Instead of going out paint-spotting today; photographing graffiti and street art around the city I am staying home. I have been cleaning up my photo collection of graffiti and street art. The photos need to be named, tagged, filed. In the process I saw my photos of Hosier Lane and, the then adjoining, Rutledge Lane from a decade ago in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Hosier Lane was not created so that people could sell product or attract tourists. It was a place for graffiti writers and street artists, where they could spray in the centre of city. Not that those original intentions mean anything in what it has become. So here is a photo-essay about Hosier Lane from over a decade ago when there were a lot less tourists and a bit more respect for the art.
Arthur Danto’s art world has to be distinguished from George Dickie’s art world (‘has’ to be as in; I was compelled to make such a correction in my Master’s thesis). As Danto writes: ‘I am often credited with being the founder of the Institutional Theory, though in fact it was George Dickie whose theory it was, even if it arose in his mind though his interpretation of a sentence in my 1964 paper, “The Artworld”.’ (Arthur C. Danto “Response and Replies” Danto and his Critics ed. Mark Rollins p.203)
If an institutional theory isn’t what Danto means with his ‘art world’ why do so many people think he does? For a philosopher whose career is based on theoretical differences between visually indistinguishable things this is a rather fine distinction. And I am not the only one with this problem — “Would the real Arthur Danto please stand up?” (Carlin Romano “Looking Beyond the Visible: The Case of Arthur C. Danto” Danto and his Critics)
Not that Dickie’s art world is an elite group holding meetings in NYC, London and Milan to determine what is art; Dickie has a holistic, inclusive and sociological view as to who makes up the discourse that determines what is art. His institutional theory was probably also influenced by the paradigm shifts in Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, published in 1962, where what is science is determined by the taxonomy created by people at the time.
There can be no definition for all art because history is not over. Over time the definition of art, and science, has changed and both Danto and Dickie’s rejects the idea that ‘art’ is a word that define a sets of things with essential features or relation to an eternal Platonic form of art. Rather it is a Wittgenstein influenced approach to the way that language is used.
Danto, who in theory does not support an institutional theory of art, writes that Warhol’s Brillo Boxes “…brings to consciousness the structures of the art which, to be sure, require a certain historical development before the metaphor is possible.” (Danto, Transfiguration of the Commonplace p.208) Art being things that we look at things as if they were in the art world, part of the discourse of art history. The ‘world’ in Danto’s ‘art world’ is the entire history of art rather than an institution.
Consequently the word ‘art’ is not “an honorific bestowed by discriminating citizens of the art world” (Danto, Transfigurationof the Commonplace p.32) but a kind of metaphor. There is no definition for art because it is like a metaphor and in that respect it is more the word ‘cool’ rather than an honorific or the taxonomies of ‘science’. There is no set of cool or art because you can’t have a set of things that a vague metaphor could apply to, nor is there an institution determining its application.
Mr Dimples is “pretty upset” and “gutted” that his up-coming first exhibition “No More Suckers” at The Stockroom has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “A years worth of work, ready to hang in two weeks and then boom, postponed.” He told me online. I was intending to review the exhibition so instead decided to write about the postponed show.
Mr Dimples is a street-artist from Bendigo who does these cute robots and aliens. A fan of horror films he started to draw these cute monsters after seeing the Tim Burton exhibition at ACMI. There is something defective and absurd about his monsters: they are sewn up, an X for an eye, or are a robot with a joint in his metal hand.
On the street he works with paste-ups and stencils but in the exhibition there will be 53 paintings on canvas. Painting is place for him to express his feelings about the world. “My canvases are where I put my life and soul and display it to an audience. I feel my paste ups and stencils are more like portraits and don’t tell a story.” And he pours out stories about backstabbing mates, controlling partners and “getting rid of toxic people in your life”.
Mr Dimples came up with his name in five minutes and kicked off his career when the Bendigo Advertiser wrote an article about him.
Four years ago, when I first saw his sweet little monsters stuck to a Bendigo wall, Mr Dimples was about the only street artist in the Central Victorian gold rush city. There is a bit more now and the local council have tentatively begun to commission the odd piece but it is still not a flourishing scene.
To compensate for that he has joined forces with Melbourne’s “the ninjas” to bring his art to the laneways of Melbourne. “Working with the ninjas has allowed me to work with a group and share, grow and enjoy other artists company. It’s like a quirky little family, where we do art, laugh and then eat dumplings.”
We will have to wait an indefinite time before we can see Mr Dimples’s exhibition but in the meantime here are a few more of his images.
Most Thursday I go into the city, Fitzroy or somewhere else and look at art galleries and street art but today I am staying at home. Most of the galleries in Melbourne, including the NGV, are in an unprecedented shut down due to the COVID-19 virus. So many things have been shut down and cancelled.
I anticipated that this would happen last week in my last blog post and that day in the city was coloured by the feeling that I won’t be doing this again soon. I had hoped to take a photo-booth photo to memorialise the day but the classic black and white photo-booth at Flinders Street Station was being cleaned. (See my post on photo-booths.)
Instead of my usual gallery crawl, today I am staying at home. Working on the eternal tasks of labelling my photographs, going through the unread emails in my inbox and catching up with my reading. With me are my wife who is working from home and an elderly 12-year-old cat, Stella, that we adopted from the Lort Smith Animal Hospital earlier this year. Stella is very comfortable and experienced with staying at home.
So, as I work out what I’m going to do for the next couple of months, here are some photos that I took earlier. South Korean responses to Marcel Duchamp’s readymade Bicycle Wheel from a design exhibition of street sports. I saw them last year at the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park and I enjoyed their play on the idea. However, the best tribute to Bicycle Wheel that I have seen was by Sean Gladwell.
