For 16 months plus I have been without my closest bicycle path that runs along the Upfield railway. Parks and numerous trees along it destroyed. All to construct an elevated stretch of rail-line so that cars wouldn’t have to stop for the trains, trains that only run every twenty minutes at the best of times.
There is no public art for either of the two new stations at Moreland and Coburg, whose cavernous entry halls are empty, bare, and boring. Nor any for the area under the railway line. Monochrome painting of pillars, ordinary park benches, paving and lighting do not qualify. During construction, there was a pathetic attempt at art washing with images by local primary school children displayed on the fence around the wreckage of Gandolfo Gardens.
I have had the construction noise in my ears and the grit blowing in my eyes for the past year. Every day as I walk around the fenced off-site, I thank Daniel Andrews, Jacinta Allen, and the Level Crossing Removal Project in my own special way for the inconvenience. And for imposing their bland aesthetic on the area, not in small patches as the graffiti writers have been doing in a collaborative effort for decades, but blocks.
However fences and construction site security, don’t stop outlaw artists; there are always creative solutions. Gies was the first to apply aerosol paint to the north end of the new construction, at the Bell Street with a massive ‘bomb’ in three colours. And Sped was the first to tag the southern end of the tracks. The destruction of their work doesn’t remove those achievements.
Only one feature of the architecturally incoherent new stations is appealing. The platforms of the two new stations have excellent blue-black dust-covered surfaces set at 45 degrees. Perfect for writing your tag or drawing pictures in the dust, you don’t need a pen; the dust is that thick. For graffiti is the traditional visual culture of the area going back for over twenty years when Psalm and others painted the back fence at Coburg Station. So it was good to see the work of some locals, including, while I’m mentioning veteran street artists, Braddock!
I dream that I can once again bicycle on a path to Brunswick. And that someone will take a fire extinguisher filled with paint and spray the underside of the rail-line. I hope that soon colourful art will cover the concrete: pillars yarn-bombed, the chainlink fencing covered in radical cross-stitch. The area needs to be reclaimed by the public, as some of it once when locals created Gandolfo Gardens in an act of guerrilla gardening.
Conspiracy theories are kind of scary; like when Regan offers to fill a data stick with conspiracy theory stuff the quantity alone is scary. So I unwrapped and read The Conspiracy of HaHa with some trepidation and I was relieved to find that the The Conspiracy of HaHa was more illuminutty than illuminati. A good laugh is better than a good conspiracy. Coincidentally I have been reading Umberto Eco Foucault’s Pendulum (1989) – the ultimate conspiracy theory book (aside from Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminati series).
“There exists a secret society with branches throughout the world, and its plot is to spread the rumor that a universal plot exists.” (Foucault’s Pendulum p.317)
The Conspiracy of HaHa is an illustrated book by Kieran Mangan and Regan Tamanui (Silent Army, 2011). The comics vary from Kieran Mangan’s multi and single panel cartoons featuring HaHa as the main character to the punk cartoon scribbles by HaHa featuring Braddock as the main character. As each artist takes turns to take the piss out of the other.
The book has a limited print run of only 200 editions as Regan wanted to keep it exclusive. Exclusive or not it is being merchandised with images from the book on t-shirts and badges available at the Blender Artist’s Market on Saturday.
Artist's Market at Blender Lane
Doyle, the manager of Blender and Dark Horse Experiment appears as a cartoon character in The Conspiracy of HaHa as bathos, he is the abrupt appearance of the commonplace. When I last saw Doyle he asked me why I don’t write about Dark Horse Experiment more? Does he think that I’m part of a conspiracy to ignore him – no; he just wants more online exposure. Then he tells me that inspired by suburban dreams of fame is working on his reality TV show and shows me a rough edit on Vimeo. Reality TV makes UFO conspiracies comforting.
I started to think that I had ignored the connection between comics and street art for too long. Sure I’ve seen all the cartoon characters on the walls but I had thought of them as pop references rather than statements of ambitions. So I while I was at the Blender Artist’s Market I bought a copy of the first issue of Dailies (also from Silent Army), a magazine of comics and illustrations by local artists printed on newsprint in tabloid format. I like the old fashioned style of cartoons on newsprint. There are pieces by many notable Melbourne street artists: Heesco, Civil, Shida, Ha-Ha, Baby Guerralla, Psalm, Kieran Mangan… to name but a few. Along with many other Melbourne cartoonists: Bernard Caleo, Jo Waite (to be expected) and Michael Managhetti (surprising as he does performance art).
Meanwhile in the chthonic lair of the Knights Templars…