Posts Tagged ‘art’


There’s a moment at the end of the superb film The Lives of Others where action skips forward a few years to former East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Instantly noticeable is the graffiti decorating the imposing dark stone buildings.

It is merely the backdrop to the scene, but is not there by accident: the director could have had his actors walking along any street, but he chose this one. Why? Because the graffiti was a symbol of freedom, a sign that the oppressive regime under which the Stasi was able to thrive and people lived in constant fear had been overthrown for good.

Bruce and Fran have already commented on their love of Melbourne’s graffiti, from that splattered over abandoned factories to the stencils popping up in the most unlikely of spots. Some, such as that at St Kilda Junction, is even there with the support of the local council and Vic Roads, among others. Hosier Lane is a tourist attraction because of its graffiti.

So why these new regulations? $550 fine for carrying a spray can? $26K for defacing a building and up to two years in jail?

One of Melbourne’s most attractive features is its pro-active attitude towards the arts and culture, an attitude that brings people from all over the world to live here. It has the world’s third largest comedy festival, wants to be number two behind Edinburgh for literature and has more cultural festivals going on around the year than it’s possible to attend.

And yet this, a Draconian attempt to stifle an artform available to anybody. OK, so there’s good and bad graffiti and no one (well, very few people) want to see gratuitous swear words or shitty tags everywhere, but surely that’s a price we should be willing to pay to allow this expression of freedom, this freedom of expression?


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Who\'d have thunk it?

Some of the faces have been changed to protect the innocent. And Fran

Coincidence. It’s a funny one. Can it really be explained away as just that: chance? I don’t think so.

Why do Bruce and Fran find themselves thinking the same thing at the same time when there is nothing in their environment to spark that thought?

Why did Bruce hunt down someone he’d not seen in over a decade on the internet this week at the same time said person was recounting a story about Bruce falling down the stairs at an acid house party in 1995 to a stranger in Vietnam?

Why do Bruce and Fran keep getting parking tickets outside their house every day? *

Is there something more? Are there patterns to be deciphered? Is everything inter-connected? Do we all share, as the Maharishi Yogi believed, one inner consciousness, which, as Bill Hicks suggested, we each experience subjectively? Is that the men in white coats at the door?

A few weeks back, Bruce raised these questions with Fran.

The previous evening, he’d been reading Gail Jones’ Sorry (or “The Poisonwood Bible does Western Australia”). A storm broke out overhead, the first since their arrival in Melbourne and one that had been brewing for two days or more: lightning filled the room; rain battered the skylight relentlessly. His eyes moved across the page where, suddenly, a storm of biblical proportions began to tear the family’s shack asunder.

Elsewhere in the book, there were references The Lives of the Saints, in particular the gruesome deaths suffered by those later canonized. Bruce pointed it out to Fran, being the good Catholic she is.

“I’ve never heard of this. Sounds interesting though. Will have to check it out,” he said.

Face to face with an idol

The following morning, as they made their way to the Nick Cave Exhibition that was running at the Melbourne Arts Centre, Bruce was singing a mindless ditty to Fran to the tune of You Are My Sunshine. Hunched at the end of the covered walkway on the approach to the centre was a scrawny, heavily tanned busker. He held a harmonica to his bristle-coated mouth with one tattooed hand while wafting a plastic cup over the instrument with the other, as a trumpeter manipulates sound with a mute.

“Can you hear what he’s playing?” asked Fran, as the final few notes of his song drifted away on the wind.

“Er, oh yeah. You Are My Sunshine,” said Bruce, before realising Fran’s point… “which I was singing earlier. How odd.”

Inside the Nick Cave exhibition – a valiant attempt to capture the dark magnificence of its subject – a panel of text grabbed Bruce’s attention.

“Hey Fran,” he said. “It talks about him becoming fascinated with The Lives of the Saints when he was much younger.” ‘How odd,’ he thought, remembering the previous evening’s conversation.

“Er, Bruce,” she replied, seemingly unimpressed. “Go over there and look to your left. Either they’ve got a really good impersonator or,” she said, pausing for dramatic effect before adding in a stage whisper, “he’s actually here.”

