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Maps & Trails

There are various paths and walking trails around the city, some are works of art, official trails with their focus on history or unofficial street art trails. One of the forms of graffiti is that of a trail – in the last year some of Melbourne’s street artist made this form part of their art.

Many people date contemporary graffiti to when Taki 183 started to leave a trail of his tags along NYC rail system. As this linear trail was different to the graffiti on sites, like toilets, school desks or prison cells. Using stencil trails are not new – a bit of history for Melbourne’s street artists.

“Stencilled advertisements were a popular form of footpath advertising particularly in the more frequented stretches of Bourke Street. Little action was taken against offenders unless damage to property was incurred, though the practice was seen by the MCC as being contrary to the spirit of the advertising regulations. In 1920 some men who had stencilled the footprints of a dog in whitewash on the footpath from Flinders Street to the Majestic Theatre could not be prosecuted under clause 32 of By-Law No. 134, as no obstruction or annoyance could be proven. This lead to the creation of a new By-Law No156 in 1920 ‘for regulating or prohibiting the writing, painting, printing, stencilling, placing or affixing any letter, figure, device, poster, sign or advertisement upon any footpath, street or road within the said City, or upon any building, fence, or other property vested in the Municipality of the City of Melbourne’.”

(Andrew Brown-May, Melbourne Street Life, Australian Scholarly, 1998, Kew, p.50 Brown-May does not have any information on when stencilled advertising on pavements began. Stencilled advertisements were probably used prior to 1920 and before 1870s it would have been pointless as the sidewalks of Melbourne were in too poor a condition to stencil on.)

Now some of Melbourne’s street artists have taken this to a new level, leaving a trail of paste-ups that are intended to be followed. Urban exploration art like CDH’s mapping games in the inner city (See my post about his first puzzle map, the “Chazov-Dmytryk-Harkov logic test”), Phoenix’s “Mornington Whale Tail Trail” or visiting US artist Snyder’s “Banana Splat hunt” create an urban, interactive kind of land art. These trails are like Richard Long’s walks only the viewer is also a participant.

CDH Pacman street art map

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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