We have opinions about bollart

Recently here in Melbourne we got a whole bunch of ‘anti-terrorism bollards’, aka large cement cubes that don’t really stop cars from driving through the Bourke Street Mall, since the tram tracks are right there.

Melburnians have obviously started decorating the shit out of these things, and of course we have feelings.

We have previously had feelings about yarn bombing, which is a hideous activity that creates problems for trees and for humans. Yarn bombing a bike rack means when it rains (which, in Melbourne, it does often) you have to lock your bike to a soggy bike rack; yarn bombing a seat means sitting on a soggy seat. Gross.

Where does bollart fit into No Award’s strict anti-yarn bombing stance, given it’s not actually yarn bombing? Come on a complex emotional journey with us.

Steph says:

Apparently bollart is ‘subversive‘ which, lol, sure. I am all about civil disobedience via street art and graffiti, especially message graffiti (I am anti-tagging but pro-whatever you think is art).

I like the efficiency of the costumes for the bollart, which take fabric cutoffs and quickly sew them together and voila, bollards cosplaying as bollart. Of course this still makes them damp and soggy in Melbourne’s winter, but as it’s not all the bollards I’m willing to give it a pass. And I do love the sharing of the patterns! Crowdsourcing, sure.

My favourite is probably the ‘art’ bollarts:

I also like that the Lord Mayor is like ‘nah yeah, I like it, don’t prosecute the artists’.

But as ‘anti-terrorism’ devices, I am pretty firmly against them. As I noted above the fold, what are they going to stop? As a response to the tragedy on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth earlier this year, they’re pretty lackluster given you can just drive a car through the tram tracks. As a response to anything else – well, what is it a response to? It feels like just another step in normalising the fascism towards which we’re steadily plodding.

Anyway, good times. I am anti-bollard but pro-bollart.

Liz Says:

I’m not as anti bollard as Stephanie, because I mostly see the ones around Southern Cross Station, where they look like they would actually do something. Provided the hypothetical vehicular terrorist is in a full-sized car, not on on a motorbike. They seem like two-parts security theatre, one-part effective anti-terrorism measure, and 100% hideously ugly.

Because they’re so ugly, and they serve so little purpose, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t hate bollart as much as I hate yarnbombing.

Bollart reminds me of the painted signal traffic boxes of Brisbane, another splash of council-approved, marginally subversive colour. I like the colours, I like seeing artists doing their thing, I like taking ugliness and making it attractive.

Or, in some cases, just differently ugly. So much of the fabric bollart, in particular, just looks nasty — look, I’m a quilter, I know how hard it is to mix colours, but you can’t just use your entire stash willy-nilly — that I’m taking it on a case by case basis.

But even the really ugly fabric pieces overcome one of my objections to yarnbombing: the waste of fabric (or wool) on terrible decorations when it could be used for blankets for actual people in need. Because — again, speaking as a quilter — I know how much fabric it takes to make a usable blanket, and what we’re seeing on bollards is mostly cheap polypop, too light to be used for for … well, almost anything.

Fabric decorations on a bollard, then, have less of an implied sneer than, for example, scarves for statues under which homeless people are freezing.

(If you are a Melburnian interested in using your crafting skills to help others, Welcome Warmth collects, makes and donates blankets and other materials to asylum seekers; I’m sure there are other groups as well.)

This is my current fave: a quilted Ned Kelly on Spencer Street:

A bollard covered with a fitted quilt depicting Ned Kelly. The top surface has a black Kelly on a white background; the front-facing side has a silver Kelly on a black background with applique eyes.

As a general rule I’m not into the whole Ned Kelly Mythos, but this has a lot of personality, and it makes me smile. (Or did, back when I was well enough to leave the house, woe is me for I am dying of layringitis and haven’t been able to express an opinion verbally since Saturday, you have no idea what that’s like!)

In conclusion, I’m pro-bollart, I just think, you know, if you’re seeking to make a statement about the uglification of urban spaces, you should not make them uglier.

Further Reading:

A photoessay at Broadie