Eco-cycle rapists

This inscription has me baffled. Godot, the graffiti-spotting cabbie, saw it first and posted on his Flickr site. It’s in Wilson Street, Darlington, near Eveleigh, and it reads Eco-cycle Rapists. The style of writing is accomplished and familiar but what does it mean? Who or what is it defaming – or advertising?

(Eco Cycle, by the way, is the brand name of an electic-powered bicycle that has a “rechargeable lithium battery and electric motor which cuts in when you flake out”).

Wilson Street was a popular inner western route to the city long before it was officially stamped as such with the large white bicycle stencils. Dozens of cyclists earnestly pedal over these words daily. Do they notice them?

Crime story

Princes Highway at Brodie Sparks Drive, Wolli Creek, January 2010

See, there were these armed robbers being chased by police, and they ran a red light and crashed into another car, and two people were trapped in the wreckage. And the robbers, see, they jumped out of their stolen car, and … well, if you can’t read all this off the yellow marks sprayed by police on Princes Highway at Arncliffe, then you’d better look it up in the paper.

Mauvin’ on

That party in Enmore. It’s still going. Only at some stage it turned into a Bon Voyage Party. Having wished ‘Neill Bourke’ Happy Birthday the appendage-challenged gnome is now waving farewell. ‘Bye Bourkes XOX’, he’s saying.

The remote is by Numb (that’s Will Coles). The gnome is by Hazzy Bee. Thanks to Godot, the cabbie and graffiti blogger for this information. Here’s Godot’s Wallup blog, and here’s his Zombie film of Sydney Street Art.

Parkour in Macquarie Street

Macquarie Visions is a series of light installations on buildings in Sydney that “celebrate the 200th anniversary of Australian visionaries Governor Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie – the ultimate Sydney power couple” as part of the Vivid Sydney Festival.

We went along to have a look one night last week when the rain had abated, but as we watched the coloured words and pictures play over the façade of the Conservatorium of Music, I realised we were standing on what was, to me, a more interesting piece of text – Parkour is sexy. It was not easy to photograph in the dark with my little camera, but I had to have it. Pavement graffiti this large is unusual in the centre of the city.

How long ago was it painted? Was it done to celebrate some parkour event? And the big question – is parkour really sexy? For whom – the perpetrators or the spectators?

Look fight

Look! There’s a fight going on down the street. That’s what this sign seems to be saying. And it’s true. There’s a constant struggle for territory going on in the streets and almost every sign, symbol, graphic and graffiti marked on the roads and sidewalks is evidence of this struggle.

I made a video (actually, a photo compilation) on this topic last year. Called Street Writing, it’s been published in the on-line Interdisciplinary Themes Journal. Turn your sound on while you watch.

Hicks, Megan. 2010. Street fighting. Interdisciplinary Themes Journal, 1(1).

The ‘Look fight’ photograph was taken several years ago in Harris Street, Ultimo (Sydney). I’m delighted to say it’s been added as a guest photo on the ‘Submissions’ page of one of my favourite websites, Misplaced Manhole Covers.

Unselected readings

Starting point - Smith Street, Surry Hills

In the ten years since I became obsessed with pavement inscriptions I’ve taken hundreds of photographs. With so many to choose from it’s not too hard to find examples to illustrate any point I might want to make when I write about the pavement as a medium for expression.

But what if I took a walk on an arbitrary route from an arbitrary starting point and photographed every picture, sign and scribble on the pavement along the way? Would that series of unselected inscriptions unfold as a coherent story?

I tried this as an experiment for the Open Fields forum at UTS (University of Technology, Sydney). I started in Surry Hills at a street with a very common name, Smith Street, and took a zig-zag route in a direction away from the centre of the city. I got as far as Waterloo, only about 2 km as the ibis flies, but I had taken more than 3 hours and photographed around 150 pavement inscriptions.

End point - Danks Street, Waterloo

I made a slide show of these Unselected readings in the order in which I found them. But here’s a confession: although I stuck to my arbitrary rules for the day pretty well, I did stop photographing every manhole cover and every wet cement inscription, because there were so many of them.

What did I find out from this experiment? Well, perhaps I will talk about that in future blog entries.

Manhole covers (2)

I’ve looked at manholes from both sides now, from down and up, and still somehow…

On 18 April I was lucky enough go on an underground tour of the Tank Stream. The Historic Houses Trust runs these tours twice a year in conjunction with Sydney Water and they are so popular that you have to enter a ballot to get a ticket. You don’t go far – just 50 metres upstream from the ladder where you descend into the underground tunnel. The Tank Stream was the original source of fresh water that determined the location of Sydney Town, but during the two centuries since then it has evolved from stream to open sewer, to closed-in sewer, and currently it is a stormwater drain.  

Harrington Lane, near Hunter Street, Sydney

Sloshing along in borrowed gumboots, instead of looking down, as I usually do when I’m spotting pavement graffiti, this time I was looking up to see what manhole covers look like on the underside. Afterwards a Sydney Water worker helped me identify which covers we had walked beneath.

Manhole covers

Cavendish Street, Enmore

Admiration of manhole covers became a popular pastime in the 1990s.  Mimi and Robert Melnick’s 1974 Manhole covers of Los Angeles has become a collectors item, but their 1994 book Manhole covers and Jacopo Pavesi and Roberta Pietrobelli’s 2001 book Street covers brought cast-iron style to the coffee table. The minor mania for manhole covers has culminated in book titles ranging from Designs underfoot: the art of manhole covers in New York City to Quilting with manhole covers: a treasure trove of unique designs from the streets of Japan.

In picture books the manhole covers are brushed up for the camera, but like Japanese artist Genpei, I prefer the look of them in their natural state, with cigarettes and Smarties and tsubo gardens of moss, grass or weeds nestling in their grooves.

Road resurfaced, Cleveland Street, Chippendale

 

My very favourites are the pretend manhole covers that mark the place of the real thing when a road is being resurfaced.

I also love the website Misplaced Manhole Covers.

Rest in peace (2)

Rest in Peace Ruben Hoddy

It’s a big old house divided into a warren of flatettes, in an increasingly desirable inner-west neighbourhood. The last low-rent place in a street where the house next door was the first to hit the one million dollar mark ten years ago. It has its share of excitement – the police, fire brigade or ambulance visit at least once a month, sirens screaming. There’s often shouting – in the house or on the street. There always seems to be rubbish piled out the front. Other people in the street mutter about how they wish ‘those people’ would go. But someone died there last month and someone cared enough to memorialise him on the footpath.

Hard judgement

In an earlier guest blog, Bradley L. Garrett revealed his excitement upon discovering a pavement penis. Well, there’s a lot of them about.  These examples are in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern, where encroaching trendiness has turned a closed-off street beside the railway line into an official bicycle route and a parking lot for cultural-industry workers and the newer type of resident.

Older established residents and their offspring may well feel resentful. I choose to believe that these alterations of official traffic signs express a local belief that the car parkers and cyclists are wankers.