A Salute to Marsupial Debasement

Posters for the last instalment of ‘Sex and the City’ were somewhat confronting.  The protagonists looked decades younger than they did the last time we saw them.  In fact, given that this follows an earlier big screen adventure, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the sequel to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Welcome to Photoshop.  That there should be a computer program capable of erasing wrinkles and blemishes with a mere click of the mouse is a wonderful thing.  My only regret is that it’s limited to photographs and can’t be applied to everyday life.  That said, in reality it’s little more than a controlled form of graffiti.

A couple of months ago, there was uproar in Melbourne after graffiti by the artist ‘Banksy’ was accidently scrubbed off a wall by a council cleaning team.  Whilst some decried the lack of appreciation for art by the cleaners, to me it seems both the ultimate irony and perfectly inevitable.  As criticism goes, it’s hard to beat a wire scrubbing brush and a bucket of turpentine.  Whilst the resulting uproar unfairly belittled the cleaning team as philistines, I think that is way out of order.  Frankly, even if they don’t know much about art, they clearly know what they like.  Besides, if you decide to use a building wall to express yourself rather than, say, a canvas, you take your chances.

I’m not especially a fan of Banksy.  Vandalism is an immature act committed by mindless thugs, no-hopers and hooligans and should be decried and abhorred – with one exception.  As anyone who has had to drive a sizeable distance along this nation’s freeways can attest, the country side can feel as dull as a rainy Sunday afternoon.  We’ve all been frightened witless on occasion by television advertisements promising death or disfigurement should we so much as attempt to change radio stations whilst driving, must less a more complete loss of concentration.  That’s why I’d like to pay tribute to a very special breed of thug, no-hoper and hooligan – those that deface koala road signs.

    No doubt you’ve seen them.  Yellow road signs with a black, stencilled koala silhouettes, alerting the driver to the fact that, at any moment, their attempt to drive along the freeway may be interrupted by a random marsupial which, drug-addled as a result of ingesting eucalypt, wanders across the motorway in a bid to reach the nearest 7-11 for a packet of Twisties.

    However, there is something about the shape of the koala and, in particular, the position of the hands that make it something of an open invitation to the imaginative graffiti artist.  As a result, it is not uncommon to come across such as sign that has been ‘amended’ by an aspiring vandal by drawing an object such as a shotgun, beer can or something more illicit in the koala’s hands.  Either that or they white-out the eyes (who even has ‘white-out’ in this day and age?) or add a set of fangs to Australia’s most cuddly of creatures whose name is not Ian Hewitson.  

    It never fails to make me laugh.  Partly, this is because such signs are almost always located by the side of busy motorways and would-be vandals have to interrupt their journeys for the sole purpose of their artistic embellishments.  These are not crimes of mere opportunity.  They require commitment, devotion and, frankly, a very good texta.

    But whereas once these defaced signs littered the country side, they have become increasingly rare.  There are two possible explanations: one is a possible shortage of delinquent youths with a sense of humour, the other is a renewed effort to ‘clean up’ these signs.  The former of these is utterly implausible.  I refuse to accept that the current generation of youths have yet had all the life ‘facebooked’ out of them, their joie de vivre i-podded out of existence.  Clearly, roadside cleaning teams have elected to up the ante.

    I suspect that they sit in waiting at roadside depots, siren and scrubbing brush at the ready.  At the mere uncapping of a black marker, they set off; their tyres screeching, to save a national symbol from even the slightest despoilment.  These human photo-shoppers are determined to eliminate blemishes as quickly as possible.  It’s a shame; the absence of perfection is far more appealing.

    Listless youths should be free to do their creative best whilst we still have koala signs left to deface.  If, in years to come, these fragile marsupials become extinct or, heaven forbid, are forced to comply with upgraded safety standards and compelled to each wear fluorescent jackets and matching helmets, the signs will no longer be needed.  Sometimes the quest for perfection ought to be resisted.  It’s a lesson yet to be learned by the cast from Sex in the City.  The rest of us should do our best to spot this unpalatable trend and stop it in its tracks.  You don’t need to be an oracle or soothsayer to see the way things are headed.  All you need to do is be ready to read the signs – even if some nitwit has come along and drawn on it.

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