Fronting Barrack Street at the Perth Town Hall end of the State Buildings, the Petition Kitchen restaurant, is located where Perth’s first Police Court operated back in the 1870’s. DIRTY DEEDS is a work that illustrates exactly where the two holding cells for the Police Court used to stand and the kind of people who spent time there. ‘A miserable little box,’ was how the cells were described by one commentator in the press at the time, ‘shocked at the smallness and want of ventilation and light’ by another.

The footprint of the original cells can now be seen etched into the granite outside the restaurant, including the tiny windows and entry doors to the cells. As is evident, the experience of being locked in them with multiple others awaiting a spot on the Police Court roster would have been a tad uncomfortable at best. Alongside the incorporation of the original architecture of the site, the artists also trawled through the archival records of the Police Court News of the time to uncover the names and deeds of some of the detainees who were held in the cells during the first years of the Police Courts operations. The alleged criminal’s full name, trade or status, the crime they were accused of committing and the date of their court appearance are included in the work.

A perusal of the forty misdemeanours described provides a colourful snapshot of the early days of the colony and developing city where a populace made up of convict and post-convict labour alongside abundant supplies of ‘sly-grog’ influenced much of the street behaviours of the day. The format of the work references both headstones as well as the commemorative pavers that line St Georges Terrace that celebrate the city and state’s most honoured and upstanding citizens. The title of the work comes from the classic ACDC rock anthem, a playful nod to the continuing love affair popular WA culture has with the glamours of lawlessness, the cool of criminality and the cultural pride many have towards collective convict origins.

Sitting at the base of the tower that houses the Supreme Court, DIRTY DEEDS seeks to provide moments of light amusement and historical insight for all visitors to the precinct, including those who work and play on both sides of the law.

DIRTY DEEDS (2015)
Artists Marcus Canning and Tom Mùller

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