Should Melbourne’s street art-covered lanes receive heritage protection? There has been no action yet, but the calls for protection are getting louder. However, how do you protect ephemeral art that thrived on neglected urban walls from change and redevelopment?
There is a fun collection of images of cats at the far end of Presgrave Place. There is washing hanging on the lines of electric lights above the lane and with some of the best stencils and sculptural street art
A Series of sculptures, including unauthorised interventions
B Stack of three cubes with a globe one quarter sunk into a top corner
C Just some more Melbourne street art
D All of the above
Yes, they have been around for a while, and I love the sticker “Your form?” reply to them on the wall of Rutledge (off Hosier Lane).
I saw a carving of a mask emoji in Hosier Lane that reminded me of the work of Dan Worth in his Social Hieroglyphics exhibition. Worth informed me that his carved stone mask emoji was “installed it on the 15th of march 2020 and coincidentally later that day we got a state of emergency announcement about going into lockdown.”
Shout out to Phoenix, VKM and Kasper. Thanks to all the street artists for keeping Melbourne weird, even the silly people following that South Australian trend for sticking googly eyes.
The Blender Studios Xmas party had a food truck, a bar, and a variety of entertainment, along with an exhibition of works by resident artists. Two bands, the electro-soul band Rumpus and Jazz House combination of Jonquil Christmas Quartet, followed by a DJ set by Jonquil. Live acts, including live spaying by Blender Studio artists up on a ladder in the lane. Nakarin Jaikla’s dance performance used the air, keeping it light as the soup bubbles guns at the start and as the former warehouse’s hard concrete floor would allow. The group exhibition had recent work by the two dozen Blender artists. Included jewellery by Edie Black and Emma Rea and gallery work by street artists Akemi, Barek, Kasper and Suki.
It was a long way from the first Blender Studios Xmas Party that I went to in 2009. Dark Horse Experiment was called Michael Koro Gallery, and the party was more of an improvised BYO affair amongst the studio partitions.
Established in 2001, Blender existed until 2004 when it closed, opening again in 2007; so not the twenty years of operation implied. Since then, it has been in two locations around Melbourne’s northwest. The first was on Franklin Street. Now it is on Dudley Street. Geographically and culturally, Blender has always been on the edge of the city centre. Not to forget a couple of years that they were lured to the Docklands with cheap rent on the second floor of a near-empty shopping mall (see my post).
What made it a blender is that has always been a mix of street and gallery focused practices. The street practices meant that it spilled out of the studios and into the laneway beside it. The one rule different from other studio warehouses was that the artists had to show their visitors around to all the studios and with two dozen or so artists that is a lot of studios.
Blender’s only other consistent feature is Doyle, who outlasted Melbourne’s mayor with the same name. Artist, managing director, semi-reconstructed bogan and the subject of the ABC documentary Subtopia (see my review). Creating images of suburbia, this time front-on views of suburban houses.
A hot and enjoyable evening catching up with friends that I hadn’t seen in years. And just like at my first Xmas party at Blender I didn’t take any photos. Cheers!
Walking around Melbourne, looking at street art and graffiti and thinking about the value of art, distinguishing between cultural, monetary and aesthetic values. Thinking about the street art being destroyed in the building boom. While ancient petroglyphs on Burrup Peninsula (Murujuga) are being destroyed in an act of industrial iconoclasm. The rock art gallery in the world means nothing to Woodside Petroleum or the WA Labor government (read the ABC news story). Nor does destroying the climate.
I know that so much of the art world is a massive art wash, tax dodge, looted, exploitation move by the rich and powerful, as it’s been for centuries. I am still interested in art, and art-like activities, because they are, more or less, the best contiguous record of human and pre-human existence. Unauthorised street art and graffiti can be seen as an alternative to this plutocratic view. Like traditional art, it is a practice that doesn’t require wealthy patrons to pay, validate and promote the art.
Melbourne’s street art and graffiti boom occurred when the city was dying and decaying in the centre. Street art flourished because there were plenty of walls, lanes where old buildings were still standing, not because they were worth anything but because nobody had an economic reason to tear them down. The marvellous city, which had boomed in the gold rush, continued to offer ever-expanding suburbs, resulting in fewer demolitions at its core.
Melbourne is changing, new buildings changing the local geography, sometimes I no longer recognise the location anymore. The skyline on the west side that I see coming into Southern Cross Station is full of new glass towers.
“At what point do we say no?” writes Cara Waters in The Age. Now that it is being built over, people (Adrian Doyle) talk about its historical value Of course, everybody wants to rewrite history. It is a nice bit of rhetoric, but it will probably be flooded in twenty years, given the rising sea levels and Australia’s response to climate change. We all knew that it was going to be, more or less, ephemeral. Ars langa, vita brevis (art is long, life is short) – Hippocrates
Like art collecting, art destroying is largely the preserve of governments, mining companies and other plutocrats. And they call street artists and graffiti writers vandals?