Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, 2007

 The Write Stuff

 Brendan Lee

Who’s still doing graffiti in this day and age? Obviously it’s Lebbos, stoners and gangstarrs if we look to James Dodd for inspiration.

Growing up in the western badlands gave me the opportunity to spend at least 95 minutes a week of gallery time on the St Albans line to Spencer Street station. Each Saturday I’d be transfixed by the new art on show along the Sunshine caravan Park fence and the overpasses near Footscray Station. The walls and fences of the CKA (City Krime Art) dominated transit passage gave way to a grand battle played out in the minds of commuters. Who were these people, how did they get there and what the hell does it mean?

One week a new player entered the field. SBS. Now I’m not talking about the television station. I’m referring to a lone tagger with a clean legible style. Rumours spread fast and proved to be a hot topic on the V-Lines from Bacchus Marsh. Somewhere at some point in time an informed someone had claimed that it stood for Slashed By Steven…a transit cop (if you believed the hype). This unsubstantiated rumours ended up becoming an unconditional fact in my area.

So why am I talking about graffiti in relationship to the works of James Dodd? Dodd’s wall works reside in a similar art space as SBS inhabited. It’s the acknowledgement of what lies below that makes the surface all the more important. Dodd slashes his own sunset murals with generations of throwaway wall texts. In the same way we wouldn’t notice SBS unless it stood for more than what was beneath it, Dodd forces us to respect (with the two fingered ‘ROCK’ salute) the written time capsules of humans with something to say. The words Dodd applies to his wall works are taken from the parts of urban life we tend to miss unless you look really, really closely. Just like skateboarders know every crack in a footpath and tan bark nature strip, Dodd could tell you the history of the laneways and what nationality to blame for backing up or over-shitting their stay in the public toilets.

So who is responsible for what James Dodd mines in his works? It’s easy to blame Johno and Macca on their way to KFC after pulling a few cones or the fat, bald paedophile with an eye on the urinal – you wouldn’t be far off. Apprentice tradies perfecting the back pussy flash and the prissy punk kids from private schools on the lookout for mum’s Landrover could also be the culprits. Lebbos with a case of the runs are prime for dunny taggers (to actually view one without the frame of a Commodore window would be worthy of a text of it’s own). No matter who it is that’s adding to James’ oeuvre it’s safe to bet that they aren’t the same ones correcting my grammar.

Another question that must be asked is who are the ones viewing Dodd’s wall works? Ironically, they are the people who’d sooner take you to court for stencilling your own backyard fence. These moleskin wearing purveyors of all things Hermes are going to walk around discussing the virtues of legitimising ‘Street Art’ and how they are into what the youth of today are up to whilst in the same self-satisfied breath announcing how they’d secured a pair of deluxe Michael Bublé tickets.

I can’t stand the opera and think Michael Crawford should return to his mother yet what I do like is a line of text on an old power sub station near my flat. It’s beside a train station that wouldn’t take a creative mind to imagine being killed at. The text boldly states in bright blue spray ‘GIT FARKED’. This is the only thing written on the entire wall. Is it because some gang owns this space, or the council has video cameras placed on the periphery? I doubt it. The logical explanation is that anyone contemplating writing on the wall is too busy laughing to deface it and moves on respectfully. Australia has a grand ol’ history of respectfully leaving smart arse comments alone. Should this type of wit be fostered – fuck yeah!

It’s pointless to debate whether graffiti is art and should it be encourage. Banksy, Basquiat and Barry McGee serve as a side salad at McDonalds once you’ve seen one of James Dodd’s walls. You don’t have the time to think about any naff intellectual mumbo jumbo. These walls are a depiction of excess. The Berlin Wall gets mixed with a Bit of Pink Floyd and layered with some metal head’s signature matt black acrylic. It’s what’s out there – by the public, for the public.

The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) has a chalkboard out the front advertising what’s on show and the next artist giving a talk. The irony of the situation is that ACCA is one large message board. It’s a James Doddesque rusty monochrome updated with regularity. A good friend of mine has the compulsion to write on everything he sees. Sure, he wrote on ACCA, wrote on my favourite skate park and wrote in the dust on my water saving car. If he saw Dodd’s wall he’d write on that too. As strange as it may be, I don’t think Dodd would be upset if he did. It would be in the next work anyway.