d1aca256da4001b08af/39F11E47CBDA184FCA2573A000165AAF/$FILE/07-059a.pdf.

9. Clamping down: The Graffiti Prevention Act [2007]. Images to live by. [Online] 09 16, 2008. http://imagestoliveby.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/clamping-down-the-graffiti-prevention-act-2007/.

P.S. 10th Sept. 2012

Trojan Petition inside the NGV

The following day the Trojan Petition was moved inside the NGV International and installed in the foyer where it will stay for a week. The NGV has a policy not to accept donations from living artists so could not accept the Trojan Petition as a gift. After it has been displayed in the NGV the Trojan Petition panels will be auctioned and the funds used to support street art projects in Melbourne.


The Assault on Culture

On re-reading Stewart Homes The Assault on Culture (Aporia Press & Unpopular Books, 1988, London).

Maybe I should have been reading Grail Marcus Lipstick Traces instead as it is better written and covers the same trajectory as Homes does in The Assault on Culture. Homes follows the history of the various post-war utopian art movements: Cobra, Lettriste, College du Pataphysics, Nuclear Art, the International Movement for the Imaginist Bauhaus, Situationists, Fluxus, Auto-Destructiove Art, Dutch Provos, Kommune 1, Motherfuckers, Yippies, White Panthers, Mail Art, Punk, Neoism, up to Class War in 1985.

Situationalist slogan stenciled in Melbourne, 2010

Homes published his shorter book a year before Marcus – it is shorter and physically lighter than Marcus’s tome. There are other physical differences between the two books – there are no illustrations in Homes, no soundtrack CD – just a densely written history.

Homes declares in the preface that he is writing for the insiders first and others second – Marcus is clearly writing for the others. Also in the preface Homes scorns Andre Breton’s interest in mysticism and magic whereas Marcus brings magic, heretics and, even, God into his preface. Although Homes can’t ignore the historical connections with Lollards and Anabaptists, he didn’t have to worry, the tradition can be traced further back to the completely non-mystical Cynics of Ancient Greece – Diogenes pissing and throwing plucked chickens like the punks – so we don’t have bring religion or magic into it.

Homes might be able to ignore the mysticism but he couldn’t ignore the music and it is the music that provided a focus for Marcus. The music of the Sex Pistols is the beginning and the end for Marcus. So Marcus leaves out Neoism, Mail Art, Fluxus and other groups.

This history could be continued with groups like Negativeland, Survival Research Labs and the Church of the SubGenius and the street art movement. Home’s careful distinction between groups and movements becomes clearer with these examples; Negativeland is clearly a group with a few members whereas street art is a movement with thousands of participating artists.

Paris, Melbourne

Why include street art with these utopian political art practices? It is a hard case to prove, as there are thousands of disparate artists involved with no leaders writing street art manifesto to quote but the trace elements (to use Marcus’s metaphor) are there. From the Letterist International street art has the love of letters and the continuation of an urban exploration and reinvention. The linage between political stencils and street art stencils is clear from Crass and other punk bands. And some street art is an opposition to the contemporary gallery art.

“Down with the abstract, long live the ephemeral” – a Situationalist slogan from 1968 that could be the slogan of street art.

Phoenix, Less Ephemeral More Ephemeral, Melbourne


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