Skip to main content

Guerrilla art purse

Anyone who visited the Arts Academy in Camp Street would have stumbled across it. Thousands* of visitors to Ballarat were seen taking selfies in front of it during previous Archibald exhibitions. It could well have been considered one of the many unofficial treasures of Ballarat.

The fact is the sculpture of a hot pink purse that used to stand in front of the Old Law Courts in Camp Street was meant as a joke. A ‘dad joke’, which is possibly one of the lowest forms of humour, alongside sarcasm.

Long-term Ballaratians may recall the sculpture that preceded the purse. The lovely marble statue of a Greek hero was a constant target of a most uncomfortable kind of vandalism. It was not enough that his penis had to be restored many times, his arm was broken off in 2008 and he was retired to the Botanic Gardens. The plinth on which he stood for hundreds** of years remained, a vacant lot in high-density down-town Ballarat. The only sign of the life was an engraved nameplate, ‘Perseus’.

One day, several years after the real Perseus vanished, the pink purse just appeared. No fuss, no fanfare. The circumstances surrounding it were mystical. Scraps of timber and canvas laying around an Arts Academy painting studio magically assembled themselves. The colour even matches that worn by Arts Academy students employed to mentor first-years in the first few weeks of the academic year.

The picture on the front of the purse is of the statue that used to reside there with Latin words meaning 'Finally I am home'. Across the bottom is 'Pater Iocus', Latin for dad joke. Many clues point to it being an inside job. Any lecturer from the Arts Academy, of the visual art persuasion, could be responsible. The evidence suggests that the culprit was a male, and possibly a father.

There can be no doubt, however, of the value of this remarkable sculpture. The fact that it survived the dog-eat-dog sculpture vandalism trade for so long, untouched, made it special. When an archaeologist from a thousand years in the future discovers the sculpture, there will be many questions to answer.

For now, there is really only one question: what happened to Purseus?

[All of society can benefit from this form of guerrilla art.]


* I have no statistics to back this up. It could have been dozens. But I’m going with thousands for effect.
** Probably not.