Historical Item

If these scrawls could talk - Tom Sevil and Melbourne's Alt History

If these scrawls could talk

September 23, 2009

Original Article Here

Urban activist Tom Sevil leads a tour of political graffiti in search of an alternative history of Melbourne. Andrew Stephens reports.

TOM Sevil is up a laneway inspecting some 1970s graffiti. He likes these places. He's a stencil artist, graffitist and graphic designer, but also something of an archaeologist, because the work at hand here is but a fragment, partly buried beneath rich layers of history.

In white house paint applied with a brush, not an aerosol, this graffito no longer makes sense. It says: Frazer is a bottled toad in a trust - and there it ends, forever to remain a mystery, its final words obscured by years of others' graffiti.

This fragment, a bastardisation of a phrase from Shakespeare's Richard III, is more poetic than most of the illegible tags scrawled about the laneway. It might once have had something insightful (but misspelt) to say about Malcolm Fraser, then prime minister of Australia. But in this world of laneways and rapid-fire guerilla action, the scrawls, tags, posters and stencils are all ultimately temporary.

For Sevil, quality and longevity aside, it is all about political action.

The Teleport Caper: Beyond the Pale (1976)

The Teleport Caper: Beyond the Pale
by David Wills

One grey day Sunday in January 1976, after I had been visiting with the graphic-designer Barney Bubbles, I walked from The Barbican four miles to stay at what had been my old flat on Basset Rd. with the vivacious Lucinda Cowell*, whom I had met one Saturday in the Bridge kaff on Portobello.

Somewhere on the journey, around Camden Town, I found a sombrero that added to my somewhat odd appearance. By the time I got to Notting Hill, and having sprayed my recently cut stencil in a couple of places, I got too careless and was busted, literally red handed, spray paint dribbling, as I stenciled, on a traffic-light control box, “Street Lightnin’ Gang Rules Easy, OK.”

This art was one of a series of cardboard stencils I had designed that related to SLG President Molly (now Mrs. Mark Bode) Rodriguez’s ‘World Teleport’ system of world free transport. It was an early green solution to reduce world pollution from cars and planes, World Teleport’s tag line is “Get’s you where you want to go, in your own time.” (A line that was later adopted by the Grateful Dead.) All one has to to do is brand a space with a stencil, (it can be on paper) and there’s your teleport. If you really want to, you’ll get there one way or another.

1967 Mad Follies Stencil Special

xSacto sends another historical stencil artifact. Mad Magazine inserted about a dozen stencils in their fifth Mad Follies (1967), with illustrated instructions by Al Jaffee. The illustrations encouraged kids to alter signs, dupe adults, and create mischief with the cut outs. Oddly enough, I found a stencil of Alfred E. Neuman up on Haight St. a few weeks ago that was made from this 40+ year old stencil!

Tom Robinson Band: 1978 LP Stencil Insert

The TRB fist logo was designed in early 1977 by Roger Huddle from Rock Against Racism. The concept of the name placed around a fist was "borrowed" from the Gay Liberation Front, while the colour scheme and typeface were suggested by Tom. Roger adapted his fist drawing from a Black Panthers publication, and also used it as a logo for the Socialist Workers Party.

The original LP version of "Power In The Darkness" (1978) in the UK contained a cardboard stencil of the TRB logo with the words: "THIS STENCIL IS NOT MEANT FOR SPRAYING ON PUBLIC PROPERTY".

Click here to view (or right-click to download) a black-on-white PDF file of the logo to print, cut out and spray as required.

Fits on a single sheet of A4 paper or card, slightly smaller than the original album stencil. For the full size version, adjust "page setup" on your computer to print at 150%.

Kilroy Was Here, a Story

Not a stencil story, but worth posting as a classic reminder of human's urge to get up:

KILROY WAS HERE!

In 1946 the American Transit Association, through its radio program, "Speak to America," sponsored a nationwide contest to find the REAL Kilroy, offering a prize of a real trolley car to the person who could prove himself to be the genuine article.

Almost 40 men stepped forward to make that claim, but only James Kilroy from Halifax, Massachusetts had evidence of his identity.

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