The peeling paste-up
ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR forms of street art in Melbourne is the paste-up: printed or drawn posters adhered to city walls with a wheat-based glue. The physical insubstantiality of paste-ups renders them particularly ephemeral — they do not have the ‘sticking power’ of paint — yet this also makes them particularly ‘active’ components of the city footprint. The effects of time and human interface are readily wrought upon their surface. Older paste-ups peel away from the walls on which they are stuck; new ones are pasted over them, perhaps in turn to be painted over by following artists, tagged by graffitists, or torn down by council cleaning teams. For artist Miso, the traces of the ‘life’ of the poster are part of its appeal as an art form:
There is a certain excitement in nature and the city reclaiming that piece and the way people interact with it. Whether it is rained on, pipes drip onto it, moss grows on it, it’s tagged over, drunks piss on it, or it’s documented and archived and put into books or whatever happens, I really like that it has a life of its own.
These actions leave physical traces on the site of the artwork. The city’s fabric is in constant flux; it is an organic, evanescent, growing surface.
Between pastings and as existing posters perish, paste-up sites come to resemble modern collages or a paper form of the archaeologist’s stratum; the suggestions of text and image become visible in part as the layers are torn away. The stratum represents a temporally condensed equivalent of the overlays of paint and wallpaper in a period home which, if peeled back, reveal the evolving decorative tastes and economic standing of subsequent generations of the building’s occupants. Like layered advertising posters, the sanctioned cousin of the illegal paste-up, their content discloses the concerns of the urban inhabitants, concerns often as ephemeral as the posters themselves: commodities, events, political agendas, values, aesthetics.
Also like advertising, the images are infinitely reproducible: constructed in a studio and able to be rapidly wheat-pasted to any wall, paste-ups (like stencil art) enable the artist to bombard the city with a repeatable message or to transport a particular look to different urban centres. Yet the impact of different sites, different natural patterns, and of different public interactions and responses will imbue each image with a unique lifespan and patina of aging.
 Interview with Miso in Street Studio by Alison Young, 167.