Bruce headed into the next section, past the book in which a younger Nick Cave had set postcards depicting religious scenes alongside cartoons of hardcore and fetish porn in a journal splattered with what appeared to be congealed blood, and peered ever-so-unsubtly around the partition wall. There – tall, pale, skeletal, ridiculously moustachioed and wearing trademark white shirt and fitted black suit – was the man himself.

“There’s no way they could find an impersonator that good,” he said to Fran in an excitedly hushed tone. Embarrassingly, but uncontrollably, his palms were sweating, his heart beating at double speed. “It’s him. Here. At his own exhibition!

“I was stood there looking at the photo of his wife and children when I turned around and saw him… with his wife and children,” said Fran, her eyes wild with excitement, her body all a-flap.

They simply had to get a photo. But how to approach the Prince of Darkness?

The cherubic twins

The family Cave headed upstairs to view a collection of portraits. No one else had bothered them. Perhaps they hadn’t noticed them; after all, the show had been running for months so who would expect him to visit it now from his home in England?

Following them stealthily up the brass-lined stairway, Bruce’s camera tugged more heavily than usual on his right shoulder as he recalled the way a younger Cave had dealt with an unwanted call from a journalist in Uli Schuppel’s 1989 Bad Seeds’ documentary (it wasn’t pleasant for the journo).

“Er, excuse me,” said Bruce in a terribly British manner. “Sorry to trouble you.” Nerves had turned him into Hugh Grant at his most pathetic. “But would you mind if we took a photo?”

He turned towards Bruce, his eyes seeming more hooded than ever under the rising dome of his forehead as they looked down to the large lens of the camera and glowered. Suddenly, one of his sons ran to his side and he brightened.

“Oh, OK then,” he said.

Fran appeared at his side and slid herself into his arms; his son pushed in on the other side. As Bruce tried to steady his hands to take the picture and Fran reminded him to take the lens cap off, the sound of softly padding feet came from behind.

“A photo! I want to be in it too,” shouted his other son, diving into the portrait.

Bruce set the camera to automatic, too chicken to risk ruining the moment, and prayed that it would be in focus. Fran and the two boys beamed proudly. Nick Cave towered over them, hero and father respectively with, just maybe, the slightest hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.

Now what are the chances of that?

* The answer to this one’s easy – Port Phillip Parking Services are utterly incompetent

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I am the Grassman

“You have to go. It really is amazing,” says the middle-aged assistant in Marysville’s Tourist Information Centre.

“And…” she adds, pausing – as much for effect as to allow her eyes to glaze over and stare longingly into the middle distance, “the sculptor, Bruno, is good-looking too. He’s got everything.”

Now I don’t know about Fran, but Bruce’s intentions for heading into the Yarra Ranges did not encompass hunting down Gallic-sounding woodland artists who do a certain je ne sais quoi to women of a certain age. But, the promise of a wild garden full of fantastical sculptures proved alluring enough.

Do come in

The presence of a donation box rather than manned kiosk at the entrance (alongside a sculpture of a particularly hangdog old chap in saggy dungarees) was a good omen: either Bruno is confident enough in his skills to know everyone will pay up willingly or, as the subject matter of his artworks would suggest, he is too much of a stoner to make the short journey from home to garden to ask for your money.

Either way, once inside, words cannot do justice to his creation. Taking his influences from nature, the world of fantasy and some of the more esoteric religions and philosophies of the world, Bruno has created his own little Garden of Eden for the twisted: men made up of animals and tools; beautiful maidens sliding from shells; unicorns and buddhas. A sign advises you to allow 20 minutes to explore the narrow paths and manmade tunnels through the lush forest that passes for his backyard; it might as well add (for those who are that way minded): “Or come to an agreement with Bruno and head back for an overnight stay armed with tent, ‘shrooms and Tim Tams“.

Lord, rain down your love upon me

As unexpected a pleasure as turning up to work in your undies, only to realise you were dreaming and don’t even have a job to go to so can return to dreaming, the Sculpture Garden is as good a reason to head northeast from Melbourne as the Yarra Valley wine.

And, if Bruno was indeed the slight, bearded fellow sweeping up leaves on the driveway, then any bachelors bearing more than a passing resemblance to Matthew Corbett should head to Marysville asap; your bride awaiteth…

Picnic time

For more – and bigger – images, click here

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