“Melbourne is the proud capital of street painting with stencils. Its large, colonial-era walls and labyrinth of back alleys drip with graffiti that is more diverse and original than any other city in the world. Well, that was until a few weeks ago, when preparations for the Commonwealth games brought a tidal wave of grey paint, obliterating years of unique and vibrant culture overnight…
Melbourne became a hub of stencilling for reasons no one seems particularly able to explain. Its laid-back atmosphere and sense of isolation most probably have something to do with it. Painters there have never been as shackled to the New York school of large letters on subway trains that took a stranglehold everywhere else. Rather than scrawling their name across a window, most preferred to paint something a little different: a dog chasing a butterfly on a mailbox, for instance, or a couple kissing in the space left where an old poster has been ripped away.
Witty, playful, often angry, the free rein taken by Melbourne’s street artists became about much more than just daubing on a wall. It has drawn in generations of artists, thinkers and tourists to explore and experiment in the city. It gave fresh life to the worlds of fashion and music and is arguably Australia’s most significant contribution to the arts since they stole all the Aborigines’ pencils…
The street art destroyed in Melbourne will survive on graffiti’s new best friend – the internet. The web has done wonders for graffiti; it perfectly reflects its transient nature, and graffiti is ludicrously overrepresented on its pages. The ability to photograph a street piece that may last for only a few days and bounce it round the world to an audience of millions has dramatically improved its currency. On the other hand, the internet is turning graffiti into an increasingly virtual pastime. It is now possible to achieve notoriety by painting elaborate pieces in secluded locations, without the associated risk of arrest that is usually attached. By posting photographs online you can become a significant graffiti writer from a town where none of your work is actually visible.”
Pictures from Flickr: The Melbourne Graffiti Pool
See also Jan Chipchase’s observation from the back streets of Seattle that the destruction of graffiti is becoming a street art-form in itself.
And Cassidy Curtis’ Graffiti Archaeology, “a project devoted to the study of graffiti-covered walls as they change over time.”