Melbourne Graffiti -Part 1

You can’t really talk about Melbourne, Australia and not mention the graffiti. It’s everywhere and it’s excellent. In my humble opinion Prague could really use a lesson in graffiti from Melbourne (I’m living in Prague as I write this post. If you happen to wonder why I would randomly pick Prague as an example of bad graffiti). I’ve always liked street art even when to other’s it’s considered vandalism. To me if it says something, if it’s done well, then it’s valuable- then there are the shitty tags. You know the kind. The true vandalism. There’s no point except to tag something and your tag or your scribble sucks. There’s so much of that in Prague I just consider it a mess that ruined a beautiful building for nothing.

But… Melbourne, wow, what an art scene.

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Almost any alleyway offered up something special. There were so many different styles.

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There were spray paint and stencils, instillations, and poster art, and stickers.CIMG2506

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Hell, they even had collage. CIMG2547

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Some of this work was found around the St. Kilda area, but much of it was found when we were lost trying to find Gertrude street.
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I don’t think I need to say much since the art speaks for itself.

St. Kilda, A Special Part of Melbourne

In all honesty, I didn’t do any research before going to Australia. My friend sent me a message about how we should meet up in Australia, and I said yes. I bought a plane ticket, I reached out to my few Aussie, and Tassie friends, they hooked me up with places to stay and recommendations and then that was it. My friend Lisa did much of the research on what to do and where to stay. I felt like after spending six months in China that a trip to Australia was going to be so easy- and I was so right.

I’m happy Lisa put more into it because without Lisa’s research we may never have stayed in what I consider the best part of Melbourne. St. Kilda is a little distance from the center of the city, but worth the commute. It felt like a place completely separate from Melbourne, which I imagine it is to some extent. I’ve already mentioned that I liked Melbourne, and there were many great parts of the city, but St. Kilda was my favorite.

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It wasn’t just because of this creepy fun park with the nightmarish clown mouth that you walk into, Sydney also had a Luna Park, but it helped with the setting. I had heard from some people that St. Kilda was once a pretty aggressive area. It makes me think of Dog Town when Southern California beach towns were tough and surfers weren’t the pretty groomed boys and girls of the magazines, but actually more gang like and territorial. I don’t know if that’s really what it was like, but you can tell that it’s still a little rough around the edges. I personally like that; the rough around the edges part. I tend to think rough around the edges is another way of saying creative and edgy.

No one wants to live in a place where they feel unsafe, but you also don’t want everything to look like the cookie cutter idea of happiness. I think you always need a little bit of wild to remind yourself that life is unpredictable and chaotic; everything else is just a facade. I guess to be more specific, once money and image comes into a neighborhood the rules and regulations get tighter. That once awesome muralist that would paint amazing paintings on the wall is suddenly a criminal, all because one person with more money moved into the neighborhood and doesn’t like the way it looks. Or the local market that would once give away food that was going to go bad to homeless people is suddenly fined because that new posh business that just moved into the neighborhood doesn’t like having homeless people around because it’s bad for business, or that local rock club that has been around for decades has to shut down because some real estate mogul has come in and bought up the property and wants to build condos for vacationers and he doesn’t care what happens to the local neighborhood because he doesn’t even live there,  and so on. There’s still homelessness, there’s still crime (or new crimes have been created through new laws) you just can’t see any of it because they pushed it into another neighborhood. That’s what I mean about the facade. CIMG2480

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I suspect St. Kilda will head the direction of tourist and vacation destination and price increases. I imagine it has already seen some price increases. It’s too bad it couldn’t stop right about where it is just floating between once rough and now up-in-coming that’s always the best time. CIMG2481

Judging by the architecture and some of the old photos of the area it was originally a pretty  wealthy place, a fun palisade for the wealthier folk of Melbourne to come and visit for their summer holidays. But as happened to so many places at the turn of the century, it went from a Victorian playground for the rich to a red light district. Something happens and it falls into neglect and disrepair and eventually it becomes dangerous like Coney Island or Santa Cruz boardwalk. Those places were both scary in the 70’s and 80’s just  watch The Warriors. All they wanted to do was make it back to Coney Island. Maybe it’s all just a crazy cycle.
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One thing that we got to experience while we were there was the St. Kilda festival. Nine days of music and art. It doesn’t get more spectacular then that really. We watched several bands, and wandered into many galleries. To me music and art are basic fundamental parts of life just like food and shelter. We need it in order to really feel alive. We are nourished and then we express ourselves. If you really want to see what’s happening in a city check out the music and art scene. Is it exciting and new, refreshing, and surprising or is it something you can see on vevo or any manufactured pop scene?

