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SCOOP AUTUMN 2012 29
Jessica Matthews, arts journalist
It’s not that I like hearing songs out of tune,
or watching dancers with no spatial awareness.
I’ll pay to see great artists at galleries and
theatres. It’s just that I don’t expect walking
down the street to be a curated experience.
If anything, the randomness of
public places makes them interesting – the
unfettered collision of people and places
that occasionally throws up something so
weird, you have to stop and stare.
Take the busker I saw recently on Murray
Street; a woman, around 35 years old, with
no discernable talent except for her taste
in heinous 90s pop music. I came across her
– mid blockbuster TLC hit Waterfalls – in
what I can only gather was her interpretation
of ‘the worm’.
For those unfamiliar, ‘the worm’ is a
kind of hip-hop manoeuvre that involves
lowering your body from handstand
position to the floor, and then repeating
for grub-like allure. Her rendition was
more ‘writhing moth’ – sharp, agitated,
flighty – interspersed with high-fiving
audience members. It was one of the most
shocking and strangely compelling things
I’ve ever seen – and one of few occasions
when I’ve watched a busker for longer than
a passing glimpse.
If the talent police introduce a test that
means uncoordinated, TLC-wannabes never
get another gig, it would be a shame, and not
just because it would deprive Perth of ‘the
wor m’. It would put us in danger of becoming
unbearably pleasant and innocuous – a city
of proficient buskers who are the urban
equivalent of background music.
Sometimes it’s refreshing to see a
performer who isn’t especially gifted, but who
gives it a g o anyway, and sometimes it’s just
amusing. Don’t agree? Keep walking.
Should buskers have
to sit a talent test?
torn threads playing a badly strung guitar equals
the essence of entertainment.
Then there’s our reputation to think about.
If we want to show a sophisticated face to
tourists, shouldn’t we monitor what kind of noise
pollution gets hurled their way? Just as I shouldn’t
erect a sculpture of my own making and call it
public art, the wannabe performer shouldn’t be
allowed to unload on a street corner without
somebody having deemed their offerings worthy.
I don’t want to listen to someone ‘practising’
their oboe skills, or ‘testing’ their homemade
bottle-top percussion maker on innocent
bystanders. Give me polish – or at the very least
style – or stay indoors.
And while we’re about it, let’s define
‘talent’ to mean something that doesn’t evoke
squeamishness or inflict potential harm. We’ve
seen the guy who swallows a flaming sword while
on a unicycle. Put it away now.
“What is that guy
singing about? I’m
sure he just made
up a word”
Damien, Subiaco Square
Rosie Parmenter, pedestrian
This is a very first-world problem, I know, but
I think it’s time we called a stop to mediocrity
in the malls. Chain stores are bad enough; must
we also endure mind-numbing ‘performance’?
I’ve no objection to a bit of life and colour,
but let there be some arbiter of g ood taste
determining what makes the cut, so that the
rest of us aren’t exposed to the travesty of
tuneless violas or polemical diatribes thinly
disguised as organ recitals.
We’ve been spoiled. Perth has seen much
great street performance, thanks to events like
PIAF and the Fremantle Street Arts Festival,
which bring the liveliest and most creative
performers from around the world – none of
whom stick their hat out asking for coin! As
passers-by, our tastes have evolved.
Like the kid who’s grown up with a direct line
to YouTube, we need convincing that a guy in
“Let them play. People always complain
about the city being boring. Who cares if
it’s a bit amateur – a bad busker is better
than piped music” Simone, Hay Street mall
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