Thursday, January 15, 2009

Intense Violent Pornography

Gee, well that really gets me going. I wonder about the little rebel who tagged it on my fence. Great speller. In my early days, the closest I got to graffiti was carving “School Sux” into the slide at the school playground, then as an afterthought scrubbed out “Sux” and put “O.K”. What a sop.

Years later I experienced graffiti again, this time as an art school kid in Dunedin. My buddies had got into graf art in a big way, and soon the city was overrun by Lichtenstein-esque and film noir characters. I was often roped in as the transporter, holder or runner (often running away from security guards). Many Monday nights were spent shimmying up fire escapes and dangling perilously from the edges of two storey buildings in order to access the blank concrete walls that were our canvases. During the day we would scour the streets for previously untapped real estate, venturing down back alleys and sneaking up lifts in office blocks to get to the rooftops. Once a potential hit site was spotted, we would huddle in coffee shops and plan our attacks in whispered voices, sketching detailed plans onto paper napkins. Often our work was painted over by humourless building owners, but mostly it was accepted and enjoyed.

Pretty soon after we got into the swing of things, the graffiti trend picked up in Dunedin, and kids of all ages and skill levels were spraying paint onto concrete walls. When one of the local skate shops cottoned onto the trend and began selling spray paint cans, we knew our prime time was over. So we packed away our cans, craft knives and rolls of rubber stencil, and scattered – some to Melbourne, some on their big OE, and some, like myself, up to the big capital. Those that stayed round Dunedin are now shuffling round behind coffee bars, or making pictures in their studios to pay their way.

But the graffiti trend lives on. On a recent visit to my hometown, the walls of the alleyways were awash with colour, and strange creatures scaled shop fronts, hung from windowsills, and crept their way out of the guttering. Statements, quotes and poems wormed across the pavements.

Usually thought provoking, often humorous, and sometimes sad, these works of street art reveal the passions, concerns, and inspirations of the kids who make them. Back at home I check my fence daily, eagerly anticipating the next instalment from my local pornographic tagger. Who knows, he may become the next banksy, in which case I’ll be sawing up my fence and taking it with me when I move house.

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