CORPORATE advertisements are beaming from an artistic tower at Yagan Square which was supposed to be reserved for artworks and live-streamed community events.
The tower’s design was inspired by the bullrushes which once grew in the area’s now-filled wetlands, and its 14 columns represent the local Noongar language groups. The square itself is billed as “a window into Noongar culture”.
But now the artistic offerings are interspersed with 30 per cent ads.
Elder Robert Eggington says the ads are “totally out of place”, but he wasn’t surprised to see them given how often Aboriginal culture is commercialised, appropriated, and disrespected.
Mr Eggington said he was disappointed how little of the state’s Aboriginal history was being portrayed in Yagan Square.
“I think Yagan Square has failed miserably the objective which Aboriginal people initially thought it would offer,” he said.
“That is the real shame of it, because that is what happens to Aboriginal people all the time. You’re given an expectation, then there’s a treachery.”
The square is controlled by the state government’s Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority. In all the documentation we’ve found dating back to the Barnett government’s announcement of the design in 2014, there’s no mention of it being used as ad space.
“On the giant screen, you could find anything from abstract graphics, to visual artworks, live-streamed events and community pieces,” the MRA’s website states.
Perth councillor Reece Harley first raised the issue after spotting a Westpac ad up there last week.
“Yagan Square was promised to all of as an important civic space that would acknowledge and celebrate Aboriginal stories and culture.
“Premier Barnett chose the name, and in doing so, he elevated community expectations. The digital sign was explained to the public as a community facility that would showcase art, events and promote the city and square, not as a commercial revenue opportunity open to the highest bidder,” Cr Harley said.
by DAVID BELL