On Friday I went into Melbourne to see some exhibitions and street art. With increasing isolation looming, firstly due to the closure of my train line for Sky Rail construction, and the prospect of further isolation due to the pandemic, it might be my last chance to see some exhibitions for a few months.
A walk along Flinders Lane leads to less galleries than it did a decade ago.
Arc One had an exhibition of furniture made of leather part of Melbourne Design Week 2020, it was more like a shop than a gallery. It was “Partu” (the Walmajarri word for skin) by Johnny Nargoodah and Trent Jansen. Most of the pieces looked awkward and you could see the steel armature underneath the leathery contortions.
Fortyfive Downstairs had “Between Horizons” haunting sculptures in the shape of boats by Jan Learmonth and, “Microcosmographia” a group exhibition about animals.
Turning off Flinders Lane I walked down Hosier Lane and although it was less crowded without the Chinese tourists, I was surprised at how many people were still there. I was looking for the aftermath of the great fire-extinguisher spray performance event. You could still see it, high up on the walls, if you knew what to look for and where to look for it. Most of it has been repainted. Local writers are keen to inform the public about the effect that the shop, Culture Kings, is having on the lane’s culture. Culture Kings are the main offender but there are other advertisers with stencils who were exploiting the traffic in the lane. Everything is not a platform to advertise your product; there are more important things.
My main objective was to see the “Japanese Modernism” exhibition at the NGV International and but while I was at there I looked at the art book fair, an up-market and quality zine fair for people who love book design.
“Japanese Modernism” is not a large exhibition, just a large room, with men’s fashion on one side and women’s fashion on the other side. It is mostly design, rather than art, with some great examples of ephemera in the form tourist maps, magazines, make-up and music scores for the popular modern instruments harmonica and ukulele.
There was no shock of the new for Japan as the land already shaken by the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. And Japan adopted modernism with a confidence born from the fact that modernism was always a syncretic mix that included Japanese and European elements.
Changes to place in Brunswick and Coburg due to Sky Rail replacing the Upfield train line. Along with the changes to the infrastructure there has been destruction of public gardens and Sky Rail will effect the street art, graffiti, free libraries, guerrilla gardens, and other anarchic guerrilla place-makers along the line. MoreArts, the annual Moreland City Council outdoor art exhibition, which uses spaces along this transportation corridor has been suspended.
The destruction of parks in Coburg including the chopping down 100+ of mature trees enjoyed by native birds and possums during a climate emergency. The destruction of these parks is the destruction of places. You can’t instantly make a place, it requires people with memories of the place and that takes time, like a tree, to grow; it will take decades to make an impact.
Jacinta Allan, the minister responsible for this destruction is doing it to save some car drivers a few seconds off their commute. It is doing nothing for rail commuters and bicycle riders. Sky Rail construction is destroying many places with nothing better than optical community consultation (something that has the optics of a community consultation).
Locals defended Gandolfo Gardens. They worked through all the processes, attended meetings, wrote letters, signed petitions to no avail and were eventually dragged away by the police. The garden at Moreland Station was created by locals a hundred years ago. A place full of trees and memories. It had a memorial to an ancient scar tree that had previously been removed from the site.
The sad fact is that just across the road from Gandolfo Gardens was one of the most neglected blocks that could have been used instead. Nothing more than a parking lot and abandoned silos.
Now that the walls are no longer in eyesight of the commuters in the train their value to graffiti writers will decline. Access to most of the walls, along with the bike path, has been sealed in February.
I have written many blog posts about the street art and graffiti along this path. Here are a couple about things that have already or will soon be effected by the construction. Although neither was intended to be permanent the art and place-making along the line is a loss for all who enjoyed it.
The little red free library contacted Yarn Corner about moving their installation to the libraries new location at Robinson Reserve in advance of the construction. Great to see world’s best practice in public art being carried out by guerrilla place-makers.
Large crowd for an exhibition of small art; there was a queue out the door at Beinart Gallery waiting to get into the miniature art exhibition. I have never seen that at a commercial gallery before. Not that it was uncomfortable or dull standing in that line; under the trees in Sparta Place in Brunswick on a mild autumn evening is very pleasant.
It is not unusual for Beinart Gallery to have big crowds or to exhibit small-scale art but on this night some of the art was tiny. Carved graphite tips of pencils, by Salavat Fidai that had to be viewed through a magnifying glass or painted Tic Tacs (actually polymer clay). Both of these objects gave a sense of scale and, in the case of Steve Casino’s Tic Tacs, some sweetness to tasteless subjects.
The miniature art exhibition had many works and artists using a great variety of media. Co-curated by model-maker and director of Espionage Gallery in Adelaide, Joshua Smith, who brought in fellow model-makers, and Jon Beinart, the director of Beinart Gallery who found the pop surrealist painters working on a small scale.
Model making of abandoned buildings has grown in the last five years. It is another way for street artists to express their love for derelict houses and shops. The decay, graffiti, posters are all lovingly recreated; the empty Sushi Noodle Guy shop is so detailed that it even has a poster for the current NGV exhibition on it. However, the realism on these dolls houses for boys leaves little room for a personal style and Joshua Smith’s models look little different to the other models builders in the show, or those of, local artist, David Hourigan (whose work is not in this exhibition).
The second exhibition opening that night at Beinart was “Obstruct” paintings by David Bonnici. Faces distorted or obscured along with largely empty landscapes with views obstructed by a tree or pylon. Along with a subtle concept, Bonnici paintings have a softer focus than the obsessive detail of the pop surrealism and fantasy art that Beinart Gallery is known for. These are paintings about the unseen and overlooked, as distinct from the visible and the invisible, for there are many more things that obstruct our vision than what a realist imagines we see.