Category Archives: Arts + Culture

Oi You! Urban Art Festival Brings Banksy to Adelaide

Banksy Reworks Warhol’s Monroe

George Shaw, a self-described ageing punk, says buying a loud shirt back in 2005 at his wife’s urging led to an obsession that changed their lives forever.

He picked up the well-cut shirt – with green felt running down the sleeves and a plasticised stencil on the back – in a UK boutique to wear to a friend’s 40th birthday bash. When some lads from Bristol mentioned that the stencilling on the shirt was reminiscent of the rogue street artist Banksy, who cut his teeth on the rough Bristol streets, Shaw’s curiosity piqued.

“I thought Banksy sounded like my kind of guy,” said Shaw.

“Through a hangover the next day, I Googled Banksy and I felt a rush. I was so excited – it was the first artwork that I really related to. It was a bit like the punk movement, it really had something to say.”

That loud, well-cut shirt and the street art obsession it inspired will bring Shaw, his wife and creative partner Shannon Webster, and more than 70  pieces from their urban art collection, including  22 Banksys, to Adelaide this month for the Oi You! Urban Art Festival.

The duo has run the festival in Sydney and in Nelson, on New Zealand’s South Island, where they live. Shaw says they approached Adelaide City Council (ACC) with the idea to host one in Adelaide, and the council saw its value. ACC, through Splash Adelaide, is backing the event with the State Government and theAdelaide Festival Centre, which will be the hub for festival events, including an exhibition, an art hunt, a scrawl wall and outdoor installations.

“There’s a fabulous local street art scene in Adelaide already,” said Shaw. “Hopefully this festival will allow for it to win an even broader audience and be a bit more cherished.”

To be sure, Adelaide has a healthy obsession of its own with random artworks popping up on buildings and in alleyways. The South Australia Illustrated: From the Street exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australialast year helped legitimise an artform that has long been maligned.

As part of the exhibition, Adelaide-raised street artist Peter Drew invited fellow street artists to ‘respond’ to an unfinished portrait of Adelaide’s founder, Colonel William Light. These were hung briefly on the Gallery walls, alongside traditional, historically important paintings. They were then plucked one by one and hidden around the city, sending anyone from students to office workers running through the CBD in a game of finders keepers.

Elusive and anonymous

Elusive and still anonymous, Banksy is one of the world’s best-known street artists for his iconic and satirical stencil art in public places. His last major show saw some 300,000 people queue for hours to get in and his art fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction houses in Britain and the US.

The Oi You! Festival will host 22 Banksy pieces, along with work from other leading graffiti artists around the globe, including Faile, Swoon and David Choe from the US, the UK’s Antony Micallef and Paul Insect, and the artist known as Milton Springsteen from NZ.

“I like a lot of art but street art really speaks to me, probably because it’s not exclusive. It’s inclusive, it’s populist.

“The way I look at street art: it’s almost like you think of traditional art as the theatre – street art is the cinema. It’s for the people.”

Matt Stuckey adds colour outside the Adelaide Festival Centre

Since 2005 Shaw and Webster have collected about 100 urban artworks, among them Banksy limited edition prints such as the Kate Moss image channelling Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe and the original Flower Thrower canvas, the cover image for the Banksy bestseller War and Piece. Both works will be part of the exhibition in Adelaide.

Shaw says they have spent the best part of seven years following Banksy’s shows around the world, including war-ravaged Palestine and the more high-end Los Angeles for Banksy’s Barely Legal show in 2006, where Shaw found himself shoulder to shoulder with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

“It’s been surreal. We found ourselves at the epicentre of this phenomenon that just exploded across the world.”

Obsessed stamp collectors

Unlike the collectors who buy art on a hunch that an artist will make it big and their works will command big price tags, Shaw says he and Webster just bought what they liked, and they liked a lot.

“We’re like obsessed stamp collectors.

“It began with an interest in what Banksy had done and we kind of went overboard. If there was a new piece out, we had to have it.

“Most people start collecting art when they are rich but we weren’t rich – we were comfortable I guess – but we still sold both our cars and went to the bank to support our obsession.”

