Guerrilla street art has found new ways of reclaiming urban space worldwide. Moving away from traditional graffiti art we find artists tackling urban objects: buses, trains, utility boxes, bollards, as well as taking over prime advertising space such as billboards, buildings and bus stops.
Perhaps as a re-visit to the avant-garde scene in New York during the 1980’s and the illustrious Banksy artworks, the cause may be a stand to politics and government (Egypt and Greece) or to beautify the nasty (but necessary) paraphernalia that clutters our streets. While councils and residents have usually frowned upon this kind of art within public spaces, the changed view that street art contributes to the area and represents the fabric of communities that exist is now widely acknowledged.
While Cairo and Palestine expel political provocations, Kid Zoom transforms bus shelters around Melbourne, New York and Madrid. Simultaneously an un-identified artist covers utility boxes around Sydney’s eastern suburbs with Australian landscapes. Buildings and utilitarian infrastructure that we usually ignore become objects of attraction. However, one case takes it beyond paraphernalia to an object that has a use: the bus stop.
If you are a regular around the Sydney CBD, you may or may not have noticed a number of bus stops housing what looks like a large black or white stencil. So well created, the street art looks commissioned, but it’s actually the work of artist Anthony Lister.
Official or not, these works, christened by Lister as “cut outs” have been popping around the city, filling the position of advertisements with his own take (contempt or mockery) on the way electronics, the government and religion control society. However grim the subject may be (are we subjects of the institutions?), the result is amazing: back-lit works that change the night streetscape, shift street art from the walls into a framed advertisement space and provoke a response from viewers.
Unfortunately, like much street art, these ‘cut outs’ are short-lived. The process of ungluing the plastic windows of the bus stops in order to place his own work has proved difficult for Lister. However he still manages to deliver these pieces without getting hounded by authorities. Having been inside his studio (wall to wall of works oozing with passion), I can safely say that having Lister back in Sydney can only prove positive. Perhaps this art superhero can motivate us to claim back un-used and forgotten spaces as canvases for activating and engaging each other.
Perhaps it is time we take a pro-active approach to allowing these works to enhance our living spaces. I do not mean complete consent to street art, but maybe take a leaf from neighbouring cities: Auckland City council allowing all utility and electrical boxes to become public canvases for artist, as a way to encourage creatives within our community to contribute their part to the urban landscape.
Check out the burning TV in Kings Cross/Darlinghurst (before it gets pulled down) and keep an eye out around the Opera House.