Fremantle Deserves Respect

Biennale Trouble - Again


above: tranquil river interface (top photo), Biennale concrete art (next 2 photos), examples of damaged signs.

The public deserves high quality public art in a world famous town like Fremantle. 

Fremantle Council has not provided that. Endless damaged information signs and installations supposed to tell the stories and history of Fremantle litter each suburb, and stolen or damaged public art works are not attended to.  The percent for art program has been a colossal failure. Cancel culture has seen the removal or attempted removal of Fremantle’s history. Public Art in Fremantle is in crisis,  and The Fremantle Society is still waiting for answers to questions raised on these issues in April. 

Four years ago the Fremantle Biennale provided Felice Varini with $150,000 for installing yellow lines down High Street in Fremantle's heritage heart. The lines provided a quirky and appealing disruptive view for a few seconds to many viewers, though others found it disrespectful to the heritage of the area. But the problem lay with the fact that the "temporary" art work was allowed to remain so long, costing ratepayers an additional $200,000 to clean the mess off the historic buildings. 

Now, in 2021, Biennale is desecrating an historic waterfront setting between the heritage traffic bridge and Stirling Bridge with permanent concrete art on the footpaths in what will be "perhaps Western Australia's  longest public art work".  East Fremantle Council has chipped in $25,000 for their share. The Biennale is supposed to provide temporary work for our pleasure, but because temporary paint could wash into the  river, the garish brightly coloured concrete installation will be permanent paint, lasting "up to 25 years". One local legend, Gordon Lee, a caretaker of that part of the river for 50 years, describes the Orange Path as "shocking".

NO Consultation

None of the residents in the area were consulted, and when they expressed outrage, they were told by organisers that the artwork is "designed to be disruptive... to make the audience feel uncomfortable." It is so disruptive, that when a confused cyclist falls off and sues the council, there needs to be a large contingency fund. The colours chosen are garish and totally disrespectful of the peaceful interface with the beautiful Swan River. One Biennale organiser admitted "he wouldn't want this left outside his house".

The theme of  this Biennale is to do with the river and its crossings, and includes the nonsensical assertion that C Y O'Connor died as a result of a curse put on him by Aborigines "just months before the completion of the Fremantle Harbour in 1903", when of course the harbour opened in 1897. Interestingly, not one historian or heritage expert has been engaged by the Biennale,  similar to Main Roads' total lack of respect for the history of the area when they did their bridge "consultation."
Biennale organisers have some innovative interesting ideas, but not  the  AC4CA (Australian Centre for Concrete Art) work, intended to be "socially and culturally significant." It choses a hugely significant and historic riverside location, but provides desecration and disrespect for that important place, turning the tranquil area into a garish overload in a tribute to one of their dead members,  making what one local calls  "a cheap circus." The concrete artwork should not be finished, and what has been already done should be removed now. Gallons of paint, "permanent" or "temporary" have no place alongside the river in a flood prone location.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

0409 223622


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