 

I didn’t take many pictures of the bands, but I loved this colorful girl group that called themselves We Love the 90’s or something like that. I didn’t realize the 90’s were so bright and poppy, but maybe I wasn’t paying much attention back then. CIMG2948

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And, of course we had to see some metal. hesherWe stayed about three nights in St. Kilda in a nice hotel just a few blocks from the beach. Even after we left and stayed in another part of town, I returned to take a final walk on the beach. I mean, just take a look at that sunset. It’s like it’s something straight out of a last days of summer motif.

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A well earned vodka soda.

 

The Interactive Arts exhibit in Melbourne NVG

I’m sitting in a cafe in Prague as I write this post about an exhibit that took place over a year ago. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when my mother died last year, I really felt like it didn’t matter whether or not I posted anything here about my trips. Especially my trip to Australia. This is because three days after I returned back to China my mom was found dead in her apartment, and I felt so angry with myself for not being there with her, or at the very least sending her that e-mail I had promised. The e-mail that would have told her all about my trip. I didn’t want to talk about the trip because I was so mad at myself for going. The truth is I had a great time in Australia, and I was really happy there and if my mom had lived, I would still have been happy with the memories. I would have told her all about it.

This blog is no substitute for sending an e-mail to my mother, but I feel a little melancholy with the idea that all my life experiences will just fade into obscurity when I die. I mean they could be lost in the obscurity of the web, but I’m okay with that because the illusion that I’m sharing something of my life makes me feel like I’m a part of the story. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I’m still working out this whole “what to do with my one life” thing. I think of Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day, and I wonder, yes, what am I supposed to do with this life other than love being a part of it. What am I supposed to do? Is it greedy to want more? Is it too much to request that I experience the best of this world and die with that? I hope not. So why hold back on sharing the stories even if obscurity is the future.

If I had to be asked what I liked more Sydney or Melbourne, I’d have to pick Melbourne. I know they’re kind of rival cities, and I know that there are arguments for liking Sydney more, but the best way I can say it is that Melbourne was more my speed. Sydney has better beaches, but Melbourne had something special. A vitality, and an energy like something was being created. Sydney had that suit feel: All business and then some expensive partying at night. Everyone is beautiful, successful, and making money. I understand that this appeals to people, but it’s not my thing. I like real spontaneity and spark. I like the idea that things are not finished yet and its all still a grand work in progress. A place where you can take risks because failing is only part of the process. I don’t think this risk taking and allowance for failure is in Sydney so much because it already has the image to upkeep and when image becomes more important than process, I think it gets a little boring. But, what do I know, I was only there for a week.
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While I was in Melbourne there was an interesting exhibit going on at the National and International Art galleries of Victoria. I really enjoyed the National Gallery (NGV) because it was all Australian artists and all interactive. There was work from artists all over the country including Aboriginal art.

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And, since it was interactive you could literally walk on some of the pieces, in fact, you were invited to.

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In the International Gallery you had famous pieces from artists like Warhol and Lee Krasner. I was excited to see an original Krasner piece since a lot of her work has been overshadowed by her husband Jackson Pollock (mainly by her own choice since she wanted to foster him as an artists).

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So much time has passed since I went to this exhibit, that I have lost the names of the artists. I have them somewhere in a journal hidden under piles of clothes in un packed suitcases. This is how I’ve been living for almost two years, unpacked and uncertain but moving, moving, moving- on. As soon as I find the names I will update this post.

I think some of my favorite work was the video work and of course the photography. I’m a huge fan of the film genre- moving and still.

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I’m not the kind of person that can really tell you what’s happening in a painting. I lack the vocabulary, but something about the medium of film really speaks to me even some of the most abstract work.

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I don’t know how long my friend and I stayed in the gallery, but it was an almost all day event. I think we did both the National and International one in the same day. It was well worth it. There were many pieces I didn’t take pictures of because I’m not really big on taking pictures of art. It isn’t a motto, it’s just that I forget because I’m more interested in just looking at it, and I rarely feel like I capture it well in a photo.

The final photo below is from an alleyway near the gallery. Melbourne has some of the most amazing and creative street art that I’ve ever seen. I took this picture while we were planning our next activity.

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It is interesting how little of my trip remains in my memory especially since I had enjoyed it so much. I assume it has to do with my mother. I lost some of my joy. I think my mom would be sad to know that I had lost some of my joy because of her, but to her I would say, “what do you expect woman? I love you and you’re gone.” Still, I should reach back for some of those memories and those joys. I had never thought I would ever go to Australia. It had seemed so far away, and since I never have any money I had thought, I’ll never be able to go, but I was there. And, now I’m here in Prague writing about being in Australia. It’s ungracious to not revel in the memories of a joyful time of travel. It is ungracious to me and to my mother. So, a year after her death, I can say, “Mom, I had a really good time, and I’d like to have more.” I’d like to tell her all about it, but I’ll just have to settle with the ubiquity of the web.

So more tales from the travels of the past, as the travels of the future are dreamed about in the travels of the present. To the open road. No one can express the joy of travel more than Whitman.

You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.

Song of The Open Road, Walt Whitman