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Secret solved: Docklands’ apocalyptic public art

Secret solved: Docklands’ apocalyptic public art

Last month we asked readers to help us solve a Docklands secret: why 757 Bourke St is donned with a big, Vegas-styled “ON THE BEACH” sign.

Responses have been enlightening.

Trish Boal wrote in to ask if it was a reference to the Nevil Shute novel On the Beach: “Would be interested to know if the building had any link to Nevil Shute. He may have lived at or near the site, or wrote the novel there? Movies were made based on the novel in 1959 and 2000.”

Nevil Shute died in 1960, so it’s unlikely he ever visited the actual building, but the reference is on the right track.

Trish included the Wikipedia extract: “On the Beach is a 1957 post-apocalyptic novel written by British author Nevil Shute after he emigrated to Australia. The novel details the experiences of a mixed group of people in Melbourne as they await the arrival of deadly radiation spreading towards them from the northern hemisphere, following a nuclear war a year previously. As the radiation approaches, each person deals with impending death differently.”

Nicholas Gerver wrote in and directed us to a page on a travel website:

“On The Beach by Melbourne artist Janet Burchill was erected in 2007. The artwork references Nevil Shute’s novel about the aftermath of nuclear catastrophe during World War Three. The film adaptation was shot around the Melbourne area in 1959.”

“At the time the lead actress, Ava Gardner, [apocryphally] commented that Melbourne was an appropriate place to film a movie about the end of the world. During this time Docklands was a thriving port, which is not necessarily picturesque, causing this opinion.”

The film also starred Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck and Anthony Perkins.

“The artwork is located in this area because it symbolises the end of the world setting that occurred in Docklands after the decline of industry in the area and before its redevelopment. The artwork uses a neon medium symbolising the area coming back to life.”

And Rose Mercer wrote in to add that original builders in Docklands’ redevelopment were required to erect a piece of street/public art.

Thanks everyone!

Balance

Balance

May 4th, 2022 - Abby Crawford
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