Six Melbourne writers have shared their experience and knowledge of places of personal, professional and cultural significance in a series of new audio walking tours to be released this week as part of ACCA’s long-term project Who’s Afraid of Public Space?
In the middle of the recent COVID-related lockdown, ACCA invited writers Idil Ali, Timmah Ball, Tony Birch, Sophie Cunningham, Eleanor Jackson and Christos Tsiolkas to develop a narrative response to an area of the city that held a particular interest to them. The result is Six Walks, a series of podcasts released this week to coincide with the easing of restrictions in Melbourne.
Continuing the rich history of artists, writers and thinkers engaging with, describing and depicting the various pleasures of walking, the series was conceived and commissioned at a time when walking was one of the few freedoms afforded to those living in Melbourne.
Various paths and sites are explored – from the Birrarung to Royal Park, regal cinemas to abandoned military defence force bases, whilst writers tackle a range of subjects and concerns, including public housing, motherhood, colonisation, migration, gentrification, restoration, surveillance, resilience, leisure and pleasure.
ACCA Senior Curator Annika Kristensen said the walks encourage a renewed interest in our natural and urban environments – and to the narratives, knowledge and histories latent within them – as we come out of lockdown.
“In following the writers’ words, walking becomes a form not only of art and literature, but of thinking, observing, research, remembering, poetry, protest, mapping and making. What is revealed is a complex portrait of Melbourne as a city that is constructed from diverse, diverging and overlapping cultural, social, political, economic and historical paths,” Kristensen said.
The Six Walks series includes:
Episode 1: Tony Birch on the Birrarung
Bestselling author Tony Birch walks a section of the Birrarung (Yarra) river from the Children’s Farm at Collingwood to the Fairfield ‘pipe-bridge’ and surrounding country of the Wurundjeri People of the greater Kulin Nation, exploring the geological history, and the cultural and spiritual significance of this ancient waterway.
Episode 2: Sophie Cunningham on Royal Park
Author, academic and publisher Sophie Cunningham takes a walk through Royal Park, from the Burke and Wills Monument though to the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens to the city’s newest wetlands: Tyrin Warren Tam-boore (Bellbird Waterhole), reflecting on the area’s role as a green fortress around the city as a way of displacing the Wurundjeri people from significant lands whilst also reading from her acclaimed collection of essays, City of Trees.
Episode 3: Eleanor Jackson on art, motherhood and taking up space in the Melbourne Arts Precinct
Filipino Australian poet, performer and arts producer Eleanor Jackson uses Melbourne’s galleries, parks, libraries and streets in ways not always anticipated, to consider the ways in which mothers and caretakers occupy public space, blurring and reinforcing conventional understandings of mothering.
Episode 4: Idil Ali on the Carlton Housing Estate
Storyteller and proud Somali woman, Idil Ali, explores ten years of gentrification at the Carlton Housing Estate, and its effect on herself and her community, and the memories buried underneath an updated infrastructure.
Episode 5: Timmah Ball on exploring the Maribyrnong
Timmah Ball walks around the periphery of hidden parkland along the Maribyrnong, a 128-hectare site formerly occupied by the Australian Defence Force and now vacant as government planners and private developers speculate its future use. Timmah, a non-fiction writer, researcher and creative practitioner of Ballardong Noongar heritage, explores the colonial history of the area, and asks what future can we imagine for the site.
Episode 6: Christos Tsiolkas on silver screens
Novelist, playwright, scriptwriter and essayist Christos Tsiolkas walks through the laneways, streets and arcades of Melbourne’s CBD, recounting memories of early childhood trips to the cinema with his parents, teenage escapes from the suburbs again to city cinemas, and his own discovery of secret quarters and spaces held within these magical spaces of dreaming.
Six Walks is released in the lead-up to the forthcoming exhibition and research project Who’s Afraid of Public Space?, which will open at ACCA in the summer of 2021-22. Continuing ACCA’s series of Big Picture exhibitions, Who’s Afraid of Public Space? explores the role of public culture, the contested nature of public space, and the character and composition of public life itself, engaging with contemporary art and cultural practices to consider critical ideas as to what constitutes public culture and to ask, who might it be for?
Six Walks has been conceived to be listened to in-situ, with headphones on a personal mobile device. Maps, directions and access notes are included with each walk to assist with orientation. ACCA reminds participants to be aware of their surroundings and to adhere to road safety guidelines at all times. Recorded in a podcast format, Six Walks can also be listened to from anywhere and at anytime. Text versions of each walk are also available for download.
Six Walks will be available online from Wednesday, 25 November 2020, be sure to see ACCA's website here for more info, the audio and text versions of each episode!
ACCA acknowledges the support of Creative Victoria in the development of the Six Walks series.
Dates: from Wednesday 25 November 2020
Location: Various locations in Melbourne including the Birrarung/Yarra, Royal Park, Melbourne Arts Precinct, Carlton Housing Estate, Maribyrnong, and laneways in the CBD
Gallery location: 111 Sturt Street, Southbank VIC 3006