Public Speaking: Look Hear ‘Hit the Bricks’ Street Art Festival

Quote: “In a world that is becoming increasingly at odds with prohibition and the coercion of greed and ill-intentions, I would like to encourage us all to embrace the importance and the truths in the message of street art.”

On the 22nd of November 2013, I was given the honour of hosting the artist panel for the Look Hear Street Art Festival, hosted at the Newcastle Art Gallery. The panel was made up of artists Askew, Numskull, Shida and Phibs who replaced Adnate.

Given complete creative liberty over the panel discussion, I went about selecting all those touchy subjects I picked up in my research, which published interviews skipped over when brought up by the artist.

The talk emphasised the need to acknowledge the importance in the message in street art, diffusing the clash between believers and non-believers. I went about peeling back the layers that I saw to be creating barriers between the understanding of pro and anti-street art parties, moderating the discussion to get people talking, given the unique opportunity we had to come together.

The current Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Jeff McCloy, as well as former Lord Mayor, John Tate, were in the crowd and both got up to talk during the night, sparking a political debate between the two in the Newcastle Herald the following week.

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Welcome to part two of the 2013 Look Hear design festival, Hit the Bricks artist panel, My name is Jonathan Boonzaaier, I will be your host for the evening.

I have on stage with me internationally renowned artists, Askew, Adnate, Numskull and Shida, a collection of street art experience equating to more than 50 years.

Before we get started, I’d like to acknowledge the significance of this evening, giving huge thanks to Carl Morgan and the Look Hear Crew,for the opportunity we’ve been given come together and discuss the newly empowered voice that art is being given on the streets of Newcastle.

To my understanding it took an earthquake that tore through the centre of Newcastle in 1989 for initiatives such as Renew Newcastle to be birthed, creating the right climate for events such as Look Hear to step up and take the helm.

And for this event to be free, to allow you to attend without any preconceived ideas or expectations that are traditionally attached to a price tag, to allow us to enjoy an honest environment without filters, without barriers, where the importance of the arts can be openly discussed, is truly an honour.

When Carl asked me to host this segment of Hit the Bricks, I told him, “Carl, if this is to be the first time I get up to talk on stage, piss myself and start to cry, it’ll gladly be for you.”

So, before coming here to Newcastle, while in Bali on an assignment, I constantly wrestled with the idea of this artist panel and what needed to be asked for us all to get the most from it, including the artists, myself, you dear audience, and apparently you Lord Mayor.

Now, being a writer, there’s nothing that draws words from you quicker than a good crisis, so, and Carl you’ll understand in a moment why I didn’t mention this before,but I found myself without a ticket home, broken poor in a third world country, living off $1 pancakes by the sea.

Yet, it was in those finer moments, while walking the dirt roads of Canggu, contemplating how I would make my way back to you, that all the simple pleasures in life became most apparent, the deep green shades of the rice paddies, the sharp blue of the sky, the expression in the colours of the street art that had accompanied the urbanisation of that once quaint, coastal town.

One day I turned a corner to meet a wall brought to life by an unmistakable mural created by Australian artist, the Yok, winking at me from behind an obese grin, taking the next corner to be greeted by fellow Australian artist, Smythe’s ‘Revolution’ wall piece, with the otherwise hidden word, ‘love’, spelled in reverse, highlighted in thick orange brush strokes through the centre of the word ‘revolution’.

That’s when I remembered the words of Mark Twain painted on the wall outside the Christ Church Cathedral in the centre of this City, which read:

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

So, today, in a world that is becoming increasingly at odds with prohibition and the coercion of greed and ill-intentions, I would like to encourage us all to embrace the importance and the truths in the message of street art.

Stop, forget yourself, ask questions, and open up conversations that will inevitably allow the best interest of the people of this nation to shine through.

And, YES, it can start here in Newcastle, just in the same way that 24 years after the earthquake, art is now playing a quintessential role in rebuilding the spirit of this great City.

With the above in mind, and focussing on what I identified in my research to be the most relevant topics in street art to date, I have divided this talk into four main debates, with one topic assigned to each artist according to his past experience, which will be open to the panel through a short set of questions. The topics are as follows:

• Activism v.s. Attitude directed towards Adnate
• Commercialisation v.s. Criminalisation covered by Numskull
• Contribution v.s. Market Pollution to be taken on by Shida
• Documentation v.s. Clutter aimed at Askew

Questions from the Audience will be taken at the end of the panel discussion, so please keep your hands seated and questions queued, and without further delay, Adnate…

1.1. On the topic of Activism versus Attitude could you please talk us through the development of your street art from the graffiti background you once led, to the more refined style you currently practice, which uses portraiture and realism to create expression?

What do you feel you gained from graffiti writing, and how do you feel you benefited from the move away from it?

1.2. From your view as the creator, given that once a piece is out there it’s open to individual interpretation, what message do you hope that viewers see and how do you amplify this?

1.3. Panel, in a group show such as the Darling Quarter, which a hand full of you were involved in, and other collective shows held in public spaces…

Do you feel like viewers are getting the message? What do you think inhibits that conveyance?

Moving on to the debate of Commercialisation versus Criminalisation…

2.1. Numskull, you’ve led a former life in advertising. What compelled you to move in the direction of what is largely viewed as a criminal activity?

And what do you believe was key in making a career out of that choice or renewed direction?

2.2. You’ve done work for brands such as Redbull, Grand Scheme and Globe. How do you find a balance between paying bills and creating freely? Or are they one in the same?

2.3. Panel, how would you describe the current social climate where street art, a once heavily frowned upon practice, is becoming more celebrated?

What is the main reason, in your opinion for this turning of the tides?

Shida, our youngest panellist, but one of our more travelled given your age and time spent as a professional:

3.1 Taking on the topic of contribution versus market pollution, how do you use symbolism to create uniqueness? What influences do you draw your works from?

3.2. What do you believe is the main driver or cause of imitators? Could we ever rid the market or industry of this?

3.3. Panel, you’re all “relatively” well travelled…How and to what degree do you feel the international art scene influences  ongoings in Australia?

And how do you feel Australia is helping shape the international art scene, referring directly to the radical movements of Banksy in the U.S.? Is that hurting or helping?

Now, Askew, for the first time in history the internet has allowed us the luxury of self-determination through two-way communication, such as in the case of Social Media, something you’re quite heavily involved in, from what I could tell.

4.1. How does this accelerate the evolution of style and aid the arts?

4.2. How does the undeniable clutter of the internet inhibit that evolution, or

even more personally, inhibit you? If it does so at all?

4.3. Panel, how are you using Social media and the internet to create hype as well as using it as a storytelling medium? As we begin to close, what last stories or words would you like to say to the audience?

Ladies and gentlemen, to paraphrase the words of the musician, Rodriguez, undoubtedly one of the greatest visionaries who lived…Thanks for your time and you can thank us for ours…The floor is now yours.

Who would like to open the questions from the audience?

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For more information on Look Hear and future movements, visit www.lookhear.com.au.

Photograph by Adam Monaghan of Content Productions.

© Jonathan Boonzaaier 2016

Look Hear Street Art Hit the Bricks Jonathan Boonzaaier

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