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


  1. the graffiti makes these images very thought provoking. unfortunately this redevelopment, for want of a better word, is a very common thing these days. very sad post Matthew, you have to wonder where these long term residents will end up

  2. These images are AWESOME!...very powerful... luv 'em

    ( 'spit in his latte'....... hahaha )

    nice shots too, Fubby ; )