A few years ago while living in a run-down artist residence right near Sydney’s Central train station I was feeling insecure. I shared a suite with Joel Burrows, a music video director and Bridge Stehli a painter. These two people were doing way more than I was. I was recording music but I didn’t see it going anywhere (it didn’t) while Joel and Bridge were churning out amazing stuff every single say. At that point in time I thought music was my medium and I had never really given anything else a go.
I made my first and only art installation around that time. It was in a glass cube at Oxford Art Factory and basically all it consisted of was a fake tree made out of cardboard and black gaffa tape, a wall of strobe lights, strobes attached to the tree and two massive PA speakers, one blaring Darude’s Sandstorm and the other playing Butthole Surfers USSA at the exact same time on a continuous loop. The idea was that drunken hipsters would walk into this little room and suffer through this obnoxious sound/light display, leave the room and complain. Most of them ended up dancing.
It was pretty half arsed but it was a start. I began brainstorming what I was going to do next. Many late nights were spent with my flatmates discussing ideas, most of them never came to fruition but those that did were often pretty special. I never did an installation again but there was one idea I discussed with Bridge which to this day I’m still curious about.
For those who aren’t from Australia/don’t watch the news/were in a massive coma there was a race riot in the Sydney suburb of Cronulla in 2005. It was pretty horrific considering the wealth and comfort most Australian residents live in. Basically it started from a fight between some white morons and some Arabic morons on a beach. It escalated into a mini race war. Chain text messages were sent around groups of racist white dudes and Middle Eastern kids looking for some action. It was the second race riot in Sydney in two years after Redfern (where the pigs killed an aboriginal kid and got away with it) and in this writers opinion the one true legacy of John Howard’s Australia. I remember growing up as a kid in the 90s and all we would hear about is multiculturalism and reconciliation, when Howard got in we turned back into a pack of racists and we had the PM and Alan Jones’ blessing. Nasty.
Anyway this idea was to start another race riot all in the name of art. What we would do is catch the last train to Cronulla, hide in the station until the station staff went home and paste up Lebanese flags all over the walls. Commuters would wake up, people would get angry and fights would break out. It would require no spark by either whites or Lebanese, just the image of the flag. The rest would work itself out. It would be a commentary on the hotheadedness and stupidity of white Australia whether a riot broke out or if it made the news. The hatred would start up again and then I would come out and take credit for the whole thing then hop on a plane to Panama never to be seen again.
Obviously we never went ahead with it. The complete recklessness of the idea and the danger it could potentially bring to hundreds, if not thousands of people wasn’t worth the risk plus people would want to kill me and that’s never fun. I still think that if anyone did get hurt because of a few paste ups at a train station they either had it coming or the person hurting them was such a backwards retard they will get theirs someday.
As a resident of Sydney I was ashamed to see people fighting like they did in 2005 because we actually do have it pretty good here but there is a dark comedy when it comes to racism I have always found open to exploitation. I still kind of wish I had the cojones to pull something like that off.
I just hope that if we have to have another race riot it starts in the name of art.