Massive tourist confusion at Cottesloe Beach (Sculptures by the Sea 2014)


Every year Cottesloe Beach plays host to Sculptures by the Sea, attracting over 200,000 visitors. As usual several of the pieces left me pondering ideas that might, just might, have fallen outside the artists original intension, but isn’t that what art’s supposed to do? I’ll be presenting some of these pieces over the coming weeks. The first reminded me about the critical rules tourists need to remember when swimming at an Australian beach, particularly Cottesloe Beach in March.

Thanks to Sculpture by the Sea

Rules like …

  1. Thongs are a must to protect your feet from the blisteringly hot white sand (Note: Rule 1 must be read in conjunction with Rule 2)
  2. Thongs are the local name for flip, flops, or jandals. They are not to be confused with the material kind of thong, which should only we seen adorning six foot two, spindly female models … and maybe Tatum Channing … or so I’m told.
  3. Dolphins are not the only fish with fins.
  4. Lifesavers are not just to look at. No honestly it’s true. If they ask you to get out of the water it’s best to heed their advice, especially if it’s delivered in a high pitched, high volume voice, accompanied with frantic arm waving, and the word now!
  5. Always swim between the flags.

Perhaps you can already sense my concern.

When I saw this piece from US artist, Carl Billingsley I panicked pondering how Cottesloe Council could have allowed this into the exhibition. Surely it would generate mass confusion amongst tourists. A sequence played out in my head …

I could imagine an International tour bus pulling up, it’s occupants disembarking. Chatting amongst themselves and pointing towards the shore, worry lines forming on each brow.

Sculpture by the Sea 2014 © The Ponder Room


‘Stacey, I thought you said we had to stay between the red and yellow flags?’ an elderly group member asked the tour guide.

‘Yes that’s true,’ beamed Stacey, secretly praising herself for conveying the correct information.

‘But ..?’

No buts about it. In Australia you must stay between the red and yellow flags at all times,’ Stacey demanded. 

Baffled the group inched its way down the beach, their voices increasingly infused with frustration.  

‘Tourists are weird,’ thought Stacey, ‘I’d jump at the chance to get out of this uniform and swim in the Indian Ocean.’ 

One by one the tourists scurried about securing a spot in the small spaces between the red and yellow flags that Carl had strategically positioned several days earlier.

Australians are weird,’ declared the elder tourist. The group nodded as one.

Sculpture by the Sea ends March 24th, but the memories and ponderings linger.


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