17th October 2011
How weird is this. Just as street art is being lauded in books and shows (like next month’s Outpost Project bringing works by Banksy and 150 others to Cockatoo) our own graffiti – which is to say, street art where it belongs, on the streets – is banned, painted over and barricaded out, its artists fined and even jailed.
Admittedly, teenager Cheyenne Back, sentenced to three months jail for decorating the wall of a café in 2009, was later bailed. But NSW’s zero tolerance policy still means kids are charged with malicious damage or worse, and NSW Attorney General Greg Smith says “repeat offenders” should be jailed.
How can graffiti at once be “the world’s freshest art movement” and a “serious offence” showing, in Greg Smith’s words, “lack of respect for the community”?
Or is it rather that we like things nice and safe and sanitised in a gallery, curated, paid for and ticketed so we know there are no germs, but we don’t like the real thing?
Two examples near where I live in Redfern support this interpretation. Redfern has always been rather a hotspot for graffiti, but a local wall, always a target, has been taken over by the authorities and sanctioned, so that every week or so a new gang of authorised, committee-approved, well-fed and scrubbed and guaranteed non-threatening spray painters appear in broad daylight to repaint the wall. Only trouble is, the art itself gets worse, and worse, and worse.
Meanwhile, half a kilometre away at the Waterloo skate park, a traditional home for local boys who skate and paint, and paint and skate – the ‘youth centre’ has been expensively rebuilt, and covered with an even more expensive stainless steel mesh. This, it is promised, will give the building a green skin, but what it is actually doing, and clearly briefed to do, is proofing the building against graffiti.
The street war on street art continues…