The Space Invaders exhibition features street art, stencil work and zines from Australia and if nothing else the exhibition shows how these artists have contributed to our cultural framework. Sadly, the Gold Coast, so lacking in cultural credibility in every other way, also has a zero tolerance approach to graffiti, so we’re unlikely to nurture any talent in the foreseeable future. The Gold Coast council actually sent me a letter asking permission from me to remove graffiti from my fence, which I declined, but they removed it anyway. No loss, it was some rudimentary tag work, but I can only hope that now the Gold Coast council is sharing responsibility for my fence they’ll be there for me when the palings need replacing.
The exhibition itself had some good examples of the work. Most street art is by its nature transitory, so the NGA people had tracked down the artists and had them render some stencil work especially for the NGA collection. That to me is an interesting process, curators from our national gallery seeking people who revel in anonymity, and getting them to contribute. I’m sure there’s an interesting story there but sadly, like the rest of the exhibition, it was poorly documented.
The Space Invaders exhibition actually goes out of its way not to document any of the work, arguing that the street work is not documented and so they are in effect keeping in kind. I’d argue that information and documentation is exactly why I’d go to a gallery, otherwise I may as well go look at the stuff on the frigging street. There were those annoying little iPad things at the end of each aisle but it was removed from the artists work, gave not connection to it and besides ipads are just a pain in the arse. If I wanted to browse on an oversized phone I would have stayed at home. On this device you could browse by artist for extra information but since no work had so much as a name against it you were on a major mission to find even the most basic information on the work you were looking at.
These gripes aside, the actual content in the exhibition was good. I’d have loved to have known what I was looking at. The few artists I recognized brought only a hazy recollection to my mind. I’m hardly an expert on street art (though I did expect to be slightly the wiser from the exhibition, but obviously I’m not). The experience of the Space Invaders exhibition was a bit like when I look birds in the wild…”Oh yes, very nice…I wonder what it is?”…but just the same I found pieces that excited and delighted me.
I have to admit that zines were something that passed me by in my youth. I always had the impression that they were too esoteric to be of any interest, this despite spending a great deal of time browsing at Polyester book store. Seeing these things in context next to the street art brought them to me in a new light. And I’m sure there are any number of cranky people out there who would point out that “at least they’re not vandalizing the streets!”
If you’re at all interested in street art, stencil work and zines then you should check out the Space Invaders exhibition. There’s good work there and plenty enough for an hours gawping and it’s likely to be the only exhibition on street art for a long time. That is, unless Banksy tours and the same people who deplore graffiti turn up in droves to genuflect at his work. Entry is free. Just don’t expect to come home any the wiser.