You talked about the division between street art and tagging. Many people consider it to be a continuous spectrum. To quote Junky Projects, he said ‘Saying you like street art but hate tagging is a bit like saying you love sandwiches but hate bread.’
It’s true. I think they’re closely linked. Even if I’m doing an art fag mural I might also run over and do a tag. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid on Milkbars etc. But at the same time in order to maintain street art and the big murals, like Everfresh, The Napier Crew and The Blender Crew, this needs to be protected. I know some councils are in the process of established new graffiti management strategies and if they can define a distinction between street art and graffiti on a bureaucratic level that will help street art a lot. At the moment the police just say that everything that is illegal is graffiti. I had a cop say to me ‘Do you support Banksy?’ I told him I thought it was pretty cool what he’d achieved. The cop told me ‘Well you support illegal graffiti’. I thought, well I guess that’s the case. Basically there’s no difference between him and kids in the suburbs that are getting caught for doing the same thing. Just that he puts more content in it or he’s more famous. This is an irony that Australia loves to celebrate; Ned Kelly and a bad boy thing. It’s a very interesting argument. The councils are trying their hardest to sort it. If the issue isn’t resolved soon the laws will get harder and the cops will get tougher.
I think that’s a good way of framing the argument; Australia has always been a bit mediocre when it comes to art movements. Now we have the opportunity to be at the head of something – why aren’t we number one? Give it the funding and we can be number one.
It just gets back to this argument ‘but they write on my fence’ and you can’t argue with someone like that. It’s such a derisive argument that people won’t compromise. To have a full understanding of both sides of the argument has taken me a long time and it’s taken maturity. I don’t think this issue will ever be resolved because kids will always do graffiti and adults will always get angry about it. I guess I’m an adult that does a bit of graffiti myself and most of my buddies are but we’re old art fags now.
We’re far from the graffers we once were. Had I been caught doing trains when I was a kid a) I wouldn’t have the job I have, b) I wouldn’t have been able to travel. It would have dramatically changed my life. So I’m trying to make sure these kids are safe when they come out of this phase. They don’t hurt themselves too much. People need to remember that at the heart of this problem are just normal good kids. They happen to do graffiti but most of them don’t have many issue. Nobody ever talks about the kids and in the end it’s the kids that count. They’re the ones who truly stand to lose. Culturally that’s a big deal. But for them it’s such a police state. That’s a good question: why isn’t there money for street art when you compare it to these other thing?
It’s a weird situation because Melbourne bills itself as a cultural city. But where does this culture come from? 99% of people never go to a ballet production, so how can it come from these fine art institutions. It comes from the street art and the live music scene; the low brow culture.
It’s funny because the same thing has happened to the Blender. The fine arts have always denied the Blender and now they’re all jumping on board – but they see street art as low brow. It’s a big movement. It’s not all of what’s happening in Melbourne. It’s a poor economy and I’d say that some of the best fine art is happening now. Because it’s been overlooked and that’s when fine artists work the hardest. That’s when the Angry Penguin period happened …