Photos courtesy of Marcus
Street art comes at price.
“It’s dangerous. ”
“I got to watch my back,’ says the Munich born German who is dressed up as a construction worker. He’s only 32 but in his uniform, looks like an ageing man on the other side of middle age spread.
He’s called a statue.
These days he carries a real hammer. “It comes in handy when I get threats from passerbys.”
In England, he’s been chased by 30 Irish gypsies outside Piccadilly Circus. “Most of them were 14 to 20 years old. ”
He says they were carrying knives and baseball bats.
It started when he scared a teenage girl when he moved on his statue pedestal. The boy friend, and Irish Gypsy came back. “What the fuck are you doing scaring my girlfriend?” Marcus got off his box, and said ,”I’m 100 kg, so what are you going to do.”
He left, and came back 30 minutes later with 30 of his mates.
When Marcus asked for protection from the police man, they had to run for their lives as the motley gang converged on them with weapons.
“We made it to a store and they locked up the entrance,” he says. “They tried smash the doors open. Then forty police came, and they ran away. ”
Marcus Achberger is a vigilante of sorts. He doesn’t like his profession to be soiled by thieves. He’s made a life of doing the right thing. “I’ll get beggars come up to me and ask for change. If they talk with me and show interest I’ll give them a few dollars.” He says then he doesn’t have any problems with other beggars. “They’ll tell their mates to leave me alone.”
He says he was performing one day, and three thugs stole his money. “The next day I took a kitchen knife. They came up again to fleece me. I said I have this. And showed them my kitchen knife. They ran away. And the next day they threw in some coins.”
But another performer, a known murderer from Scotland, tried to stab him. “I reported the police. He got six months jail. When he got out, I heard he was looking for me on the streets of London.”
Marcus sees things on the streets that the common public aren’t aware of. “In London there are packs of thieves who roam the tourist areas looking for easy targets. He says that there’s always a pimp, the leader of the gang. And a performance artist, who attracts the crowds. One of them was dressed up as the Queen of England. “This Romanian had a Margaret Thatcher mask on, which explains how stupid he is.” He says the pimp was hovering around. “So I filmed him. I said I knew what he was up too. One of the performers, a guy dressed up as a pirate, spat at me. The police were called, and he was hauled back to Romania.”
Another video, he’s confronting a guy who is threatening the license of other buskers in a prime place in London. “The day before he was playing really loud music. So I moved into his place. He called me a Nazi German and told me to go home.”
He says if he didn’t take his place, the council of Piccadilly would have shut it down for all legitimate buskers. “At the station, the police questioned him. He denied his threats. Then they asked him if he was the person in the video I recorded on my phone.”
Marcus posted another video on YouTube when he exposed an illegal Romanian busking. It was essentially a pick pocketing cartel he busted and the price was high. “He was deported back to Romania. The problem was that he sent 150 of his fellow Romanian gypsies back to the UK, a year later.. They wanted to kill me.”
It all started with his Elvis costume. “A day later, five Romanians came back dressed the same as me and stole my spot.” When he told them to go, things got heated. “I really don’t mind if they copy my outfit, it’s a compliment. But when they invaded my spot, I got very angry.”
He said his girlfriend was pregnant at the time, and feared that his baby would be fatherless. ” I contacted the pimp of the Romanian gypsies and went around to their sleeping quarters. There were 50 of them sleeping in one room. I got on my knees and begged them to spare my life. I said I’d be out of the country in a week’s time and wouldn’t go near their turf in that time.” The mention of family, softened the Romanians, and his life was spared.
He busked in England and lived with fellow performers in an apartment in Brixton. “That’s where I learnt to speak English.” One day a group of buskers did some karaoke performance, The Lion Sleeps Tonight. “Other buskers were bringing home some good money. No statue had ever done it before. So we did a corny trio of that song.” The similarity to the Fully Monty was uncanny, and those coins dropped. “We made 30 pounds an hour.”
Marcus gives us a tour of his apartment in Brixton, another You Tube posting. It was the time of the Brixton riots. “Here is my bathroom,” he explains. ” We must lock it up so no one can climb through the window.” He’s outside now on the balcony. “See those police.” There was a line of ten of them.” They are here to investigate who shot a man that was staying here.” Then he signs off. “Mum, everything is good here, and safe.”
In Perth, where he’s performing now, he met one woman with a sign: Single Mum and Homeless.” She’s a smack freak. Not homeless or a single mum. She can earn between $1000 to $2000 a day. She puts on mascara to look really emotional.” He went up to her to compliment here. “Wow you made $200 in the time I smoked a cigarette. From one performer to another, I know what you are up to.”
She’s now in a wheel chair, he says, due to complications of taking too much smack. “And earning much more.”
He says he knew one beggar in Munich who drove to work in a BMW. “After two hours he’d take home 1000 Euros. He has a mansion and a swimming pool.” But he does say they work for their money. “Its fucking cold in winter. And being out in the cold for two hours without shoes must be uncomfortable.” I detect the irony.
Another lady he met in Munich was carrying around 250 000 Euros on her body. “She got caught by authorities who found she didn’t have a passport for 20 years. They renewed that and opened up a bank account to put her money in.”
“This is life on the streets,” he says. “But I prefer to busk at Fremantle,” he adds, saying that there are two security guys which make’s it safe for him. ” Recently he had three thugs chase him away at Perth’s Mall. “I had to run. They wanted to rob me and bash me up.”
He’s reluctant to busk down town. He recently had a blood clot. He was admitted in hospital. “It’s the risk of sitting all day and not moving. High risks of blood clots.” The doctor said if he got punched, he could die of internal bleeding. The day he was admitted out of hospital, he performed at Perth’s Mall. A man king hit him from behind the head. Luckily it didn’t trigger a bleeding.
But sitting in three layers of clothes and caked in make up, on a 40 degree day, isn’t that much fun. “But the flies don’t bother me. They eventually leave.” He takes a ten minute break between each hour performance of sitting or standing still. The only movements are raising his thumb and hands in a mechanical movement, when someone gives him change.
Meanwhile back on the streets of Perth. It’s a small world and competitive. A woman he met in England has been drawing big crowds. Her stage name is SilverFerry and she’s a statue too. They met in London four years ago. She’s the buzz on the streets and adored by crowds. But Marcus is back in town. “She asked me how long was I going to be staying here in Perth. A year on a working visa, I told her. She was in Melbourne the next day.”
A bit of his repertoire has been reigned in, he says. “The council have come up to me and said no pistol shots with hands or a plastic gun” Marcus is fine with that, and tones down his performance to local regulations. He says it can restrict his performance. “It’s ok to pretend to hit someone with a hammer, but not a plastic gun. Even mine, which is painted different colours, Because there’s been a resent spate of robberies with plastic guns.”
Over the years, he’s trained down and outers, and turned them into human statues. One guy has over 40 000 hits on a video someone filmed of him and posted on Youtube. “It really makes me proud to see someone I’ve trained to become so popular. As performers, we trawl the internet looking for videos and photos of ourselves. I only found three photos of me performing in Perth on Google. For fuck’s sake, I’d been here a year.”
If you see a statue, in any capital city around the world, it’s most likely Marcus. Wellington and Auckland are his next destinations.
He likes applauses over knife attacks. “Nothing better than a round of applause.”
There are a few bronze statues in Perth’s Mall. Be careful if one comes to life and scares you.
“I live for scaring people!”