Their next goal is to find a permanent home for the Banksy collection, ideally in earthquake-wracked Christchurch, New Zealand, which is in the midst of a massive rebuild.

“We’d really like to see Christchurch become home to an annual Oi You! festival and to our collection.

“They’re going through a very significant rebuild there and we like the idea of being a part of that.”

Adelaide is sister city to Christchurch so it’s fitting perhaps that Adelaide will get a taste of Oi You!

The festival kicks off with an Opening Night party on 19 April before opening to the public from 20 April to 2 June. The Opening Night party will give fans a sneak peek at the exhibition and feature talks from some of the artists as well as a DJ set from local electronic artist, Oisima.

A large annex built outside the Artspace Gallery will provide plenty of space for budding local artists to express themselves. One side will be a ‘scrawl wall’ covered in chalkboard paint and the other, made from corrugated iron, is dubbed ‘corrugated irony’.

And while you won’t be able to take a Banksy original home, local duo Ankles and Smile, known as Rawhide, will give everyone the chance to own some art in The Great $5000 Art Giveaway. On Saturday 27 April and Sunday 28 April, 38 tokens will be hidden across the Adelaide Festival Centre Plaza, corresponding to 38 works of art. Find a token and take home a piece of art – it’s that simple.

Australian street art gurus Anthony Lister, Rhone and Beastman will be in town too, to create large works on big walls. Matt Stuckey will create a number of installations on the plaza outside the Festival Centre too.

Among other festival events are street artist guided tours of some of Adelaide’s best urban art sites, and a Street Art Film Night in the Space Theatre Foyer on Friday 10 May, featuring screenings of locally-produced documentary Who Owns The Street, and the Academy Award-nominated Banksy film Exit Through The Gift Shop.

As for the shirt that started it all, Shaw reckons he might wear it on opening night.

“It’s all come from that shirt. Our whole life changed in that moment.”

Visit the Oi You! Urban Art Festival on Facebook for all the latest news





Shhhh …where is your favourite quiet place?

Jason Sweeney chilling in a quiet place

In Japan they have pods; small, quiet cocoon like capsules where people can seek out silence. In Adelaide, a favourite quiet space might be a trickling fountain in Victoria Square, a non-descript city car park or a narrow thoroughfare off a main street.

Jason Sweeney, a self-described introvert, is morphing his search for safe, quiet places into an ever-evolving sound-art project. Stereopublic: Crowdsourcing the Quieta tech-savvy pursuit for web and smartphone, will launch at the 2013 Adelaide Festival.

With roots in music, from playing in bands to community radio, 41-year-old Sweeney calls himself an interdisciplinary artist these days. A composer for theatre, dance and film, he has worked with companies including State Theatre Company of SA, Vitalstatistix, Chunky Move, Belgium’s SOIT, Restless Dance Theatre, Tanja Liedtke, Closer Productions, Force Majeure and UK-based DV8.

He has been releasing his electronic music compositions internationally with bands Panoptique Electrical and Pretty Boy Crossover, via the record label Sensory Projects, and he is in the thick of creating a feature film The Dead Speak Back slated for 2013 release.

But Stereopublic is something “I’ve been working on for years in one form or another. I knew it would shape shift and have different incarnations. It’s just incredible how well received this incarnation of it has been,” said softly spoken Sweeney. He said he pitched the idea in an email to David Sefton, Artistic Director of the 2013 Festival and a fellow electronic and experimental music enthusiast,  and Sefton was quick to jump onboard.

Poster Child for Quiet

“This is one of the most important projects in my life. It’s hugely personal,” said Sweeney, who for all his music-making and current it boy status, is something of a poster child for quiet. The concept for ‘crowd-sourcing the quiet’ grew from Sweeney’s own inherent discomfort in crowded, noisy places.

He tells a story of a basement apartment he rented in Melbourne. “There was no natural light, no air – but when I stepped outside I was right on Flinders Lane, one of the busiest places in Melbourne. I lasted eight months there and then I had to come back to Adelaide. It was such a relief to come home.”

