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Friday, March 24, 2006
Banksy on graffitti
Great piece in the Guardian today by Banksy about the literal whitewashing of Melbourne's vibrant graffitti scene before the Commonwealth Games, and a cautionary, well-articulated message for London:

The precedent set by Melbourne does not bode well for London in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics. The games will be set in east London, where Hackney is one of the few remaining parts of the city where affordable studio space for artists still exists. After the warehouses have been flattened by compulsory purchase orders, the pots of grey paint will be opened and an area rich in street culture and frontier spirit will disappear. Factory doors whose flaked layers of Hammerite reveal history like the rings in a tree stump will be thrown on the fire. Disused cranes perched on top of foundries like skeletal crows will be torn down.[...]

This is not to say that every city should aim to look like the south Bronx, or that regeneration cannot be a good thing, but society's headlong march into bland conformity should not necessarily be welcomed with such open arms. In the 1990s, large sections of football grounds were demolished to make way for executive boxes - only then did people start to complain about the lack of atmosphere.

Melbourne and London are genuine epicentres of the skewed human touch that can bring a little sparkle into the drudgery of public space. A feat that is of immense value, despite its apparent worthlessness. And a feat that is not so easily achieved by trying to run around a track in under four minutes.

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