Front Beach, Back Beach
An ambitious public art project bringing together the diverse communities, cultures and landscapes of the Mornington Peninsula.
Co-conceived by Public Art Commission (PAC) and Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (MPRG), FBBB identified fifteen locations/contexts across 723 square kilometres that would create a unique set of conditions for artistic response. Over four weekends in November 2022, this scattered-site event featured the work of eighteen local and national artists/collectives responding to hidden and overlooked histories of national significance that channel our collective past and future. With a strong focus on creating new opportunities for community engagement, artists worked with targeted community groups and demographics in multiple ways, including research, co-production, participation and performance.
These stories begin with the landscape, and Traditional Owners, thousands of years ago, when Monmar became a sacred women’s place used for birthing, ceremony and initiation. William Buckley’s escape from the first official European settlement in 1802 is a tale of first contact, and survival, while few people realise that the location of the first shots fired in both World Wars was from Point Nepean (Monmar). National myths, conspiracy and modern political history were further shaped at Monmar, at Cheviot Beach, the site of Harold Holt’s disappearance in 1969, while other sites at Coolart Wetlands, Mt Martha Cove, Wonga (Arthurs Seat), Rosebud foreshore and Flinders pier and paragliding ramp, offer artists, performers and audiences the opportunity to explore the Peninsula from multiple perspectives - cultural, environmental, political, class, and gender. FBBB employed experimental creative practices as a conduit for local, regional and national audiences to learn more about the past, and at the same time reflect and act on issues that will impact on future generations like climate change, sustainable land-use, public health, and our relations with each other. Artists developed responses that are playful, reflective, critical, subtle and perhaps sublime but all focused on a unique and potentially overlooked aspect of place.
FBBB is part road trip, part curatorial experiment and part exploration of how contemporary art in the public sphere can offer new and unique understandings of people, locale and time. A journey that firmly rewarded the intrepid, FBBB encompassed the expanse of the Peninsula with all works reachable by car and accessible by foot. While for some Front Beach Back Beach offered a trip down memory lane to popular Peninsula landmarks, for others, this journey offered compelling insights into a region that has dramatically shaped Australian identities and mythologies.
Documentation and remnants of the fifteen site-specific events are currently being exhibited at MPRG until 19 February, 2023.