With support from the TED Prize-winning City 2.0 Award, Arts SA and the Australia Council’s Creative Australia New Art initiative – as well as Adelaide City Council –  Sweeney and a team from Freerange Future, a design studio made up of designers, web and app creators, are developing an online space where people can geo-locate and crowd-source quiet spaces.

Their aim is to increase the “sonic health” of the city— both for everyday introverts, and potentially for people with mental health issues or disabilities such as schizophrenia or autism, who crave less sensory stimuli.

Jason Sweeney seeking solitude

At a time when the Government and the Adelaide City Council are gung-ho about making Adelaide pulsate with activity and are encouraging pop-up creativity from the laneways to the parklands, a quest for solitude might seem off kilter.

Quietly Vibrant

But Sweeney says “quiet can have a vibrancy of its own.”

“This is a community-building project; I really want to connect it to the city as much as possible.” In Adelaide, for instance, a favourite quiet space could be beneath a tree in the Botanic Gardens, among the crowds in the Adelaide Central Market or in a department store restroom high above the hustle and bustle of Rundle Mall.

For someone unnerved by heavy-duty social contact, Sweeney interestingly has conceived an art project that relies on participation for it to work.

From 1 March, 2013, people will be invited to contribute to the sound map online at as part of the Adelaide Festival. There will be an Adelaide-centric app that includes a map of quiet spots around the city and the website will act as a portal to other relevant quiet events, including quiet walks, workshops and talks.

Ultimately, Sweeney says he’d like to implement a ‘quiet hour’ or even a full ‘hushday’ as part of the Festival. And down the track, he said it’s possible the Stereopublic model could be set up in other cities, with their own city-specific app.

One of the coolest features of the Stereopublic app draws on Sweeney’s musical talents.

Once participants find their quiet place, they can record the sound of that place, write about it, give it a mood through a colour chart or take an image and post it. As a reward for the input, Sweeney plans to offer a composition relating to their chosen quiet space.

‘I figure if I’m asking people to commit physically to finding a space, the composition is a reward of sorts.”

He says he expects the project will attract lots of young people because it’s about using technology in a very engaged way as a creative tool.

“I hope it will appeal to introverts too, and be unashamedly appealing to people who want to be antisocial,” said Sweeney, who is only just catching on to what a big year he has ahead. “I’m starting to realize how large scale this is and it’s starting to give me heart palpitations.”

And with that, Sweeney continues his search for a quiet place to recharge.


Bill Shannon: Crutch-Wielding Provocateur

Bill Shannon at Kumuwuki / Big Wave. Photographer: Chris Herzfeld

Bill Shannon had to change the wheels on his skateboard when he hit the rough textured streets of Goolwa. Surfaces are an occupational hazard for this American improv artist, who mixes street dance, skate and hip hop to create his own brand of creative expression.

Even more challenging; Shannon does it all on a pair of rocker-bottom crutches and with a tonne of don’t mess with me attitude.

He was in the river-port town of Goolwa south of Adelaide for the Regional Arts Australia National Conference, Kumuwuki/Big Wave. As Keynote Artist in Residence, Shannon was everywhere: he opened the four-day gathering of artists, arts workers, and regional and community specialists with an address that was both entertaining and provocative.

He hosted a masterclass and workshop for 10, exploring the idea of public space and its connection with personal identity, and led the ScrLK program. Featuring some of Australia’s best-known disability focused organisations including Back to Back and Restless Dance Theatre, the program presented screenings based around disability-led digital arts projects and discussions on how emerging digital technologies, cultures and the National Broadband Network will significantly affect disability culture in regional areas.

“I was interested in programming Bill Shannon to speak as his practice represented a form of creative resilience that was being discussed as a theme throughout the conference,” said Steve Mayhew, Artistic Director of the 2012 Regional Arts Australia National Conference.

“I was hoping that the experiences from this particular viewpoint and perspective would subtly inform people living in regional areas who are dealing with similar issues, access being a very large example of this,” said Mayhew.

