Here's another caterwauling yooowwwlll from the Punk Poofy Cat. Last night I went to a wonderful event at the Kings Cross Library, talks on the Green Bans of the 1970's, the Builders' Labourers Union action that saved huge hunks of Sydney's working class housing and heritage buildings from demolition by greedy developers. During a slide-show depicting events Jack Mundey, the Union leader, now 80 years old, spoke about his experiences and the achievements of the workers and resident-action groups. One of those residents, an artist named Brenda Humble, exhibited her portraits of the activists and told funny anecdotes of how she got involved, I talked to her before the show started and pointed out one pic that I liked the best and she gushed, "That one is of me!" She was so sweet and yes, humble, who said oldies are boring farts?
Most of the talking was done by Meridith Bergman, city councilor and ex-leader of the State Parliament House, she gave us a run-down of events from 1971 to 1975 when Woolloomoolloo, The Rocks, Victoria Street, Kings Cross and Centennial Park got saved for posterity, tree-huggers and low-renters. Also an author, Mandy Sayer, reminisced about her childhood growing up on Victoria street with the kooky characters that walked around in the nude, painters, musicians, Utopianists, those were the days of free-living.
It was truly heartening to see that such brave involvements have not only not been forgotten but are respected and applauded this lifetime later. I was amazed to hear that when the German politician, Petra Kelly, visited Sydney in the '70s she was so inspired by the Green Bans, she returned to Germany and decided to call her new alternative, progressive party "The Greens", an inspiration which has spread around the world, and now includes the natural as well as the urban environment.
I arrived in Sydney in 1977 and the Green Bans were still on, I squatted in a heritage mansion in Victoria Street and later got arrested at the Rocks trying to save the houses there so it was a nostalgic trip for me and a sobering one. I've got no regrets, I was just the cannon-fodder, no political career in it for me, not that I'm putting anyone down, some pollies do great things, (Bob Brown of the Greens has my vote), I relished being the wandering artist, the dharma bum, into it for the art, and I sure cracked it, the creativity has been an exquisite high. Throughout the evening they flashed up onto the wall shots of the murals in Woolloomoolloo that are on the pylons holding up the railway tracks, all of them photo-realist paintings of the Builders' Labourers' organising, marching and fighting. But they excluded one of the murals, mine, a twenty-foot high surrealist cartoon of the main drag of Kings Cross with all its sleazy, nefarious activities on show, too provocative and scandalous maybe for the Marxists, not actually to do with the Green Bans, so it didn't worry me, I would've cringed anyway, and I'm used to being excluded, it's the story of my non-career as an artist. Amazing that the fucking thing is possibly still up after 25 years, I guess we are in a semi-democracy and there's some grudging respect for independent, mad, libertarian expression.
Still the slowly disappearing "Hunger-artist", yes my constantly yowled gripe, I had an axe to grind with the librarian, Steve, who had magnanimously put on the event. The Council has printed up tens of thousands of booklets about the Bohemian atmosphere of the Kings Cross and They've mentioned the Piccolo Cafe using one of my cartoons, "Welcome to the Menagerie", to illustrate it. Great, except they've got the name of the artist printed underneath as "Tony Zoates" and I obsessively have to go over every shitty wrong page with a felt tip pen and CHANGE IT with a "b" and a huge slashed Z. He apologised, he knows I also got my art wiped from my show at the library on the WEB site, "Art of the Cross" and commiserates as I get thinner and thinner, like the evaporating phantom of the Rue Darlinghurst.
I flew home on my bike still high from the old-folks daring escapades of decades ago, shit that doesn't seem to go down in these third-millenium times, but as I lay upon my bed ruminating upon it all my 'Loo Mural glared psychedelic fleuro in my forebrain, the Cross with Bob Hawke as the Pink Panther presenting a bag of Uranium to a cowboy Ronnie Reagan and behind them two teenagers shooting-up heroin on the beach with a nuclear explosion's mushroom cloud growing on the horizon and next to it the booze billboard "How Do You feel?" I realised why I got dead stares from the Labour Party politicians milling with the mob at refreshment time, not just because I was frantically stuffing my face with the free feed. It was Them who opened the uranium mines and shipped it out thru Sydney which a riot of anarchists fought hard to stop.
Nogod, I remember Jack Mundey himself coming onto the White Bay wharves in '77 to join us for our vigil and watch us as we climbed the hurricane fences and trespassed onto the uranium cargo-ships, then arrested and bundled off in Black Mariahs. In the midst of this reverie I suddenly remembered, "Holy Shit!" Peter Carrot with his crap band "Midnight Soil" stood opportunistically in front of my mural for one of their rip-off video clips, featured it totally, without my say-so, like he's some anti-nuclear activist, but in reality a fame-whore, money-grubber and lapdog for the power-mongers.
And is it by coincidence that he just went to France, half of whose electricity grid is powered by nuclear reactors, and got some kind of "Artistic Merit" bullshit badge? It's only ever been given to 3 other Aussies, he supposedly gets it for his great rock'n'roll contribution, (barf!) Oh yeah, Auz sells uranium to Europe, some of it must end up in France, and when Pete returns to Auz he Okays the opening of a fifth mine, hmmmmm, how fortuitous! And my slaved-over mural helped burnish his kudos, FUCKKKK!!!! I also noticed that it's Germany who has lately phased out nuclear power, they've got only one reactor left and are about to decommission it, Petra Kelly's ultimate Green legacy. Yeah, yeah, nuclear power is almost carbon free but it has other dangers, which the Germans have woken up to, and so have the Iranians and the North Koreans, forgetting all the other missile hungry nations and, FOR SURE, some of that processed uranium will end up in bombs!
If I'm found murdered in my flat, you'll know why. My non-career as an artist has already been killed off. (Yeah, I should be scared, Peter Carrot is not only the Environment Minister, he's the Arts Minister too.) Yooowwwwlllll!!!
P.S. I just rode my bike down to the 'Loo to take a photo of my mural and discovered it gone, gone, gone, and They didn't bother informing me or asking if I wanted it back, twenty-foot high and done on three panels. Maybe They've stored it somewhere, probably destroyed it, Authority's caring for ART infamously lax, like the Nazis burning books, but all art is transient, even the Picassos and Van Goghs will one day turn to dust or burn in a nuclear holocaust. And I'm a living artist, it's what I do now that turns me on, and my life of wandering the roads, pure Dharma Bum Nirvanha!