Killjoy division cleans up 'Ian Curtis wall'

BY KELLY BURNS
Last updated 05:00 12/09/2009
MEMORIAL OR MESS?: The wall on Wallace St, Mt Cook, has withstood efforts to clean or deface it for the past 28 years since Joy Division singer Ian Curtis died. Wellington City Council have  painted it over.
PAUL EASTON/ The Dominion Post

MEMORIAL OR MESS?: The wall on Wallace St, Mt Cook, has withstood efforts to clean or deface it for the past 28 years since Joy Division singer Ian Curtis died. Wellington City Council workers painted it over on Thursday.

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Twenty-eight years after a punk art memorial sprang up on a Wellington street for a dead rocker, the "Ian Curtis wall" is gone.

The cover-up is sparking debate over whether the painted memorial was rock'n'roll adulation or vandalism.

Wellington City Council's anti-graffiti staff, who are believed to have painted over the wall on Thursday, are being called "killjoys".

The tag "Ian Curtis RIP" first appeared on the wall in Wallace St, Mt Cook, in 1981. Curtis was the lead singer of Joy Division and author of the British band's dark and poetic lyrics. He was quiet, depressive and often had epileptic seizures onstage.

He killed himself in 1980 in his home in Macclesfield, near Manchester, on the eve of the band's first tour of the United States. He was 23.

Months later, half a world away, the tribute appeared, and for 28 years it stood the test of time. It even had a mention on a Wikipedia page about Curtis.

It was repainted by die-hard fans each time it was defaced or covered over, although it has moved down the road from its original spot.

The words "laughing boy" were once added as a dig to Curtis' depression, but fans restored its original message and added the "walk in silence" lyrics from the Joy Division song Atmosphere.

Joanne Sung, from Mt Cook Cafe, saw council workers paint over the tag. "I thought it was weird, it's been there for ages," she said. "It's not just graffiti, it's more like history."

Ross Lythgoe, who lives down the road from the tag, was sad to see it go. "Why did they do that? It was almost art in itself. Killjoys, aren't they?"

But not everyone was displeased. "I'm surprised it took them that long to get it down," Jonas McKenzie said.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean could not confirm yesterday who was behind the cleanup, but "it probably was us".

"Clearly our graffiti team are not big fans of Joy Division. One person's punk art memorial is another person's vandalism. They made a judgment call on it."

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- The Dominion Post

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