Visual junk ruining Melbourne’s laneway culture

By Adrian Doyle

It has always been a problem that young or emerging artists put their art near a far more famous artist’s work so that other people will see their work incidentally. 

This happened a lot with the Banksys that Melbourne had or has, it was kind of tolerable when it was done with paint or stencil. For a long time now, artists have been doing it with paste ups. Sticking work next to a well-defined mural or an old important artwork. 

There are a few problems I have with doing this. The first is that by placing work next to someone else’s mural you can change the composition, the meaning, and the context of the artwork. Another problem I have is that paste ups destroy the surface of a good wall and make it next to useless to create on for the future muralists who wish to paint on it. 

There is certainly a place for paste ups around town but not next to murals or on famous mural walls. Street art is meant to be illicit although I’m not sure paste ups are included in the same vein as permanent street art. Either way, surely street artists can find their own new walls rather than putting up work in legal spaces to the detriment of the walls and art. 

Paste ups work best when they are subtle and hidden and require discovery, or when they are bold and obnoxious. Yet artists like “JOVER” are just sticking their art directly over other people’s murals and art. One of many examples of this is Ha-Ha’s Eddie Marbo portraits or Heesco’s Gina Rinehardt as Jabba the Hutt. Both artworks in Blender Lane have been horribly violated by JOVER without a care. JOVER is just one example of an artist that does this, but there are many more. It’s a gross indictment of how entitled some of these newer urban artists feel in there right for space they haven’t earned. 

Don’t get me wrong – I love paste ups and I love putting up paste ups, because it is easy, and you don’t get in as much trouble. I see it as an extension of my art practice and it’s something I have done for many years. Yet I would never put a paste up over someone else’s or next to someone else’s work for my own personal gain. 

Most of the time paste ups are boring. And artists that create them do so with very little connection to printmaking history or the street art past, with its grass root intentions and political undertones. I feel most artists that create paste up’s do so because they’re scared of being caught doing something more permanent. You may think that this is an issue for street art and that I am just discussing street art politics. And you would be right. 

What I would like to discuss are the advertisers that are now pasting up adverts directly over artwork that is important to Melbourne and its urban culture. It’s a horrible act of cultural abuse from companies that are trying to steal the cool of Melbourne’s “streetness” to monetarise the street art areas for their own nefarious gains. Nike has become one such abuser, as Nike is pasting ads all over Guilford Lane, over important cultural art. 

I’m all for “art-vertising” if it’s subtle and isn’t abusive and adds to the urban culture buy creating jobs for artists or is clever and creative. Not visual noise or visual junk, like Nike’s advertising and many more. Many of the advertising that is going up has the potential to destroy the urban art scene and affect Melbourne’s culture forever. We need to let theses advertisers, these culture vultures, know that they can’t stick their cheap cultural appropriations across Melbourne’s beautiful and world-famous walls • 

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