I’ve been to a few shows at The NGV Studio, some involving photographers, some involving installation, sculptural and even street artists, but this was the first time I’ve been to one solely for a street artist from Australia. I’ve ranted on about that a few times now, but it’s only because that statement alone, is an accomplishment in itself. Yes, we’ve had Chaz Bojorquez, The Everfresh Crew and even The SDM Crew display their work in the cities capital gallery space, but none completely meet the above criteria. In a city that sometimes frowns upon and then gives the thumbs up to one of it’s biggest and most diverse art movements, it’s definately a big step to see a [possibly] government funded show pop up in one of the cities most elite of spaces. But lets not talk politics, as it shouldn’t get in the way of good art and the art found at this show is at the top of the pyramid.
I guess the first thing to state about this show is that it isn’t a traditional body of painted work we’re used to from an artist like Ian Strange, it’s more of an installation. An installation of imagery, from a video piece featured in the centre of the entire thing. I’ve been to video/installation shows before, but none that have gone into this much detail showcasing the process involved for the central piece. The place was, expectedly, packed for opening and as I made myself up the steps towards the entrance I couldn’t help but think what I was going to face for the show. I purposely did my best to not read up on the show beforehand, leaving myself open to the element of surprise when walking. Stepping into the show, I was met with a brightly lit room: filled with a number of high quality photographs, quotes and 2 video presentations. Inside the dark main room section: a main installation/video presentation awaits your attention, while being accompanied by a number of pieces of its own. The video is a dark mysterious piece runs for about 5 minutes and it includes no dialogue, just transcending/elevated noise, correct me if I’m wrong, but the video itself reminds me of scenes from Stanley Kubricks legendary 2001, a film which I am a very big fan of, so that’s not an assumption I’m saying for the hell of it.
While everything within the show is of a very, very high quality, the question that is a lot more important is, what does it all mean? Well… I’ve spoken about it before and there are a number of artists out there that I feel have broken away from being labelled [what we’d all call] a ‘street/graffiti artist’. Despite his beginnings in the art world [one’s which he hasn’t deterred from], it’s a pretty safe call to now describe Kid Zoom/Ian Strange as a contemporary artist, with a history in the graffiti/street art landscape [Ps. I will never call it urban art]. But I do think that, while this show doesn’t feature works visually to those of this culture, it does embody the spirit of it all, especially its beginnings. I can’t speak for Ian Strange myself, but with a title like Suburban, which features traditional American ‘cookie cutter’, white picket fence type homes being burned to the ground… it spoke a lot to me. My partner and I came from two very different backgrounds, her family travelled a fair bit in her youth, living in a number of countries before she was 12 and settling in to Australia, I on the other hand am from a pretty cautious family, who rarely truly left the South East suburbs of Melbourne [which we were born and raised in], surrounded by a community that pretty much did the same thing, while you’re just waiting to turn 18 to get out of there and be free. While I am not an angry boy these days, growing up was a pretty boring affair, we weren’t poor, but there certainly wasn’t a lot of money around to get all the things kids ‘need’, so we spent a lot of time making our own fun. It’s this kind of thought process and attitude that probably turned me on to things like skateboarding, punk music and graffiti, cultures my partner didn’t grow up being as interested in, we’d break into schools/old buildings, skate them and then just break things… for no real reason, while also stealing booze, experimenting with… special herbs, I’m sure you all understand. Because even at a young age, you always knew that everything wasn’t was always as it seemed, the amount of drug dealers, domestic abuse, early age pregnancies and just stupid shit that gets seemingly swept under the carpet in those area’s, is phenomenal and I wasn’t even from a bad neck of the woods [Endeavour Hills], yet it all kinda frustrated you. But, what else is there to do in a town that wants to be kept clean and quiet at all times? Now I’m not saying I want to paint some houses and casually watch them burn, not at all, but I can understand why some of the worlds best artists and musicians can come from area’s out of inner CBD’s, because there truly is no fun to be had, unless you make your own. It is also how global subcultures like graffiti are born and evolved, sure it all started in New York City, but we’re talking about in the 1980’s when the place was basically a slum village. So while this show doesn’t showcase Ian Strange’s amazing can finesse [did I just say that?], for me it is the definition of why cultures like graffiti and street art happens, because your angry and your surroundings aren’t working for you, so you make a change for [what you think is] the better, for yourself, it doesn’t matter where you live. And while people think it is a bad thing for society, this show is a perfect rebuttal to that argument, who knows what could have happened to your Ian Strange’s, your Neckfaces or even your Banksy’s, if they never picked up an art tool and decided that they were going to paint something.
This show opened last weekend and will be running at The NGV Studio ’til September 15, do go see it, before it closes. Congratulations to Kid Zoom/Ian Strange, it’s a show I won’t soon forget and one I’ll be visiting again before it goes.