In-Your-Face Choreography

Through his blend of energetic, in-your-face choreography and simple video techniques, Shannon deals with the public’s hopes, assumptions, fears and misinterpretations of what an artist with a disability is. He raises questions around how you engage with public space and how you use your own body as a canvas for performance art and experimentation.

He uncovers a world of prejudices that disabled people encounter daily and questions his methods – often involving a hidden camera – as he readily takes advantage of strangers’ good Samaritan impulses to make his point.

“Performance art grew out of my childhood experience. I was always a spectacle.” said Shannon, speaking at a Disability and Arts Transition Team gathering in Adelaide this week. He demonstrated how he had to walk in a semi squat as a child growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, to alleviate pressure on his malformed hip joints.

He had a brace and crutches and to top it off the leather squeaked when he walked. “It was a very intense spectacle. But I didn’t really have a big emotional reaction to it as a kid.”

Shannon was diagnosed at five with Legg-Calvé Perthes disease, a disorder of the hip joint in children that can limit the amount of high-impact activity that an otherwise healthy child can take part in.

The Crutch Master

One of a series of CRUTCH! videos on Bill Shannon, Directed and Produced by
Sachi Cunningham and Chandler Evans.

Now 42, that kid with crutches is known around New York’s dance scene as the Crutch Master, and is widely sought around the globe to showcase his flamboyant and seriously athletic dance style and to talk about it. He’s become a poster boy for disability, albeit reluctantly.

Shannon said “peer pressure to keep up with the other kids led to a relationship with creativity.”

“I call it creative necessity – creativity as survival to keep up with peers. I was challenged constantly with these hurdles like jumping through the hedge. All the kids would do it and I had to figure out how to do it with my crutches. I had to get creative to keep up.”

Shannon is a showman, to be sure. He’s a performance artist, melding street dance with the influences of skate and hip hop cultures. Armed with a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, he counts poetry and sculpture among his art forms.

And author: he’s working on an outline for a book that will lead readers from his beginnings to the development of the Shannon Technique, a how-to-guide for his style of dancing on the so-called rocker-bottom crutches with U-shaped tips.

He’s a bit of a psychologist too, creating names for some of the scenarios he has encountered when interacting with able-bodied people. There’s faker squared, a reference to the people who think he’s faking his need to use crutches to get around. He can actually walk unassisted but not for long periods or without pain.

“Sometimes I’ll lift up the crutches and do a little tiptoe to give people the satisfaction of thinking they’ve caught me faking. I have the satisfaction of hosting their discovery.”

“If I fake the faking, I take possession of the faking and that’s empowerment,” Shannon said.

And there’s the moment of projected narrative. In one video sequence, a hidden camera shows Shannon’s efforts to pick up a bottle at a marketplace in Russia, while an older local woman looks on, willing him to succeed.

Over the past two decades Shannon’s installations, performances, choreography and video work have been presented in the US and internationally at events, venues and festivals including Sydney Opera House, Tate Liverpool Museum, NYC Town Hall, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, The Holland Festival, Amsterdam and Temple Bar in Dublin.

Cirque du Soleil

Shannon also completed a project with Cirque du Soleil where he choreographed an aerial duet and a solo on crutches for their 2002 production Varekai.

It was an offer to tour with Cirque du Soleil that prompted Shannon to devise what he calls theShannon Technique. Unable to leave home base for months and endure a grueling performance schedule, Shannon said he started to name his dance moves so that he could pass them onto others.

The Shannon Technique “is a contribution to the history of dance. I never had a class to learn to dance on crutches – I never had the shoulder of the giant to stand on.”

“I decided to lay it all down so that in the future some other individual serious about dancing on crutches can use this as a guide.”

“It’s all about the economy of movement,” he said. As for skating in Goolwa, “it’s like skating on sandpaper. I had to change out the wheels on my skateboard.”

Fee Plumley on a Quest to Make reallybigroadtrip Pozible

Fee Plumley calls herself a geek artist, techno-evangelist and digital consultant. She hails from the United Kingdom and has become a permanent, if nomadic, resident of Australia.

