Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page
On the panel, there was Miso, Ghostpatrol and Tom Sevil, with me acting as a kind of discussion-facilitator and moderator for the discussion.
We started off with the artists saying a few words about how they came to Melbourne, and how they came to do artwork for the street in particular. Each one them spoke about the good and the bad things in the street art scene, and about what makes Melbourne such an amazing place for street art.
We then took questions from the audience, and a fantastic discussion ensued, with people making commenst about how much street art means to them in their neighbourhood, about buffing, about council policy and State government policy, about Melbourne as it compares with other cities, and about how street art has become part of the very essence of Melbourne.
It was a really enjoyable event for all of us, and I hope that everyone who came along enjoyed it too.
Some pictures, taken by Andrew McDonald from Readings….
Street art and graffiti, when spoken about by those who don’t enjoy the experience of discovering unauthorised art in city spaces, are sometimes said to deface the walls of the streets in which they are found. Calling it ‘defacement’ is a way of saying ‘damage to property’, of course, but interestingly, when street art’s detractors want to focus on the question of purely physical damage to property, they usually use the term ‘vandalism’. So the term ‘defacement’ seems to speak to something else, as though the walls of the city have an outward face, which has been altered, spoiled, or even destroyed by the artwork – literally de-faced. (There’ an excellent book on the concept of defacement by Michael Taussig, if you are interested in thinking more along these lines…)
Thinking of city walls in this way sounds odd, until we start thinking of how we are quite accustomed to speaking of the facade of a building, for example; both ‘facade’ and ‘face’ share the same root, from facia (face) in Latin.
On my way home from Paris to Melbourne, I was thinking about the term ‘defacement’ and how it gets used as a negative descriptor of street art and graffiti (well, it’s a long, long flight, you have many hours in which to ponder these things). If walls have faces that can be ‘damaged’, then that sets the street artwork up as operating as a form of disfigurement.
[If you don’t look at street art as a form of disfigurement, then of course the addition of artworks to the city walls by its artists can be construed in many, positive lights (as written about in previous posts on this blog): as a gift, as a contribution to the community, as a means of beautification of drab spaces, as a form of communication between the artist and other members of the community, and as a means of celebrating the city itself.]
It seemed particularly fitting to me to think through the idea of street art and graffiti as a form of defacement and disfigurement after having spent two weeks in Paris this May. I spent hours walking through the streets and saw some amazing and inspiring work. One of the things that was striking about it is the preponderance of figurative work: there are hundreds of portraits by dozens of artists adorning the walls of Paris, and here is a selection of some of the ones I enjoyed most.
Here’s a section of a large work by the Vancouver-based artist Indigo:
One of the curving black figures created by FKDL:
A beautifully placed image by C215:
The incomparable Miss.Tic, making stencils since the mid-1980s:
Two works, dancing together. The corps blanc, or white figure, is by Jerome Mesnager, the female figure is by Jef Aerosol, both also veterans of the French scene:
And here is one of Nemo’s typically segmented scenes, in which a dark silhouetted figure tumbles through various scenes against a backdrop of sandstone:
As a graduate student, much of my time was spent reading the work of the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault (and since becoming an academic, a lot of my time is spent teaching his work too), so it was a great pleasure to come across his face on a number of walls, placed there by the stencil artist PITR:
And I was fortunate enough to catch some freshly painted stencil works by Jana und JS, stunning in their photorealistic detail:
Finally, a slightly different kind of portrait, that of the grinning yellow cat made famous by Monsieur Chat. These cats apparently bound across many of Paris’s rooftops, but I caught sight of only one. You can just see its Cheshire-cat happiness high above the street, beaming down at the passers-by:
It’s easy to find this kind of street art appealing: well-executed images in bright colours, skillfully applied in well thought-out spaces. What’s not to like? Who could call these images a disfigurement of the walls? But I think that what I saw in Paris was more than just a negation of the criticism of street art’s detractors. And so I’ll say this: instead of simply being not-disfigurements, these works actively re-figure the streets of Paris, opening for the passer-by moments of narrative and instances of beauty where previously none had existed.
Last Friday was the launch at Federation Square of Street/Studio: the Place of Street Art in Melbourne (Thames & Hudson), the book that Miso, Ghostpatrol, TImba and myself have been working away on since last August.
The launch was amazing! We were completely overwhelmed at the numbers who turned up to buy a book, get it signed, have a beer or a glass of wine, and celebrate the publication with us.
No Vacancy Gallery put on a really nice exhibition based around the book, which ran until Sunday:
Some of the artists featured in the book are overseas right now and couldn’t be there, but Niels Oeltjen, Twoone, and members of Everfresh came along to sign copies of the books.
Thanks to Thames & Hudson for organising such a great night, and thanks to everyone who came along; apologies to those who weren’t able to get in because of the crowd.
And a huge thanks to Alex from NIce Produce for the amazing photos.
More Street/Studio events to come in the next couple of weeks….
The launch of our book, Street/Studio; The Place of Street Art in Melbourne, takes place tomorrow night at No Vacancy gallery, in the Atrium of Federation Square.
Here are some sneak peeks at how the launch is shaping up…. Come by tomorrow night to see some great artworks and have a look at the book!