Benny Zable is a long way from his home in Nimbin, Australia. I took this picture of him the day after his 66th birthday at the Occupy Wall St. protest in NYC last weekend. He has been using performance as a form of protest since the late 70’s when he developed his anti-nuclear character, Greedozer & Company.
Inspired by witnessing the horrors of war on a Kibbutz in Israel in ’68 and the people he met through the counter culture in London around the same time, he became an artist and dancer before returning to Australia at the end of the ‘60’s.
In 1973 he found himself at the Australian equivalent to Woodstock, the Aquarius Festival in Nimbin and after the festival finished he stayed on to help the Tuntable Falls Co-op get off the ground. It was around this time he developed his first real character as a performer, Zany Bubbles.
Most of 1977 and 1978 was spent repainting the facades of the shops along the main street of Nimbin, which had originally been created during the Aquarius Festival. This picture which features Benny’s murals, was taken during the Nimbin Mardi Grass, an annual festival held to celebrate the new season of pot.
Benny visited the USA for the first time in 1979 and worked as a volunteer on the ‘No Nukes’ concert in NYC, where he realized it was possible for activists to work with discipline and quality.
Upon his return to Australia he developed the Greedozer & Company character after witnessing the destruction of coastal rainforest at the Middle Head sand mining protests. He became part of the Nomadic Action Group (NAG) which established installations and theatre pieces at a variety of protests, vigils and direct actions.
After receiving a $5000 grant from the Australia Council For The Arts, he travelled all over Australia performing his solo protest at the destruction of the environment. In 1989 he returned to the USA where he solidified links with a variety of activists in San Francisco and Woodstock.
I met Benny for the first time when he came back to Australia in 1990 and was instrumental in getting the Confest committee to agree to the building of Carhenge by the Mutoid Waste Co., which I had co-founded with Robin Cooke.
Benny then moved back to Nimbin where he founded the Nimbin Aquarius Foundation and once again repainted the rainbow murals which had become such an integral part of the towns character and a major tourist attraction. Remarkably enough he’s never been paid for any of that work.
He was at Woodstock 2 in 1994 and launched the Nimbin Woodstock connection, successfully making the two capitals of hippydom Sister Villages.
Since then Benny has continued his work as an activist bringing his message of environmental responsibility in a constructive and artistic way to countless protests and actions around the world.
He’s been recognized by the Australian establishment for his work over the last 30 years – the Greedozer 1 costume has been exhibited at the National Museum Of Australia since 2001.
He came to NYC this year to work on Ecofest and has stayed to be part of the Occupy Wall St protests. The image he’s created has been so strong that I’ve seen him on TV at least half a dozen times in the last 2 weeks.
Respect to Benny Zable and the many he has inspired.