When Pressed

Patrick Jones

Physical Graffiti

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Art of the Problem

In rich nations such as Australia the arts act as capitalism’s moderator or patronised spouse. For many high-end arts organisations, employing corporate fiscal strategies and personnel simply means continued – and often increased – high-end patronage. My own low-end cultural practice, as played out in the film Lalgambook, is in the form of poetical terrorism or physical graffiti, where public space is disrupted – even terrorised – by ambiguous and poetical interventions. At commercial outlets I leave stickers on the caps of bottled water directing consumers to a website where they can access a range of articles concerning water, packaging, governments and corporate counter-propaganda. When I see a vending machine selling refrigerated water and junk food items, if I can find the switch I turn it off. This simple act of anti-corporate activism in the everyday is a liberty-chaser. A small shock of adrenaline charges through my body as I flick the switch. It is not from a sense of hope that I carry out these physical poems – poems that practice in the space of the everyday – but rather from the consideration: traditional forms of poetry seem ridiculous this late in history.

UK economist Nicholas Stern’ gloomy ‘Report on the Economics of Climate Change’ does not cause me to fly to Thailand and live out civilisation’s final years in a debauched and drug-crazed
reverie, although it’s tempting. I will stay in Djadja wurrung country as long as I can, ’fess up to white occupation and continue to compost. Regularly switching off vending machines that sell water bottled in plastic makes barely a ripple in terms of tackling our problems with the physical world, but conceptually it’s a big leap forward. Acceptance of a reliance upon the importation of resources is our civilisation’s zeitgeist – our cultural pathology – and it needs to be switched off. If we are killing people and habitats for oil to maintain our toxic lifestyle now, then what future violence awaits us with diminishing water supplies taken from small communities and bottled in plastic for massive global shareholder profits?