If walls could speak, then Melbourne’s Hosier Lane would be a triumph of bold confident noise. The art is worn on the sleeves of buildings marked by artists seeking to make a statement. Whether it’s politically charged, religiously challenged or taking the piss at popular culture, this lane is truly a magnum opus that Melbourne has embraced as a diamond in the rough.
Hosier Lane is a celebrated landmark in Melbourne and is currently being advertised as a tourist sight to partake in. Almost a sense of irony beholds that statement as graffiti isn’t primarily used as an advertising medium. However, Melburnians know what they like and they know how to accept the atypical.
Upon arriving there, I see clusters of tourists milling around the entrance peering into their cameras, inspecting their shots and making sure what they have is worthwhile. I instantly think what I’m about to see are artists selling-out their craft just to be seen. But as I turn the corner I know that isn’t the case. It’s a sight worth breathing in. Every nook and cranny is covered. Rubbish bins, seats, doors, pipes, posts, everything is covered and it’s truly beautiful.
There’s a smell of spray-paint in the air as I walk down the cobbled lane. Layers upon layers of art adorn each canvas-cum-wall. The expressive culture, politics and iconography makes this space a raw open gallery that is meant to be dirty and in your face. Each building has their own design and I’m unsure if the work is commissioned or if anyone can bust on down to mark their territory. I do know that it constantly changes. For example, Banksy had famously laid one of his creations upon one section, only to have someone come across and stupidly paint over it. In addition, even though ‘tagging’ is rife in this lane, it is almost foolish to ‘tag’ in this neighbourhood. Where graffiti is considered new wave street art, tagging is still a non-respected, frowned upon deviancy.
One section of the lane incorporates how the word ‘babe’ is featured into today’s lexicon by scrawling the many clichés on the side of a cafe. It’s funny and speaks about how we can use language rather lazily. Other pieces include a giant squid wrecking havoc, Mayan caricatures, Disney inspired cartoons, stencils galore, abstract art, an impressive Indian God Ganesha and our holy mother Mary.
But what sticks in my mind are the protest slogans popping up throughout the lane. For example, one poster tells how ‘humans are a bitter volatile waste of space.’ Another says, ‘the worlds ignorant provide a perfect excuse for bigotry to masquerade as logic.’ There is anger here amidst the beauty; voices wanting to be heard in a medium reaching the ears and eyes of many. As I read this, I turn around to see a newly married couple taking photos in the lane. They’re laughing and oblivious to the messages about religion and colonisation. They’re only here for the scenery.
Maybe it was Banksy that transformed society’s point of view on how graffiti can be considered art and if so then amen to him. After venturing down Melbourne’s epicentre of street art, it is plain to see that ‘graffiti’ is the new power of speech. Hosier Lane is a heady concoction of colour that mixes into a beautiful montage of artistic voices and it’s no wonder that it’s been compared to other Graffiti capitals such as Berlin and New York. It’s harsh, full on and not to be taken just at face value. Hosier Lane – it’s owned by no one and yet everyone.
By Kylan Luke-McKeen.