Thursday, November 20, 2008
Council heavies give stick over public art story
The SMH yesterday featured a pic of mine and some words in a page 5 story about Council's enthusiastic 'beigeing' of public art, even when it is commissioned by the building owner and executed by renowned artists.
Clover Moore's spinners spun into furious action, denying to The Herald that their people did the erasing and apparently getting the place into a tizz, right up to the Editor.
Unfortunately for them I also had a photo of the truck they were using, with a City of Sydney logo on the door, which I supplied to The Herald.
Then the spinners rang me with a third-degree interrogation, trying to make capital out of a sub-editor's mistake which captioned the picture as being of the Bar Me venue when it is in fact the Crest Hotel, just around the corner in Victoria Street. Both places had stencils applied in 2004 as part of my 'Live Walls' project, with the permission and encouragement of the owners, and both were erased by Council at different times.
I queried why they were so worried, as the story only showed them carrying out the tidy towns policy they boast about. The reply, (in an adrenalin-elevated voice):
"Do I sound worried? We just want to get the facts straight."
It was interesting to see Clover's media machine in action. It's not about the issues, it's about who has the biggest media budget – standard operating procedure these days for politicians and big organisations. If a critical story appears, they punish the publisher to make them more reluctant to criticise in future.
Meanwhile after a tipoff from me, The Herald corrected the caption on the website (and belatedly credited me for the pic, after electing not to pay me for it either because they "didn't have much money at the moment". So much for me making a living – the cutbacks at Fairfax have a lot to answer for).
The top picture shows (among others) work by Numskull who has an exhibition opening at the MTV Gallery in Yurong Street on 5 December, and by Jason Wing who recently appeared on the ABC's Arts Sunday and was recently named Artist of the Year in the Blacktown Council area where he now lives and works. Artist Shannon Johnson also contributed to the group mural, pictured here with Jason in the background at work on the doomed stencils in Victoria Street.
Of course my media jousting partner, Andrew Woodhouse, was against the whole thing. "I think there should be art but not visual vandalism," he said.
I guess all the galleries exhibiting these people, and those buying their work, mustn't know much about art. And I guess the working party of Victoria Street businesses and residents who had called for murals in that very spot, marking the entrance to a famous backpacker strip, and enlivening a bland wall otherwise displaying only ugly aircon outlets, have no say in the matter either.
Total control of public spaces by authoritarian bureaucrats imposing bland uniformity is apparently the only right and proper thing, pip pip.
The issue sparked a letter to the editor today, titled A city of grey walls from Jesse Fink in Paddington. It puts the case nicely.
PS (21/11/08) Another letter in the Herald today supports public colour. This one from Sally Gaunt who works in Glebe is titled No place for street culture.
PPS (22/11/08) This story in August has Council again erasing world-class art -- that they had also sponsored -- despite pleas to a Ranger from a Powerhouse Museum staffer telling them it was legitimate. Apparently all the paperwork was not in order. Paperwork is far more important than art, you see... if you are an officious twat with too much power. I know who the true vandals are.
PPPS (25/11/08) Today The Herald published Council's reply to all this as the lead letter. It is seriously and deliberately inaccurate. I've posted comment under this story. They demand a full DA process if someone wants their wall stencilled but if, like most renovators these days, you are a fashion slave to dark grey (that dead non-colour that steals light from the street and deeply offends me) that's just fine and dandy. Fundamentally there is nothing behind this affair except a middleclass loathing of extroversion, colour and expression enshrined in draconian council policy.