Combine Fee’s geekery with her will to travel and you have reallybigroadtrip – her proposal to create and live in a truly mobile digital culture.

Fee’s plan is to get a bus, rig it with recording equipment and drive it around Australia, talking to people about how they engage with creative technology. It’s an artwork, a research project, plus a home, studio and workshop.

Among other things, this soon-to-be 39-year-old with cropped, dyed red hair and wearing a big, blingy ‘Geek’ nameplate around her neck (a gift from her sister), has co-founded a company that created a new genre of literature inspired by mobile phone technical limitations and started the Geek in Residence model that was adopted in Australia and abroad.

“It’s the stuff that breaks convention that I really love,” says Fee, speaking about theatre, where her career started years ago. But you get the idea that this is her metaphor for life too.

Anything is Pozible

Like many creatives with an idea but scant funding, Fee is tapping the crowd-sourcing site Pozible to raise money for her reallybigroadtrip. Her Pozible campaign is scheduled to end 12 July and she is anxious that it is lagging her target amounts.

“It’s the most exciting time in my life. It’s also the most terrifying,” says Fee. “I have never made myself so vulnerable and never felt so strong.”

Once she has ‘the bus’ – which incidentally will be styled-decorated-rigged out by none other than lighting, set, venue designer Geoff Cobham, also the man behind Barrio, – the plan is to hit the road and just keep driving; talking to people, documenting data, writing, and making stuff along the way.

All the traveling and talking will result in a huge amount of rich media, the best of which will be shared instantly via social networks. Follow @feesable on Twitter and you will notice two things pretty quickly: she tweets a lot and sleeps very little.

The rest of the information gathered on her journey will be stored for future development; a vast legacy of material for advocacy, data visualisation, conferences and festivals. There may also be a book or documentary in it too, or as Fee corrects – an e-book or interactive documentary.

Fee said the idea of buying a bus came up a few years back when she knew she wanted to apply for permanent residency in Australia and had to create an opportunity to make it happen.

“I adore travel, buses, creative play and geeks,” so the digital-mobile-bus combination seemed to fit together.

“I could have just traveled around from place to place on foot or by plane but the idea of a road trip seemed right. The bus is a symbol of the kind of digital community-based cloud that we exist in now.”

The bus will be Fee’s exhibition space, workshop, conference room, screening space, studio and her home, running on vegetable oil and the kindness of others. After couch-surfing for the past eight months in various Australian states, she says she looks forward to having a home, albeit mobile and on a bus.

The bigger picture – and there is always a ‘bigger picture’ when Fee’s mind starts ticking over – is to get a bus in every continent.

“The idea is to have all these spaces that become resources for other digital practitioners.

“I really want to dispel this myth that media arts are a niche or emerging. I’ve been doing it for years already and I wasn’t even there at the beginning.”

Fee recalls the day she met the Internet. She was moving into a share house in Brighton in the UKin 1996 and there was a free, online computer.

“I didn’t really know what I could do with the Internet but I knew I wanted to use it somehow.

“I went to the dole office and asked where I could learn about what the Internet was and what it meant for creative practice.” Of course, her enthusiasm met blank stares.

Wind forward some years and Fee eventually moved to Australia on a distinguished talent visa and got a job at the Australia Council, working in funding digital strategies. There she created the Geek in Residence program, which placed creative technicians with creative firms.

Just weeks shy of her Australia Council contract ending, Fee got the permanent residency status sought in Australia. Now for the bus, and her circle is almost complete.

To get this show on the road she needs funding – sponsorship, in-kind partnerships – whatever it takes to buy a bus, deck it out and keep it running from place to place. Plus, she’ll need money to cover internet access, living expenses, promotion and equipment.

“My life is this kind of ridiculous adventure,” says Fee.

Needless to say she’s not resting on her laurels waiting for money to roll in and a bus to materialise. She recently returned from Melbourne’s Emerging Writers Festival and already has conferences, speaking engagements and the like scheduled for coming months.

