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Enigmatic objects and playful provocations: the mysterious case of Golden Head

Edensor, T ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4715-6024 and Mundell, M (2021) Enigmatic objects and playful provocations: the mysterious case of Golden Head. Social and Cultural Geography. ISSN 1464-9365

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This article explores community responses to ‘Golden Head’, a guerrilla artwork that was installed covertly in a Melbourne park in early 2020 by unknown persons. Focusing on local residents’ reactions to this mysterious, unsanctioned statue, we document an ongoing array of playful speculations, creative responses and imaginative interactions that unfolded both in situ and via social media. We argue that in eliciting an outpouring of jokes, memes, stories, photographs and other creative rejoinders, this enigmatic object has strengthened and renewed a collective sense of place. We also consider Golden Head’s reception in light of recent challenges to the legitimacy of many traditional memorial statues, and as a response to the increasingly over-regulated city. We conclude that this outpouring of imaginative local reactions to Golden Head constitutes a playful form of collective place-making that implicitly critiques the grandiose ambitions of official statues and affirms the oft-neglected ludic potential of urban space.

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