Real Australians Say Welcome
Bound For South Australia
The idea for this project started during Australia’s 2013 federal election. Both major parties were promising to ‘stop the boats’ that carry asylum seekers to Australia. I designed this poster to parody the policy and began installing it around London’s east end . After living overseas for almost a year I’d noticed in myself a growing concern towards Australia’s conflicted national identity. To put it simply, I wanted to feel proud to be Australian without ignoring the facts. I decided to confront the issue when I returned home.
Back in Adelaide I made contact with the community group ‘Circle of Friends’ who gave me a great deal of help in the process of entering the Inverbrakie Detention Centre where I was able to meet asylum seekers. I began meeting one family at a time, explaining my idea for the project and hoping that I might find someone who liked to draw. This went on for several months until I’d collected several few sketches.
I decided to include participants who had recently left detention and were living in the community on bridging visas. On Australia Day I attended a large community picnic held by various community groups that support asylum seekers. It was there that I met Ali Rezai Muhammad. He told me his story and that he loved to make art. For the first time I felt sure that the project would be a success.
I began to install the posters in the first week of June. It took two weeks to install all 36, at the end of which time some had already been removed. Throughout the project I received an overwhelming amount of public engagement and support. I took great pleasure in letting Ali know just how much his story was appreciated.
One thing I’ve learnt from this project is that the individual stories behind migration are far more interesting than the politicised stereotypes, from both sides of the debate. It’s difficult to empathise with people when you can see that their story has been filtered through a political agenda. That’s why I tried to stay an impartial as possible.
On the original question of national identity, I believe everyone wants to feel proud of the country they belong to. However, every nation is, at times, unjust. For this reason it’s impossible to avoid a conflicted sense of national identity and the task of resolving that conflict is perpetual, but the willingness to accept that task is something we might all feel proud of.
Thank you to everyone who helped throughout this project, but especially Ali whose friendship has been this project’s greatest reward.
I wrapped this large, 94 year old statue in paper to see if anyone could remember what it actually was. 9/10 people couldn’t name the statue as King Edward, illustrating the point that official history is often given prominence disproportionate to its actual importance. It almost goes without saying that the project was inspired by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
The project was commissioned to promote History SA’s website which allows users to contribute their own research on the history of Adelaide.
Who Owns The Street
Short Documentary, 2012, Adelaide.
Who Owns the Street explores the intersection between graffiti, tagging and street art and the difficult questions surrounding the ownership of public space.
In mid 2012, long time collaborators Ronnie Chin and Frazer Dempsey suggested we make a short documentary about street art in Adelaide. The project became Who Owns the Street which went on to win a South Australian Screen Award for best short film before being accepted into the Sheffield Doc Fest where we were able to meet and learn from some of the worlds best documentary film makers.
Street Art Project, 2010 – ongoing
Most of my recent street art features a set of pixelated faces that, to me, convey the flatness and banality of human emotions as they pass through technology. Everyday we use technology to replace the person to person interactions that our emotions have evolved to rely upon, becoming more connected but further apart. In this way, some of technology’s failures are sewn within its triumphs. The best way to follow the project is via my facebook page.
A large portion of this project took place in Glasgow and based itself around a soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Street Art Project, 2012, Glasgow.
Before I left Adelaide I made a collection of portrait photographs of my friends and family. When I arrived in Glasgow I started drawing their portraits and installing the drawings, together with the photos, on the street. I recorded people’s reactions to the project and began to make portraits of the people who reacted. In this sense the project has grown in the same way that our feeling of ‘home’ grows around our sense of community.
‘Home’ is an ongoing project that I aim to continue by photographing and drawing people wherever I go. Each portrait is a small memorial to the people in my life and a means to connect with the place where I am living.
Exhibition + Street Art Project, 2012, Adelaide.
When the Art Gallery of South Australia ask me to exhibit a response to their colonial collection I invited 12 other artists to join me. We each created our own version of Colonel William Light’s self portrait that were exhibited in the gallery then released onto the streets of Adelaide for anyone to take.
Contributing artists: Berk, Jake Bresanello, James Cochran, Peter Drew, Sam Evans, Kate Gagliardi, Jake Holmes, Madeline Reece, Garry Seaman, Matthew Stuckey, Joel Van Der Knaap, Dan Withey, Kerri Ann Wright
video trailer for the project
A short film that documents the project
Adelaides Forgotten Outlaws
Street Art Project, 2011, Adelaide.
Having made illegal street art for years without being caught I’d started to forget that it was a crime. So when I was finally arrested I began to think more seriously about its criminality. This interest grew into a ‘side project’ which quickly blew out into the largest street art campaign I’ve undertaken.
I started by searching through the police documents at the South Australian State Records. The photography of the early 1920s stood out immediately for its technical qualities so I narrowed my search to the record GRG5/58/unit103.
I began selecting criminal’s mug shots based mostly on the immediate impact of the image. Whether through their defiant pride, amused irreverence or shamed humiliation some faces drew me in and those where the ones I chose. I was also attracted by the more innocuous offences, especially those that have since been decriminalised. Judging by their expression, the dubious offence of ‘idle and disorderly’ seemed as laughable then as it does now. Likewise, the supposed ‘offence’ of ‘attempted suicide’ or ‘sodomy’ seemed to confuse the convicted as much as their criminal classification offends us today.
By evoking the power of nostalgia and the notion of historic value I knew I could use these images to confront the idea of the criminal as an outsider, especially in the context of street art as a criminal act.
I began pasting up the posters at night before I realised it would be much safer during the day dressed as a legitimate worker. This approach also seemed more fitting to the theme of questioning the criminality of street art. So when I donned the high vis vest and went about my business I didn’t feel like a criminal, I felt as thought I was performing a public good.
Each paste up stood 2.5 meters tall and included the criminal’s full name, conviction, sentence and date. Overall I pasted up 42 individual mug shots (21 sets of 2) to the cost of AU$1170 in printing alone. The project was entirely self funded.
Eventually I was contacted by the Adelaide City Council and I admitted the posters were mine. The council agreed to stop removing the posters if I would take steps to legitimise the whole project through their ‘pilot project’ scheme. So I filled in an application, promising to track down every property owner and request permission to do what I’d already done (still in progress). I was also told I would have to remove the criminals surnames so not to connect surviving relatives to their criminal past. I’ve since been contacted by several relatives who actually enjoyed connecting the dots and were very encouraging towards the project as a whole.
Despite these obstacles I was very pleased by Adelaide City Council’s allowing the images to stay on the street long enough to be seen by the public for whom they were intended. I hope their open mindedness can extend towards the work of other artists.
View Adelaide’s Forgotten Outlaws in a larger map
All you need is like
Street Art Project, 2009-2010, Adelaide, Berlin, London
Pixel art is a kind of digital kitsch that appeals to me because, in terms of ‘fine art’, it’s the lowest of the low. I’m interested in the images that you see everyday on your screen and the way their detail is stripped back to maximise their viral appeal. Intuitively I think it’s a pretty ugly type of image because it comes from a new way of disseminating culture that we haven’t yet developed an appreciation for. So, I like to combine digital kitsch with the established norms of art history to discover where the two connect and where they clash. Sometimes there are some pretty absurd clashes but I think it’s the job of artists to take risks and search out the beauty within the ugliness of digital kitsch because there’s a lot of it about.
My first forays into street art were all about bikes…I like bikes
Every artist has miscellaneous work, this is some of mine.