Assange Oz Hero Prevails

Written by C. Fields

Critical analysis of a vandal’s agenda.

Assange Oz Hero is a prolific mark maker present throughout the inner-southern suburbs of Melbourne. In early 2018,  I[1] began to notice their markings. I saw the scribblings as the work of a crazy person. Usually I subconsciously overlook repetitive political graffiti; visually it is just like advertising and doesn’t provide much beyond a singular political statement. Certainly in Sydney or Melbourne with the massive uptick in a4 paste-up anarchist posters, political messaging, which just fades into the visual fodder of day-to-day surfaces and advertising. However, Assange Oz Hero’s work persisted. I would see it every day but with new markings every day, they seemed to follow the same routes that I walked and appeared in the same places I would go. Assange Oz Hero has embedded into the constructed landscape, as a sustained energy and response to the environment. After viewing their work over a long period of time the identity of the Assange Oz Hero fractures into a real and imagined figure, amongst the urban landscape.

In simple form Assange Oz Hero is self-representative tagging in plain capital English letters marked mainly on metal surfaces, created in the volume of thousands and continuing day by day. Initially the value of their body of work came in the sheer quantity and geographical distribution of their markings. From my knowledge they have a presence in the majority of the southern suburbs within a 10-kilometre radius of the CBD. Their marking is concordant with walking, to interact (mark) with the surfaces they have to be in close physical proximity.

It is only through walking that allows them to articulate their practice through marking every pole, or bin in a line along a street. Their work does not give away many clues into their identity; it does not have many personal touches besides the actual application. Sometimes it is messy when positioned high or low, perhaps limited by their height? In August, I located a discarded dried artline marker on a ledge behind a recent marking, indicating perhaps that they were using an extremely wide artline marker, but using the thin edge of the felt tip.

As I look at their markings in relation to my own movement, walking to the shops, catching a tram, I start to see a certain kind of mapping. Assange Oz Hero works their way around their area placing themselves on surfaces as landmarks for where they have passed. Over time writing fades or is cleaned off, some are re-marked, indicating that not only do they pass through these areas multiple times, but they also have a personal aesthetic criteria for how visible their marking must be. The practice of marking metal poles is not purely routine based; they want others to read Assange Oz Hero, and read it over and over again. My interpretation of Assange Oz Hero’s practice is limited because I am just a viewer, I can only understand what I see and base it on other things that I know, it is only speculation and assumption. The mapping of markings is only truly understood by the person who actually makes them, only an outsider needs a real top down map to understand a place, a real individual who lives and travels in their immediate world processes their surroundings more practically.[2]

With the quantity and familiarity of Assange Oz Hero, their marks quickly fall back into the stasis of day to day surfaces and walks, after years of noticing every tag I now only see the incidences that are larger or out of place. I wonder what their goal is? If there is an end to the amount they produce? If they will stop if Julian Assange is freed, or dies? Assange Oz Hero, more specifically the imagined figure constructed from the markings, sits as an outsider to the real world that does not notice their thousands of markings. Writing on each surface within their material environment could be seen as their personal method of avoiding total estrangement of themselves from reality, a reality that may not accept their political viewpoint.[3] That could be a stretch, but not a stretch when discussing the imagined person behind the markings, as the real person is hidden and non-present in the body of work. This imagined identity only exists within the frames of my mind, and only exists within my own relation to their existence. 

And what can be said of the individual that has to clean off all of their markings? Do they recognise a visual practice from their patterns of cleaning and covering street markings? 

How do they see their visual practice of cleaning the damaged surfaces and spraying silver back onto the metal surfaces defaced by Assange Oz Hero? I see a Sisyphean relationship between the two individuals, considering Assange Oz Hero works within a defined area; eventually they would run out of locations to mark if not for the person that is actively cleaning them off. In the same way, the cleaner would run out of places to clean if the markings stopped appearing. I imagine that both are happy with the mutual dialogue between the two processes, and can rationalise each others activity and observe the dependency they have on one another.

Perhaps after all, the markings and what I have seen do not matter; my interpretations sand speculations of Assange Oz Hero as an imagined or real person have no relation to their process. There is no doubt that this kind of practice is that of an obsession, it makes me wonder if my initial judgement of them as a crazy person diminishes their work, or is more of a categorisation of their work ethic. Repeated practices are entirely embedded into the lifestyle and routine of the practioner, there is a close similarity between a jogger who takes a photo of the sunset every afternoon and Assange Oz Hero, although you wouldn’t usually assume the jogger is a crazy person just for their repetition of action.[4] I believe Assange Oz Hero does not see themselves as a person who marks electrical boxes and traffic poles, but a person on an idealistic mission that they have dedicated a portion of their life (and everyday security) to completing. There is honesty in their mission and progression over time as they build numbers and claim larger tracts of space within inner-southern Melbourne.[5]

Finally, I imagine Assange Oz Hero as a mythological being, attached physically to a series of black artline markers, not stolen or bought, materialised from within. They walk and brush their arms along the street poles and bump into bins, on the black plastic panels they leave silver letters, turning grey as the felt of the marker mixes with the dirt caked into the surface. On the shiny steel exteriors of street bins, they make black letters with a chisel tip texta which will be cleaned off fairly soon. In the week after it is marked, it is re-cleaned, shining once again. On the same night Assange Oz Hero brushes past it and the morning after the message is displayed once again for the people to see, ignore or clean.

End Notes

[1]In this writing I will be discussing subject matter located on the Boonwurrung lands of the Kulin Nation, I am a non-indigenous person and I pay my respects to the Elders past, present and emerging and I acknowledge the sovereigns of these lands, recognising that their sovereignty has never been ceded.

[2]Outline of a theory of practice, Pierre Boudieu, 1972, Paraphrased from p2

[3]The Artist as Outsider, Melvin Rader, 1958, Fairly vaguely paraphrased, in relation to The Outsider by Colin Wilson. The Outsider by Colin Wilson does not seem to have the greatest standing nowadays, almost regarded as a Nihilism for dummies, Rader elaborates that all artists could be considered outsiders once artists were no longer respected as workers and necessary trades people within society. He goes on to elaborate that perhaps an artistic practice is what keeps an otherwise ‘Outsider’ person from being estranged from society. 

[4]Mapping (…) what’s going on, C. Fields, unpublished, 2020 (all images and graphics are also from this book)

[5]Assange Oz Hero, Inner-South All City, C.Fields, 2020

Related Articles