Many cities are overwrought with graffiti; some have developed a reputation of ubiquitous street art – Melbourne is unique in that it’s notorious for both. We all know the mural-laden laneways in and around the CBD where tourists go to snap photos with walls of fluro paint five centimeters thick. We glamorise this sort of art – the kind that is socially acceptable, commissioned, sanctioned, aesthetically pleasing.
The differences between street art and graffiti are quite nuanced. There is some overlap; the two are easily confused although, typically, one is embraced while the other is condemned. Some of the most famous and prolific graffiti artists in Melbourne are also the most criminalised.
Even if you don’t keep up with the graff scene, you are probably familiar with one in particular. He goes by the pseudonym “Pork” (sometimes Porke or Porker) and he’s arguably one of the biggest names in the field.
His tags can be found at the highest highs and the lowest lows all over Melbourne. The more difficult a spot is to reach, the better. He is one of the most infamous graffiti artists in the state, often working with accomplices “Lamb” and “Nost”. Some praise him as a god and others condemn his behaviour. Regardless of which camp you fall into, though, you can’t deny Pork’s moxie.
If anyone knows the trouble he’s caused, it’s the big pigs themselves. Victorian law enforcement has spent over $50 million in the past twelve years cleaning up the work of Pork and others.
Pork knows that authority hates him; he seems to get a kick out of it.
You can see it suggested throughout his Instagram – in the snap of a tradie covering up one of his tags and flipping him the finger, in another where he tags @YarraTrams below a photo of his latest public transport vandalism. Another shot of a “FUCK THE PORKS” tag with the caption #acab (all cops are bastards).
In the eyes of coppers and graffiti removalists, Pork is in it for the (not so cheap) thrills. He targets industrial chimneys and water towers, train stations and sometimes even houses. He’ll hit multiple spots on the same street, in the same visible vicinity. Excessiveness is his game. That’s why people recognise his name – it’s fucking everywhere.
But my instinct tells me there’s more to the story than a simple expression of dominance. Would Pork have curated a whole social media account of his work if he were strictly doing it for shits? He has developed an aesthetic – in his tags, in their placement, in how he performs the deeds and how he represents himself.
(On Instagram, Pork maintains his anonymity by covering up with a rubber mask featuring none other than the grimace of his namesake animal.)
And then there’s his obvious political agenda. But how much is legit and how much is for show? Just a ruse to garner attention with no real social discourse to back it up?
Because for every tag that seems insightful, every inkling of hope that Pork is the anarchist hero Melbourne would love to see, there’s also his normalization of subtle misogyny and casual theft – two behaviours that would get a big red x from genuine social justice warriors.
Yet the post that reads “PORK HER” in big, bold text or the video of the artist stealing paint cans from some local workers are some of Pork’s most popular online content – garnering hundreds of “sick cunts” and shaka emojis from Instagram followers who are enamored with the graffiti idol.
I would love to think Pork is an outward opponent of police brutality, that he recognises authoritative corruption, that his tags are a silent stance of alliance with those who face the brunt of unsavoury practices in our current society. And I’ll hold out on this hope for now, unless further evidence proves me wrong or right.
All I know for sure is that Pork is a big name that’s only going to get bigger – whether that be for better or for worse. Once you start to notice his tags, you can’t stop seeing them everywhere. Regardless of how you feel about graffiti or street art of any kind, you’ve gotta admit the guy’s tenacious. And isn’t tenacity crucial to any artistic practice?
P.S. If the real Pork is out there, I’d love nothing more than for you to tell me if I’m full of shit, so please reach out.