With Melbourne coming out of its long COVID experience, Christos Linou is ready to help restore the city’s artistic cutting edge for which it is famed.
“Post-COVID Melbourne seems a soft and quiet place. It is in a state of recovery. Many have lost their jobs. If people find an idea they will give themselves to it. I hope it will be a move away from just making big money from art,” Linou told Neos Kosmos.
He will be playing his part in kickstarting the artistic life of Melbourne at the Melbourne Art Book Fair (18-27 March) that will be held the National Gallery of Victoria’s Great Hall. He will be unveiling his second book Polis Politic: Street of Guerrilla Art that looks at the street art of a number of cities including Melbourne and Athens, (New York, Paris and Berlin are the other cities). His first book was 2020’s Jack Linou: The Art of An Outsider.
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Polis is the culmination of 10 years of travels to these cities where he photographed their street art and channelled the results into the book. He will also unveil another book on street art: Melbourne Street Art: 2009 – 2022. He will also be performing Guerilla Opera.
He said street art was part of the guerrilla art movement, where “anything goes”, that began in the UK in the 1970s.
“It’s about making a statement and if it is done artistically and with colour it becomes street art – otherwise graffiti can be seen as vandalism,” he said.
Keeping to the guerrilla art theme of his published work, Linou will also provide an innovative trance-paint performance, Guerrilla Opera, in collaboration with opera singer Hemi Titokowarou at Hoiser Lane, next to the Forum Theatre on Flinders Street, at 3pm on 18 March.
“As part of the performance I will paint my body with glue and take pages from my book to cover my body and paste them on the walls,” Linou said. Through the performance, the book itself becomes part of the street art that it is describing.
“The street is a free art gallery. In the 1980s, street art was seen as vandalism, now they are part of a city’s cultural hub. There are even fold-out booklets of where to go in Melbourne to see them.
“My book is about why do they (street artists) do what they do and why do they feel they must do it? It seems there is a crisis in protest. There are hot-spot places where people express things protest against fascism, police brutality among other things. In the past people would occupy the streets in their thousands to protest.
“Why do people protest in public spaces? The answer is governments and big organisations/ businesses do not really care about them.”
He said he found Athens to have the best street art that he had seen and praised the work of the Political Stencil Crew of Athens, whose members he met, although he said parts of the city including the Art Academy were despoiled by graffiti and slogans.
“Seeing beautiful columns ruined by graffiti, shows disrespect. Tagging a name a lot of times on a building is vandalism. It is hooliganism, a ‘rebel without a cause’ out of frustration. It is a risk of the street that there will be someone who will tag street art,” Linou said. He drew connections to Ancient Greece and Rome when protests were often scraped on public walls.
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He is completing a third book which is specifically dedicated to the street art of Melbourne and he has other projects in mind including writing his PhD.
“I come from performance art but I am now also writing. I am still training for performance I don’t have a ‘job’ but I am doing a lot of work. Conceptual art is out there and becomes acceptable after 10 years – I used to be able to teach all over Melbourne but that is gone.”
“I am an art maker rather than an entertainer, I develop work that holds you in suspense.
He said funding in the arts went to young, emerging artists, but that support was no longer available for established artists.
“We are a country of ideas not of production. We are a thinking nation,” Linou said.
♦ Polis Politic: Street of Guerrilla Art and Melbourne Street Art: 2009 – 2022 are published by Linou Press and will be available at at the NGV Melbourne Art Book Fair and also through the Linou Press website link.