If they won’t let you Reclaim the Streets any more, then Reclaim the Lanes instead. It’s a bit sad really. The RTL party on 13 February was small but kind of fun anyway, even if everyone was funnelled into just one lane not far from the starting point. There were balloons, bikes, and budgie smugglers. When it became apparent that the procession had come to a halt people started sloping off to the bottlo in Enmore Road for supplies. The music from wheelie bin sound systems was great. And someone stuck up their photographs of the Reclaim the Streets events in Newtown from 1999 and 2000 to remind everyone what it used to be like.
The back lanes of Enmore and Newtown are best known for their wall art, but there is stuff on the ground as well, mostly the signatures of artists who have done the wall pieces. I took photographs of RTL participants partying on the remnants of old pavement graffiti.
At Federation Square in Melbourne Nearamnew is a public artwork that incorporates the cobblestone paving. According to the Federation Square website, it is a vast paving design with poetic text inscriptions where fragmented voices of historical and fictional characters can be deciphered in nine locations around the site.
In 2005 I found that a contemporary character had added an inscription to another location on the cobbles. I don’t know how long it had been there. Australia joined the war in Iraq in 2003.
I wonder how many people know the story behind the coloured flowers on the traffic island at Newtown Bridge? They were originally painted during a day-long Reclaim the Streets party in November 1999, but if that were the whole story they would have worn off long ago. In fact, these flowers were deliberately preserved by friends of Kathy Jones.
Kathy was an artist who worked with advocacy groups for disadvantaged people in the Newtown area. On the day of the Reclaim the Streets demo it was Kathy who organised the decoration of roadways, kerbs and traffic islands at the intersection of King Street and Enmore Road. Just a few months later Kathy died. Her friends tied notices to the light poles to let local people know she had gone and coated this particular set of painted flowers with marine varnish. My photograph was taken in 2005 when regular applications of varnish had kept the bouquet fresh for six years. In 2009 the flowers, while still visible, are gradually fading away.
A friend has suggested to me that angry people write on the pavement because they want to be trampled on. I’m not so sure.
Anyway, some angry people chalked their way down Broadway one night, from Broadway Shopping Centre to the University of Technology, Sydney. There was a mixture of rants, but you get the gist.
Even if you weren’t a graffiti aficionado you would probably recognize that this is somewhere in Melbourne because of the bluestone cobbles. It’s Hosier Lane in November 2005. Amongst the different styles of wall graffiti there is one stencil on the kerbstone. It might have been there for some years. Australia has long had poor reputation for its treatment of refugees. It is appropriate that graffiti should carry subversive messages. But do small and inconspicuous stencils on the ground make any difference to political processes?
In a week when we are reminded that influenza is from pigs and birds, perhaps it’s time to reflect on the message spread by some aggrieved crusader in 2007-2008. This person broadcast their warning widely around Sydney’s northern beach suburbs and also in the city itself. Pavement graffiti is fairly rare in the CBD — it soon gets scrubbed off by cleaning machines. This example was on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Martin Place, and judging from the reddish remnants on the greasy writing the medium was lipstick.
Mine is not the first blog to mention the Cancer is from dog’s campaigner (see here for example). The apparently errant apostrophe drives some people mad. In this case it is not a matter of incorrect grammar but rather an indicator of the writer’s social delicacy. However the graffitist was feeling less constrained when they wrote the full message in texta on a hoarding in George Street: Cancer is from dog’s poo (then again, maybe it was an indelicate apostrophe vigilante who filled in the missing word).