I was listening to Henning Mankell, the Swedish author of the Wallander novels, on BBC World Service the other day. (What a lovely internetty world we live in!) Mankell’s novels have been translated into about 30 different languages, and he was fulsome in his praise of the translators. But when translators “translate” a novel, are they changing one word in one language for another word in another, or are they creating a new work entirely?
And, similarly, (at least, in my head), when does a restored painting become a new painting?
There are occasions when this has been hotly contested in Australia: the late Eric Michaels gave the pot a good stir when he wrote about the “notorious” repainted caves on Mt Barnett Station, WA. A group of young Aboriginal men from Derby were accused of “effectively desecrating a traditional rock art site, despite the fact that they were officially commissioned to undertake the project and had ‘cultural’ backing from at least some of the site’s traditional owners”. (Read more here if you can’t get hold of a copy of his book Bad Aboriginal Art; email me if you’d like to borrow mine; wandjina pic below from this site.)
And, in Britain, councils can’t make up their minds whether or not to protect Banksy’s stencils, works that were once considered vandalism but are now considered to be part of the national estate. (They worry less in Melbourne, where a Banksy stencil was “cleaned up” by council workers.)
That’s a long introduction to a walk down Styx Creek. But stay with me: there is a link. Because all of this (yes, all of it) was boinging around in my head after seeing that POAS had been hard at work by the railway bridge, freshening up his big roller.
It’s been there for a few years and was starting to look pretty ratty, and the next generation of kids with cans were using it as a blackboard for their own stuff. I wondered: Is that the old roller, freshened up? Or is it a new roller entirely that just happens to be exactly over the old roller? I had other questions too: What, if any, are the protocols for applying paint to flat surfaces in public? Is there a pecking order? Do “vandals” get angry when their “vandalism” is vandalised?
If, indeed, it is actually vandalism.
Because, to my mind, if you really want to see vandalism in Styx Creek then you don’t need to look at the concrete bankings: look at the floor. The creekbed is an absolute disgrace at the moment.
Drink bottles are, as ever in abundance. When will New South Wales adopt container deposit legislation?
And fire extinguisher deposit legislation.
And … erm … glove, tennis ball and syringe legislation.
And don’t get me started on bicycle wheels.
Much to my relief, I think that there is a person who can provide the answers to all these issues – the translations and art restorations and CDL advocations. What’s more, that person may well live in our very own Hamilton North, indeed I believe that he or she lives in Phillips Street, just down from the Bowlo. Because somewhere, in one of these houses, lives a …