Friday, January 24, 2014

Public statements

I recall when I was growing up a real movement around defacing billboards and putting messages on them that made you think about what was being 'sold to you'. It was not unusual to see cigarette billboards suggesting a fun and carefree life, with messages illegally sprayed across  asking if this carefree life was after the character's diagnosis of  terminal lung cancer.

I grew up in Collingwood and neighboring Clifton Hill. I heard recently from somewhere that the City of Yarra, which the suburb of Collingwood sits within, has the highest percentage of people in government housing, in the country or state (I can't recall now and couldn't find anything easily on the internet (yes, I do some research for my blog posts!)). I was not surprised. The suburb of Collingwood is in an interesting one, as it has three twenty-story government housing towers or flats, as well as many low and medium rise government housing, all mixing with an increasingly gentrified area, which is close to the city and is becoming more and more popular for visitors and new residents alike. The  high costs to purchase property in the area is testament to this.  Add to this, neighbouring Richmond and Fitzroy's own Housing towers and estates. But what does this all mean? I do fear that it may only be a matter of time before the government sell off the large allotments of inner city land and edge the poor out and force them to the urban fringes, which lack decent transport/infrastructure and job opportunities. Sadly, these same people that may be forced out, actually helped create Collingwood's unique vibe that attracts many.

Recently a strip of shops were torn down in Smith St (one of the main shopping streets). I recall some of the stores that have come and gone over the past thirty or so years. This now vacant strip, that has had shop fronts torn down and shops gutted, is going to become apartments. Maybe even apartments over a supermarket. I read somewhere that a project was undertaken to photograph some locals and plast their images over the boarding around the construction site....Perhaps done to 'sell' the locals the idea that this development is 'ok' and will be a natural part of the existing community. It wasn't long until these images were manipulated and public statements were made....

Through whose eyes do we see? And what lens are we being asked to view live/change through?

I love the torn face, the image no longer becomes about one particular person, but a representation for many.

The dispossessed original owners of the land, now being dispossessed yet again.

This next image is so rich with ideas of the layers of community, of the original image of a dark skinned woman, has been pushed back and replaced with that of the whiter skin of the dominant culture. There is the suggestion of an Asian looking eye as well and then the text which suggests that evil smashes!!!  Fitting given that money is moving into the area and in time, just as it has happened in other places, the poor will be displaced.

original images copyright of the respective artist (no copyright infringement intended), the above photographs copyright matthew schiavello 2013

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Some dodgy photos of my new beard and some notes on the racism my beard has seemed to stir up!

This was recently posted on my tumblr, but felt it worthwhile to reprint here.

Me by my mate Dean:

Me by me:

Since growing my beard I have been abused in the street, had disproving stares and comments from family and friends and generally been at the receiving end of a lot of racist comments!

I’ve been told on a number of occasions that I should shave my beard off because I look like a ‘Jew’, others say I should shave it off because I look like an ‘Arab’ or an ‘Arab terrorist’. This is all said as if looking like a Jew or Arab is something to be ashamed of.  One man walked past me in the street last week and just as he past me, he yelled out ‘fucking Arabs!’. This behavior only makes me want to keep my beard. I consider it an honor to be thought to be part of the rich culture of my Jewish or Arabic/Middle Eastern brothers and sisters. I have to say it isn’t all hard going, A couple of middle eastern eateries I visited, called me brother and gave me some complimentary side dishes ;-)

The bad news for the racists around me is that now that I have discovered beard wax… the beard will definitely be around for a while!

I do acknowledge that we are all potentially racists in someway, I know that I have been guilty of it in some ways. I think that racism can to be taught, learned and past down through the generations. I grew up with a lot of Greeks who were still very angry towards the Turkish people for what had happened in the past…These friends were all born here in Australia and didn’t directly experience the events they were angry about. I am not attacking my Greek siblings, just using this example to make a point that leads to a question. The question is, how do we heal and start to see each other again as individuals and to see without a lens of hatred and bigotry?

As for me, being gay and growing up on a government housing estate, I have had my unfair share of homophobic comments and poor treatment.  I am a tough bugger and will plough on regardless of what others think. Besides, it’s just a beard….. ;-)

Me by Nadia N:

Me by  Dani (and yes, I know that shirt needs a rest!):

Lastly, me by me and hey look! different shirt! ;-)

All photographs copyright the respective owners. 2014