The graffiti research scene in Australia in general and Melbourne in particular has attracted my attention for a number of years, through the published work of Alison Young (and her co-authored papers with Mark Halsey), Kurt Iveson, Lachlan MacDowall, Kim Dovey (especially through his collaborative research on graffiti with Simon Wollan and Ian Woodcock – available here and here) and Cameron McAuliffe. They form part of a mature graffiti research culture that feels very well embedded into the local policy-making context, and have been working with graffiti writers, street artists and local authorities for years in order to develop more progressive understandings and management strategies for street art and graffiti.
It was an honour to be invited to take part in the Competing Urbanisms workshop organised by Alison Young, Lachlan MacDowall and David Mence at the University of Melbourne in early November 2014. The day was about the publicness of cities as much as it was about the practice, management and conflicts between street art and graffiti, with presentations from a number of artists, authors and public sector representatives. In a way, it was a good kickstarter for discussions we were planning to have at the Graffiti Sessions conference, with the obvious differences between a one-day, intimate and less formal gathering, and a major three-day international event. However, I would like to emphasize the success of inter-institutional dialogue in the Melbourne research culture, and note how much we could learn from their way of doing things here in London. Not only were a third of the people there representing different local authorities, but they were also very well embedded in conversations about the cultural values of street art and graffiti and the provision of spaces for their practice and contestation. Simply getting some authorities to sit at the table felt like an achievement for our London-based event, so I can only be very grateful to have Alison and Cameron here in December to perhaps share more of their way of doing things.
The paper I presented was called “Show and Tell: The Role of Walking Tours in Configuring London’s Street Art Scene” and was the result of some research I did last year on London’s street art tours industry. This was the first time I presented this material and it was well received; and I will publish it on this website once I get to refine it further.
Will end by mentioning a few other people I met, and whose work I would recommend to anyone interested in urban walls, street art and graffiti, or informal urban practices and their role in cities, galleries and urban branding. The keynote of the workshop was given by Andrea Mubi Brighenti, whose work on visibility and territories is essential to my own research; Paul Gough’s whose book Banksy: The Bristol Legacy, is now available to purchase; and CDH, who guided me through the city and whose street actions and conceptual street work is full of meaningful provocations about the place and quality of Melbourne’s inscriptions. Thank you Melbourne for an excellent experience.