Nice. I think it merits posting in full. Art for art's sake goes down the drain
February 27, 2010
Melbourne's underground is brought to life in works by the Melbourne City Drain Painters.
At the end of a quiet street in one of Melbourne's outer suburbs, a small group slowly gathers. Dressed mostly in black, they carry camera gear and a mixture of cheap light sources: fluorescent glow sticks, plastic disco balls and torches.
Meet the Melbourne City Drain Painters, a collective of ''dedicated urban explorers'' who meet weekly at drain outfalls throughout the city - the only visible markers to the dark, wet underworld that lies beneath us.
This concrete network of drains provides the blank canvas for the group to engage in light painting, a photographic technique whereby long exposures are taken to capture the hand-held movement of light sources.
The core membership is a motley crew of five that includes IT technicians, a call centre operator and a bus driver. What they share is a love of exploration, photography and a general desire to escape from ''the mad world up there'', even if just for an evening.
''We can come down here and do what we want. We can enjoy ourselves and let our imagination go wild,'' says Jason, who started the group with his partner and a friend seven months ago.
With connections to members of the more experienced drain exploration group the Cave Clan, Jason, who works with steel in engineering, is the expert on the drain locations.
The choice for this evening is the ''Nazi Drain'', so named for the racist graffiti that used to adorn the tunnel. After all the members have arrived, the journey begins from a dimly lit Springvale street down into the drain. Little is said as the group trudges single-file through the darkness.
One member jokingly points out some ''prehistoric'' graffiti dating to 1988. Then there is the rare sighting of an insect.
''You don't often see anything living down here,'' Jason says.
Eventually, they reach an opening with a raised platform leading to five more drains, and it is here that the action begins. Tripods go up, torches go off and coloured lights - pink, blue and green - begin to light up the darkness.
''Electric Evan'' takes the stage first, putting on a spectacular show as he lights up a square of steel wool with a nine-volt battery. Once lit, he spins it, sparks flying, in a circle around him, and the dank walls of the drain begin to glow. The others soon follow suit, splitting into separate areas of the drain to paint the darkness with lightsabres and electric Christmas decorations.
It's hard to explain what drain painting involves without getting ridiculed, Jason says. ''Let's face it, 99 per cent of Melbourne don't know these places exist - at work they call me Ninja Turtle.''
But the members themselves are fervent. ''It's all about the photography,'' says group member Rob Turney. ''It's addictive, very addictive.''
When the drain painters leave, they take their art with them. Distinguishing themselves from taggers, graffiti artists and vandals, they claim to have the ''utmost respect'' for the locations that they visit to explore and photograph.