‘A very Adelaide thing to do’: Who’s behind the city’s wave of wide-eyed eyes? | Art

A The serial prankster has left a trail of oversized googly eyes across the Adelaide metropolis, from fast food and liquor store mascots to one of the city’s most recognizable colonial landmarks.

The eyes first appeared in the early hours of January 11, when a pair of suburban Dan Murphy’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken stores on opposite sides of town were found sporting matching looks in confusion to the eyes of insects. Port Road store management Dan Murphy sighed and shook his head when approached for comment.

While the Eastwood KFC branch quickly pulled the eyes out of its big bucket, at Dan Murphy’s the eyes remained fixed on its founder’s face for several days – perhaps in quiet acknowledgment of the prankster’s audacity, or because the staff had not yet purchased a high enough ladder.

After circulating on various local social media channels, the prank went viral when the Twitter user @rAdelaidegrl shared the images on his feed. “I only tweeted it because it made me laugh at the time, I thought it might make some of my friends overseas laugh too, and I never thought it would gain traction. popularity like that!” she told Guardian Australia. “I live in Adelaide, however, and thought that was a great thing to do in Adelaide.”

The big googly eyes, which appear to be readily available online for around $10 a pop, were seen again when a van owned by a Jim’s Mowing franchisee was spotted with telltale dilated pupils sticking out from under the bucket hat.

On Monday night, the mysterious artist hit on another famous colonel – William Light, the man widely credited with choosing the location of South Australia’s capital in 1836 and mapping out the city’s streets and parks.

This plan and the statue on top of a hill overlooking the city are known as Light’s Vision. The Light is so well known among many South Australians that since 2016 Adelaide City Council has opened its meetings with an acknowledgment of Light’s Vision, sandwiched between an acknowledgment of the Kaurna people, whose country was built on the city, and the Lord’s Prayer. The monument was also referenced in Paul Kelly’s 1985 song Adelaide (“I spilled my wine at the bottom of Colonel Light’s statue”).

This isn’t the first time the 115-year-old statue has been a target; in June 2020 the messages ‘no pride in genocide’ and ‘death to Australia’ were scrawled in red on the statue’s plinth, part of a wave of colonial monuments around the world that have been altered or uprooted by activists following Black Lives Matter protests. Adelaide’s then-deputy mayor condemned the act and offered to install CCTV around the statue, a plan that never materialized.

“Colonel Light’s googly eyes have been removed,” Mayor Sandy Verschoor told Guardian Australia on Tuesday. “However, I think we all need a laugh right now and the wide eyes appearing around Adelaide have certainly made people laugh.

“We will definitely ‘keep an eye’ on things and, as always, we don’t tolerate graffiti, offensive messages or property damage.”

For South Australians, the wide-eyedness provided a welcome respite from headlines about rising Covid-19 cases, outbreaks in aged care homes and the widespread ramp-up of ambulances in a state which has remained relatively virus-free for nearly two years.

A social media commentator compared Light to Jebediah Springfield, the founder and namesake of the hometown of The Simpsons, whose statue was vandalized by Bart Simpson in an early episode. Another invoked F Scott Fitzgerald, comparing the wide-eyed faces of Colonel Sanders and Dan Murphy to the billboard advertising the work of optometrist Doctor TJ Eckleburg, which looms ominously over the characters of The Great Gatsby.

In Fitzgerald’s novel, the billboard is a metaphor for the eyes of God passing judgment on the murky morals of 1920s America. At the time of this writing, it’s unclear what deeper meaning may be drawn from the blank stares of Colonels Light and Sanders – but one can’t help but read a new air of accusation in Light’s eternally outstretched arm.

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