Sunday, January 13, 2013

Absolut Bloody Good Art (Fuck Mr Brainwash)

This post is difficult for me.  For one it has all been said before.  Second it isn't said enough.  Third I cannot grasp any reasonable thought inside my head to say it.  You see, I lost my Bali virginity recently.  It wasn't what I expected, some things were awkward, some felt really good and I can't wait to do it again, because I know I will get better at it.

Like Joel in Wish You Were Here (thanks Krys, awesome film) I was the idiot and the innocent, at once.  I didn't know the trodden paths I stepped on. I was a walking cliche and faux pas.  I found myself taking it all in and struggling to keep up.

The same went for the art.  The graffiti, art and street art of Seminyak, where I spent my time, was familiar with an extra dimension.  Straight up throwies, life size paste ups and clever political messages reminiscent of those captured by Rennie Ellis years ago were scattered between temples and shops.  It spoke of what I was observing, which was validating.

The symbolism around the Absolut Vodka bottle goes beyond the 'Absolute' Bali, the bottle is used to carry petrol for the bikes that represent the most utilized mode of transport, and is mixed with home brews, because the taxes are so prohibitive...

I think the reason the graf and street are so political in Bali is the obvious thing that the subject is richer.  Literally, the subject is richer. Wealthier nations infiltrating. Tourism has both precipitated an industry and on the periphery, desecrated a culture.  Shop after shop has not a single thing to do with Balinese culture. Entire areas devoted to Western indulgences. Quint, below, is a Javanese artist I am now watching intently. He trades in the Paradoxical.

Unfortunately, some of the 'art' merges with advertisement, such as this Magali Pascal piece below but in many ways this is poetic

 What I believe is lacking within us as tourists, as well meaning and informed as we might be or wish to be, is an appreciation for the complete economical, social and cultural difference.  We arrive, we soak up the cacophony of sounds, smells, sights of this Island culture that has embraced the tourism that has evolved.  Maybe we just want to relax.  We feel the heat and fiercely challenge it. We dodge the traffic and do not give in to it's constancy. We eat meals that surpass the familiar. We walk past the dogs and hope they are well cared for. We shop and cannot believe the prices.  We don't inquire about the offerings and prayers that constantly surround us. We drink the beer because it's good, the coffee because it is outstanding.  We smile and greet those serving us. We smile and greet those passing us. We don't dwell on the hired help.  We don't wear much because it is hot and we think that is okay. We drink too much. We experience sun, servitude and bargains and it makes us feel good.

But there is an undercurrent and it is reflected in the street art.  It's cautionary and poignant.

Dedicated to Mark Wearne, fighting it hard right now, everything crossed for your recovery mate x