I’ve been overseas of late – at graduation ceremonies, drinking green tea, caught up in great grinning crowds of gowned graduands – but mostly, these last few weeks, I’ve been shouted at.
It all started at the close of the ceremonies in Hong Kong, during the official photographs. I stood – begowned, bewigged and bewildered – while a very energetic lady with a microphone repeatedly tried to make all 300 staff and students smile at the same time. ‘One Two Three. Cheese!’ I didn’t catch what she muttered to herself in Cantonese, but judging by the way she winced, it could be assumed we lacked in the synchronisation department. We tried a few more times, to no avail, forcing her to choose another tack: ‘OK, OK. One Two Three. Money!’ This brought out the Gordon Gecko in the graduates and at last we managed one gurning grin that appeased the throngs of flashing photographers filling my frame (I couldn’t resist taking a snap of them).
Yesterday, still jet-lagged from flying back to Melbourne, I found myself being shouted at by the stall-holders of the splendid Victoria Market. I guess they were once a form of ‘Fairground Barkers’, hollering out their earnest and honest trade, but in today’s uproarious retail world, their beckoning has taken on quite another dimension and intensity. Of late the hollering readily fuses random numbers, nouns, and exclamation marks and tosses them at unsuspecting customers, who only came for a punnet of strawberries and a peck of black pepper! Invariably it reaches fever pitch around 3pm as the day’s trade trails away, the new cry of ‘Dollar Dollar Dollar’ rising up, which merits from concision even if it lacks aural variety.
And lastly I was shouted at for nearly touching an artwork. Or should I say the artwork shouted back at me. It was one of those gratuitously gruesome kinetic pieces attached to a sound loop that chooses to interact with the unsuspecting viewer even though you’ve decided that you’d really prefer the art that stay politely in its frame. It’s one thing for a portrait’s eyes to follow you around the room, quite another for its vocal chords to bark at you when least you wish it.
By comparison, The Art of Banksy exhibition in the tent behind Fed Square was positively mute. Like all things linked to Banksy, it was hidden in some obscure corner backed up by railway sidings and under the arches of a concrete bridge… all just to remind us of the urbanity of the art, although the presentation was so slick it was a tad more urbane than urban. Mr B. is not the world’s greatest unknown-known painter for nothing and the acerbic one-liners resonate with each and every one of us. I especially liked the vast painting of Winston Churchill sporting a green Mohican, though I was less impressed by the fridge magnets, printed mugs and other gratuitous gifts on sale in the shop, which took the idea of irony a step too far… right into the cash drawer. But at least no one – apart from a polemical poster – was shouting at me.