AFTER 10 years of documenting crappy architecture, tasteless coco palm arrangements, terrible street art, and countless graffitied “cock and balls” motifs, The Worst of Perth founder Andrew McDonald is calling it a day.
theworstofperth.com started September 27, 2007, when Mr McDonald promised to post “the worst examples of Perth design, art, culture and architecture,” as well as taking plenty of shots at the standard of news coverage in The West Australian (dubbed “The Worst Australian”).
The site’s had 4000 posts and 5.6 million views since then and fostered a mini-subculture around its hidden history of the city that doesn’t make it into mainstream media outlets.
From the earliest days, uninspired public artworks were a frequent target. The site was even instrumental in getting the risible concrete “arse and boozies [boobs]” sculpture removed from the front of the Perth railway station after featuring it in 2007.
New lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi saw the post, and her first thought was “how embarrassing”. The crumbling statue was soon moved away from the public eye to Gomboc Gallery out in Middle Swan.
“Vanished Worsts”—things that had been featured on the site and then disappeared out of shame or just coincidence—became a category of its own, with 69 now listed.
At first glance the site looks pretty sardonic to a newcomer, but Mr McDonald says there’s a real fondness for Perth at the heart of the posts by regular contributors like “Bento” and Post Newspapers journo David “Outrage” Cohen.
“I don’t like things to be too nasty,” says Mr McDonald.
“[We’re] pretending to be nasty, but not really. It’s all quite good natured.” (though as a hard-nosed journo, Mr Cohen’s put up a few contentious ones when he takes over for Outrage Sunday).
A glut of new public artworks in Perth has been a frequent target of TWOP critiques. Mr McDonald, who this week was highly commended for his stamp artwork in the Fremantle Print Awards, says “Perth has the world’s worst street art”.
He says our artists themselves might be alright (maybe), but the way councils choose the murals leads to the most milquetoast outcomes.
“We don’t have anything that makes you stop and think,” says Mr McDonald.
“There’s nothing with an edge, nothing to make you discomforted, it’s just all decoration…it’s just visual muzak. Not every wall would be better with leaves painted on it.
“In other parts of the world, even down on the local level, they choose the artist, not the piece,” rather than councillors choosing what goes up.
“They’re not very good at being councillors, most of them, let alone being judges of art. If we had just one piece that police painted over, I’d be happy.”
More low-brow street art has been been thoroughly documented and even celebrated. The site has an enormous number of pictures in the “cock and balls” category, showing spraypainted, marker-penned or scratched-in penises on every conceivable surface in Perth.
And it’s taught us something about our city: “That was really interesting, finding out there was a different style of cock and balls in Perth: here it’s disembodied, drawn on anything. In other parts of the world they’ll draw it on someone, or doing something to someone. In Perth it’s just ‘ah, I’ll draw a cock on that’,” he says.
The site’s also waged a long-running low-key war against WA writer Tim Winton. Mr McDonald conceded early on “I haven’t really got anything to base my irrational hatred on” but something about the “fake WA nostalgia” grates.
“I thought I was the only person who loathed Cloudstreet,” he says, but found out “there is quite a community of people who cannot stand his work.”
For months the site even hosted a collaborative project to write their own Tim Winton book, titled “Phwoar” (colloquial: WA term of excitement). A novel’s worth of satire was written by TWOP contributors, chock-full of references to Wintonesque cliches like going barefoot in Freo.
“Some of them were a lot better than Tim’s writing!” Mr McDonald says. “They were so amazingly written and funny and vicious.”
Winton’s never contacted him about the eight-year-long online critique, but Mr McDonald said when he attended the opening of one of those plays “he did really glare at me”.
In the final post, Mr McDonald asked “was anything achieved? Bland wall murals still go up. Tim Winton still writes his WA cliches of fish and wind. Even She-Ra [Lisa Scaffidi] and Paul Nurrie [Murray] hang on grimly. And yet, the city, Perth city, is a different planet for sure.
“Some of that we can claim as ours perhaps?
“At least there’s thousands of tiny pieces of original scenes that would have gone unrecorded otherwise.”
by DAVID BELL