Australian Artists Guerrilla Tactics Create Australia’s Biggest Unsanctioned Art Display

Mornings are frustrating; waking up early to head to work is hard enough, and having to deal with the public transport system in Sydney is even more painful, our minds drift as we try to get from A to B as easily and quickly as possible, with no hassles, so it would be easy to miss one of the nation’s largest art installations as you sip your flat white and read the bus times.

Photo Credit: Juxtapoz

This week we were graced with a campaign that may not be exactly legal but involved a collaborative effort by artists across the country. In suburbs in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne Bus stops and shelters were being hijacked to display unique pieces that commented on not only the state of our country due to climate change but the response by the Australian government to our devastating bushfires. Cheekily dubbed ‘Bushfire Brandalism’ artists depicted different interpretations and effects on the environment, as well as using tongue in cheek slogans to drive their point home, like ‘How’s the serenity?’

One anonymous artist contributed an image of a Caramello koala melting as its caramel entrails spread across the image, with the caption “Save an Aussie Icon”. QR codes are displayed in the bottom right of each poster that takes you to bushfire related Charites of the artists choosing, as well as giving the artist an idea of where people are viewing the campaign.

Caramello Dodo – Anonymous

78 posters were displayed across cities last week, unfortunately, not all of them got long enough to deliver their message with workers quickly dispatched to return the advertisements to their original signage. 41 artists were involved with the take-over including Thomas Bell, Sam Wallman, Lotte Smith, Leans, Georgia Hill, Ghostpatrol, ELK, Fuzzhound, Callum Preston, Amok and a plethora of anonymous artists. Check out all the posters used at the end of this post.

The process and events were filmed and uploaded to Vimeo by user Partier Bresson who left a small comment below the video saying “As a collective group of Australian artists, we have been driven to reclaim public advertising space with posters speaking to the Australian government’s inaction on climate change and the devastating bushfires.

We do not accept that this situation is ‘business as usual’. We are making these issues visible in our public spaces and in our media; areas monopolized by entities maintaining conservative climate denial agendas. If the newspapers won’t print the story, we will! #Bushfirebrandalism”

In the video, we see numerous people dressed in hi-vis impersonating workers as they use Allen keys to open glass panes from bus stops and shelters across the three capital cities. Onlookers have no idea of what’s happening and assume it’s a run of the mill day for these would be advertising workers. Check out the full video below.


There is one more artist involved in this campaign that seems very on-brand for…

You may not know the name but there is a good chance, if you’re a Sydney native, you’ve seen the work of Scott Marsh. He is constantly making headlines for creating grotesquely hyper-realistic murals reminiscent of late-1990’s street art, that are not only a social commentary on the climate in Australia but sometimes the world. His style is unmistakable you may have seen some of his work like ‘Beats a sock’ that depicted Alan Jones wearing a Ball-Gag, or Kanye Loves Kanye, that pictured rapper Kanye West kissing a mirror image of himself.

Marsh seems to have become the voice of Sydney, not only calling out injustices against the city and its different communities but celebrating the laymen who become heroes. Call him a vandal or a hero, he doesn’t really care, as he continued his politically fuelled work with his contribution of a mugshot of current Prime Minister Scott Morrison as dumbfounded and confused with the words ‘Climate Denial’ branded on his forehead in all capitals across Bus shelters in Sydney.

Marsh’s art started at 12 when he began as a graffiti artist, tagging Sydney neighborhoods and naturally moved onto spraying train carriages, leading him to leave his literal mark on trains around the world, bringing his distinct Sydney style to international subways. After graduating from UNSW COFA in 2009, he combined his knowledge of Sydney street art with that of the fine arts. His weaponry is not planted firmly with cans anymore but rather used in combination with the brush, putting a unique spin on traditional techniques in oils and acrylics, cutting a unique shape into the already established fine arts cloth.

“The artwork I create now has a lot to do with the space in-between kinda graffiti and fine art and the cross over between em’ and trying to insert, I suppose, ideas in graffiti culture into that.”

That’s how he described his style when speaking to Artistry Studios. The self-awareness in Marsh’s art gives way to control and messaging, he pushes that message through satire, in-turn becoming a voice for the noble Sydney-sider.

In later 2019 Marsh spoke with Scott Tweedie on the red carpet of the GQ Awards, he wore a tuxedo matched with a clip-on bow tie but kept his amenity with a black balaclava. “I guess the lockout laws were actually the impetus for me starting to create political work and it’s just sorta carried on for there.” Marsh’s social commentary on Australian politics has always been welcome by a majority of Sydney-siders.

Scott Marsh arrives at the GQ Men of The Year Awards 2019. Photo Credit: GQ Australia

This isn’t Marsh’s first piece to raise awareness around the bushfires. In late December a mural of Prime minister Scott Morrison appeared in Chippendale. The PM was adorned in a tropical shirt, a lai and a Santa hat as he holds up a Hawaiian cocktail and said the words “Merry Crisis” while being engulfed in flames. The obvious commentary on Scott Morrison’s disappearance to Hawaii while the nation burned resonated with the entirety of the country. “Someone’s got to pull their finger out,” said Marsh when speaking with, after learning the lack of support Fire services had received during Australia’s most devastating bushfires to date.

The Artist raised more than $60,000 through sales of the print through stickers and T-shirt sales blitzing his original expectation of $10,000. “I’ve talked to a couple of fire brigade leaders,” Marsh said. “They’re going out (into fire zones) with paper masks, they’re raising money to get two-way radios, to buy rechargeable torches. It made me so angry. One of them said to me, ‘I don’t want to walk around the pub selling raffle tickets.”

As more artists push the boundaries to intertwine current political junctions with clear messaging that speaks to the common Australian, we can only hope it will push our country in a positive direction.

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