Exit Through The Holme Building

Sam Langford gets curatorial with USyd’s finest young talent.

Sam Langford gets curatorial with USyd's finest young talent.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote that “this world is but a canvas to our imagination.” By that metric, the USyd Graffiti Tunnel is a lurid advertisement for our collective intellectual infertility; the tertiary-educated equivalent of that crayon-drawing from preschool that your parents begrudgingly pretended was profound.

Last week, however, our pathetic decline was arrested by the arrival of greatness. Swathed in noble anonymity, and armed only with a modest Sharpie, the greatest philosopher-poet of our time emerged between Manning and Holme. Your humble reporter travelled to the Graffiti Tunnel, moleskine in hand, to observe firsthand the genius of this Banksy of the Inner West—or if I may suggest a more casual moniker, Wanksy.

Wanksy’s art is, first and foremost, for the people. “Who built the pyramids?” they ask, adding “was it you?” to remind us that we are more than our failed microwaved dinners and poor tutorial attendance. They mix their capacity for affirmation with a keen affinity for irony: another piece, scrawled on a handrail, reads (and clarifies) “hold on! (to your dreams)”.

Yet while Wanksy is for the people, they also transcend the people. Another early piece[1] subverts the popular demand to legalise cannabis, adding an underlined “please” in a bold throwback to vintage standards of politeness. This is art that both pushes boundaries and appeases your grandmother.[2] Indeed, Wanksy both transcends generations and the national currency—a motif of dollar signs on one handrail post is matched by a ring of pound symbols on another, an ouroboric sphincter evoking the cyclical nature of today’s global capitalism.

It is this bold determination to destroy capitalism, oppression, and recently cleaned surfaces that sets Wanksy apart. Not even a commitment to a rhyme scheme tighter than my favourite jeggings can persuade them to compromise on their values. While textual integrity may require use of the word “man”, a footnote reassures the people that Wanksy definitely means “humankind” and would never presume to entrench standards of masculine dominance.[3]

It would be arrogant of me, however, to attempt to explain Wanksy further – a mere mortal with only PHIL1011: Reality, Ethics and Beauty under their belt could never truly comprehend the nuance of such genius. Wanksy’s most cryptic works (“Is life just a game?”) and (“It’s just a matter of time”, where time is rendered in fully sick bubble letters with arrows at the ends) require more complex answers than “no” and “what does?”. It is this invitation to truly think that is Wanksy’s greatest gift to us. It’s time to read the writing on the wall – in this case, quite literally.

[1] Carbon-dating suggests it was probably created last Wednesday.

[2] When I contacted your grandmother for comment, she said that “this Wanksy fellow seems like a perfectly lovely young man”, before reminding you to use protection. I cringed inwardly at her assumption of gender, but said nothing because she’s old and set in her ways and will probably be dead soon anyway.

[3] Unlike your grandmother.