"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Freedom of Screech


The Castlemaine State Festival wound up today, and like all good arty get-togethers, there was controversy and arguments and outrage! Not about the incendiary work of established artists, mind you, but about the creations of the budding young artists at the Castlemaine Secondary College, all of whom learnt this week that you never quite know how individual audience members, burdened as they are with their own emotional baggage, beliefs and sense of righteousness, are going to react to your artwork. In a project called "Text Alley" created by year nine and ten students, three "controversial" pieces in particular roused much ire and generated hundreds of complaints to the festival HQ.

The first was a banner stating 'Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment'. I wonder how the complainants formulated their protest - that it wasn't happy and sparkly enough? Do they even remember what it feels like to be a teenager?

The second offensive piece was this silhouette of a reindeer with the message 'Christmas is a lie'. You can't read that message any more because it was subsequently vandalised by someone who spray painted over the banner and added  'This aint art'. So much for debating the issue. Some claim it was religious vilification, others that it ruined the magic of Christmas for the kiddies. I'd say that one's faith really should be robust enough to take on such a innocuous challenge. As for the kiddies, if they're old enough to read graffiti, then they'll already be deep into the 'Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus' conundrum. If they want to believe in the red-suited bloke, they will believe, and there are hundreds of books and movies about crusty cynics getting their yuletide comeuppance to support that belief, surely enough to counter the power of four words on a wall? Besides, wouldn't you expect an alleyway full of graffiti by teenagers to have some potentially offensive messages and pictures? Why would any parent take their littlies to such an exhibition without checking it out first?

The third scandal involves a banner with the slogan "Let Bogans Be Bogans', which I think is quite warm and cute, and the Castlemaine Secondary School's principal says is about accepting and tolerating all sorts of different people, but which some sensitive souls somehow turned into propaganda about the recent Castlemaine pokies dispute involving gambling levels and how to best utilise an old railway building. Art is certainly in the eyes of the beholder.

One of my favourites was this piece. Humour is always welcome.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I suspect that here and there about town, there are a quite few teenagers absolutely delighted by all the fuddy-duddy fuss and positive that they truly are artists. Their paths are set.

3 comments:

parlance said...

A couple of weeks back the principal of the school (r maybe the director of the Festival, I forget) was on the ABD radio in the afternoon and it was great to hear how he supported the kids.

You're right - they must be thrilled to have caused a stir. Doing graffiti legally might have been a bit unchallenging, otherwise.

parlance said...

Just noticed my fuddy-duddy old fingers have hit a few odd keys on my desktop computer!

Gitte Christensen said...


I appreciate your fuddy-duddy fingers' efforts. It's the thought that counts.

Yeah, the local principal was good - he publicly championed each piece and explained when the kids had intended to say in each case. I'd say it's all provided a good lesson for the kids in how differently people view things, and how artists have to know what they're trying to say and then be ready to defend themselves against naysayers. And I'm positive the kids are as happy as over the controversies.