Public Art Paste Ups At Bakehouse Studios
Melbourne’s Bakehouse Studios has been attracting worldwide attention this year for reasons other than musical – the rehearsal and pre-production space on Hoddle Street, home to the SLAM (Save Live Australian Music) rally became world famous when their spontaneous tribute to Lou Reed – two images of him pasted up on the side of the building – went viral. “We found these beautiful images of Lou Reed in his Velvet Underground days,” says Helen Marcou, co-founder of Bakehouse Studios. “We pasted up two large poster sized images. It was so dynamic on Hoddle St. We got instant recognition, lots of Instagram, tourists having their photos taken in front of the pictures; it was a fantastic thing to have that recognition.”
The public response to the images got Marcou thinking about public art and the role of paste-ups in the ‘ecosystem of live performance’. Public art paste-ups on the Bakehouse studio wall initiative also came about through conversations Marcou had with the Plakkit poster guys during last year’s SLAM rally.
“The front wall is a collaboration with Plakkit,” says Marcou. “They were so generous during the SLAM rally. The ‘rock ‘n ‘ roll’ poster is a crucial form of communication for the performing arts community, yet the pasters normally work late in the night, often in darkness before disappearing quickly to sometimes avoid prosecution.”
Marcou is enthusiastic about celebrating the role of public art in Melbourne’s live performance culture. “Things are getting harder for them, councils are less tolerant, fines are up, there are fewer walls, and they have to work in the dead of the night and hurry on to the next wall. The medium of poster art is a temporary art form. There’s the effect of the weather...dripping potato glue, the poster wrinkled ‘cos it’s put up hastily, then you have that gorgeous layering.”
The outcome is a series of paste-ups by prominent local artists, beginning with Patricia Piccinini. An image of the deflated Skywhale and a painting inspired by the same now grace the side of the Bakehouse. The artist is exploring the imaginary sex life of the new creature the Skywhale has become. “Piccinini’s looking at the evolution of a small slug thing,” explains Marcou. “It’s a futuristic hermaphrodite thing; she’s interested in how they mate.”
Marcou goes on to detail how many views the images will attract. “We get 10,000 cars an hour going past,” she continues. “Hoddle St is the busiest arterial in Australia; one million people every week go past. Prominent local artists are creating new works in this temporary yet accessible medium; motorists will ask ‘what is it?’ These are beautiful images; they will be coming across them at different times. We’re offering motorists something to look out for on what can be a desolate drive home,” continues Marcou. It looks like the idea has caught on, already Marcou has heard of other walls being made available to public art: “People are making walls available, considering putting up artwork, offering space to poster people.”
The paste up public art show leads into an exhibition of permanent installations inside the building where the artists have been invited to make various rooms their own. “We’re a grass roots studio, SLAM is a grass roots organisation, so we’ve mixed up high art with art from a different range of people, artists like Emily Floyd and Julia de Ville, Mick Turner and the Hotham Street Ladies, photographer Peter Mill, Stewart Russell, Vernon Kent…Within the walls of Bakehouse there will be permanent installations; it’s a lot of fun,” Marcou enthuses. “The Bakehouse is this huge rambling building. We’re transforming the grungy rehearsal rooms. A lot of musicians work in visual arts and we were driven to invite our musician friends. Mick Turner has exhibited all over the world. We’ve had our first fundraiser around the event – kicked it off already. It’s sparked a lot of interest.”
Mick Turner of The Dirty Three fame is a highly regarded visual artist as well as a musician, whose work will soon feature on the side of the building after Piccinini’s. All the artists are given a room to do with as they like artistically. Turner talks about the mural he’s planning. “I’ll do a mural with a coastal theme,” he says. “That’s also relative to my upcoming exhibitions, which feature coastal landscapes”. The work on the side of building, reproductions of two of his oil paintings, he says, is a departure from much of what he’s been doing. “I do a lot of landscapes. These are metaphorical pieces, more of a social commentary as it’s a public space.” He says the works will speak for themselves, something which aligns with Marcou’s vision for the project. “We want motorists to look at the wall,” she says. “If they’re stuck in traffic, we want them to think about things.”
Marcou notes the Bakehouse’s position as a Melbourne icon. “Everyone comes here,” she continues. “Many national artists. It’s everyone’s first rehearsal when they’re still at high school. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Paul Kelly…Adalita wrote an album in this place. It’s always been a private space for musicians; it’s never been open to the public.” The Bakehouse will proudly open its doors to the public for the first time this July to display what the various artists have done with ‘their’ rehearsal rooms.
BY LIZA DEZFOULI
Look out for artworks by Mick Turner, Julia deVille, The Hotham Street Lades and Peter Milne all coming up in the next few months. Visit Bakehouse Studios for more information.