Monday, 14 May 2007

"Vandalism" published May 13

It was just like any other Friday. My little green car sat patiently in its crumbling 1940s concrete garage waiting for me to open up the aged wooden doors and take it out to lunch. Friday is lunch day, and sometimes if I have a really, really good lunch it gets to spend the night up on Ponsonby Rd, which I understand is quite a thrill for a little car with a rag top which doesn’t get out much.
This Friday would not be the same, however. As I approached the garage something wasn’t right. That feeling you get when you leave the house either without the undies or still with the slippers. My garage door had been covered in graffiti. It was a large piece of work, about three metres by three metres, it was a ghastly monochromatic minimalist work of a very dated style in a very familiar colour. A certain mud olive green that I see around the place on park benches and fences. It was Auckland City Council green and it slowly dawned on me that I had been the victim of council vandalism.
A few years ago I had persuaded a “street” artist, as I understand they are called, to paint a work of art on the old garage doors. To the uninitiated one could refer to it as “graffiti” but to us it was a piece of art which eventually was worked on by other “street” artists. Think of it as a mural in progress which greets our visitors before they enter our jungle, my personal work of art in progress.
After the first work had been completed a very well dressed mother, who also happens to be a former city councillor parked outside it in her expensive car with her teenage son and informed me that her son was simply admiring the “cool graffiti”. More recently, I’ve heard that Eastern suburbs mothers are paying street artists to paint their son’s bedrooms to resemble a New York subway and an architect even hired them to paint the fence of a new house just to give it that “street” feel. Call me a trail blazer if you like, I just happen to think that art on the street is good.
My nine-year-old daughter was horrified and immediately suggested that I write “a strongly worded letter of complaint with exclamation marks!” to the council. She should probably stop watching Neighbours at War. My husband, being the calm one in the family, rang the council and pointed out that the garage was on private property. He was told a “pro-active” anti-graffiti volunteer had been the culprit. I look forward to following his court case after he or she is arrested for vandalism. Or do they just arrest young people wearing hoodies and backpacks full of spray cans for vandalism these days?
It would seem we must now spend our lives protecting the right to live and work in an environment which hasn’t just stepped out of the pages of an architectural digest immaculately groomed in beige tones and minimalist influences. If we wanted to live in an environment like that we’d all move to Dannemora where I’m sure many a pissed husband has climbed into bed with the wrong wife because all the houses are identical. But instead we choose to live in a neighbourhood where there are remnants of a past. The Tongan family over the road who laugh like a longed for melody most days and fill up a shipping container on the front verge every Christmas to send to the Pacific have been here longer than anyone. Will an over-enthusiastic volunteer be removing the container this year? The park that fills up every weekend with sports mad locals feeding on chips and sausages from the Richmond Rovers clubrooms which have already been the target of stone yucca lovers who regard them as an eyesore. They’ll be wanting to remove the billboards next.
My neighbourhood, like most is organic. It possesses a history of people, structures and colours that deserve to be preserved even if they’re not to our taste. But as property values get ridiculous the values of our houses are being pressured to become clean and tidy and provide a haven for stone garden yucca lovers. Billboards, fences, even my old garage are all part of the way our city grew and should be left to reassure us that, just like our traffic congestion, which I notice the council and its over enthusiastic volunteers are unable to fix, they make up our city. And, with the exception of Garth George, that is just the way we like it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, you must feel quite multicultural, having "The Tongan" family living across the road. Do they feel gushy about having "The White Judgmental Cultural Cringe" family with the silly street art (wasn't it really to stop your garage getting tagged by some drunk white middle class hoodys?