In a fluster of backpacks, Zoo York and flat brims, Australia’s graffiti community and supporters packed out Brisbane nightclub Barsoma on Thursday May 14 for the inaugural Red Bull Wreckers Yard speed graf challenge. Eight of Australia’s most prolific graf writers – hand-picked from a pool of hundreds – went head-to-head in blast battles (with secret themes announced 30 seconds before they picked up the cans) that lasted less than ten minutes to emulate the conditions of train tagging. Paint fumes blistered the air, canvases transformed in to works of art, while DJs Cutloose and Sampology controlled the decks, and the crowd cheered on all the action with 8 Mile-like fervour.
In a scene surrounded by controversy and debate, Red Bull Wreckers Yard offered a legal and positive platform for Australia’s graf writers to showcase their talent.
Shaun Warner from Red Bull explained, “We wanted to highlight some really good local artists who are on the verge of getting big for various reasons – whether it be gaining notoriety from the police or getting interest from commercial projects”.
“It was all about supporting local graf artists, who might not otherwise be supported outside of their immediate writing community,” Warner said.
B-boy and graffiti photographer, Conan Whitehouse said, “There isn’t really a forum for writers to be able to do this sort of thing in Australia. We’ve got a bunch of guys that have incredible talent, who put a lot of time into what they’re doing, but don’t have a legal public forum to do it. Whether or not they desire a public forum, I don’t know – but it is an interesting spectacle for the audience – a unique entree into a niche subculture.”
The heats, semis and finals rolled out in a crazy display of creative dexterity with themes of Revolution, Superhero/Cartoon, Hip Hop, Object of desire, Fantasy, War and Wild Card left wide open to artistic interpretation. As the boys were picked off one by one, the competition left Brisbane tattoo artist, Ben, with his dark depictions, as the winner. Ben walked away with the major cash prize and the opportunity to create a wall within Red Bull’s head offices in Sydney.
“Red Bull Wreckers Yard as a whole was a great challenge and a good spectacle. It offered a lot to the audience in terms of awareness. The guys will paint anyway, but it’s good to see them supported,” Whitehouse said.