Among then, Fee is on the roster to give a keynote speech at the Regional Arts Australia Conference in Goolwa in October, touching on art and the economy and broadband – all sorts of things that she predicts will get her into trouble.

Find Fee’s Pozible crowd-sourcing campaign at

Peter Drew Takes Street Art to Gallery + Back

This could be the year of Peter Drew.

Most Adelaideans don’t know the name but chances are they’ve seen his work all over the city, from the huge posters of criminal mug shots to the Icarus motif atop a prominent city building, his personal favourite.

Peter has just opened his final solo exhibition at A P Bond Gallery in Stepney and in less than a week he’ll take part in the opening of South Australia Illustrated: From the Street at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

It’s not every street artist who finds their anti- institutional s scrawls hanging in the State’s premiere arts institution, but in keeping with the rebellious overtones of graffiti, this won’t be any regular exhibition.

There’s a twist.

Peter has donned his curatorial hat and invited 12 fellow artists to `respond’ to an unfinished portrait of Adelaide’s founder, Colonel William Light, which he will turn frame in heavy antique frames ready for the Gallery walls.

They’ll be there, beautifully lined up when the exhibition opens, but throughout the exhibition Peter will take a portrait and hang it someplace around Adelaide.

He’ll give clues on its location using social media, such as his Facebook page.

“It is really great that the Art Gallery has agreed to this – it turns the whole exhibition on its head,” said the softly spoken artist.

But it will be nicked, won’t it? And that is the whole point.

”It’s an experiment in opportunism,” said Peter.

“The idea of theft and opportunism – that impulse hasn’t changed since colonial times. If there’s something there and people think that they can get away with taking it, they will. There is definitely a link between colonialism and opportunism.”

Even exhibiting at the `big end’ of the city, as the Gallery and its North Terrace cultural neighbours are known, can’t curb the edge of a street artist.

Around town though, Peter – an Adelaide born and educated visual artist and writer – is best known for his uncommissioned art for the urban landscape – or street art – which can be found not only on home turf but around Berlin, Glasgow and London.

Criminal Element

Peter says that having made illegal street art for years without being caught, he started to forget that it was a crime.

“When I was finally arrested I began to think more seriously about its criminality. This interest grew into a side project, which quickly blew out into the largest street art campaign I’ve undertaken.”

Adelaide’s Forgotten Outlaws grew from Peter searching police documents at the South Australian State Records. Drawn to photos from the early 1920s, he began choosing mug shots based mostly on the immediate impact of the image.

“Whether through their defiant pride, amused irreverence or shamed humiliation – some faces drew me in,” said Peter.

And so began his self-funded, ‘uncommissioned’ public project. Peter pasted some 42 black and white posters, each standing 2.5 meters, on naked city walls and sides of buildings.

Initially he worked at night, rather like the criminals he iconised, but soon realized it would be safer during the day dressed as a legitimate worker.

“When I donned the high vis vest and went about my business I didn’t feel like a criminal, I felt as thought I was performing a public good,” he said.


While the man of the street has generally enjoyed Peter’s campaign, Adelaide City Council eventually traced the posters back to him and struck a deal.

The Council would stop removing the work so long as Peter legitimised the project through a ’pilot project’ scheme and removed the criminals’ surnames to protect surviving relatives.

Peter said he was just happy that people got to see the posters, as he’d intended. So impressed with his work were the folks at History SA that they let Peter loose on their photo archive.

He chose 10 portraits of everyday, extraordinary South Australians from the 1870s to the 1930s for use as part of the About Time: South Australian History Festival, which ran through May 2012.

Come August, Peter is heading abroad to study writing criticism at the Glasgow School of Art for a year or two. He wants to write a book, not surprisingly, about street art – comparing it to other artistic movements throughout history that were viewed as anti-institutional.

And while he’s away, he says he may have the urge to express himself artistically on a blank wall.

“I’m not sure that I can stop,” said Peter.

Peter Drew’s solo exhibition All you need is LIKE is currently running at AP Bond Gallery. South Australia Illustrated open at the Art Gallery of South Australia 1 June, 2012.