Promenade- Friskis Fillis
I’m standing at the tram stop on the corner of Collins and Corporation in Docklands staring at the poster for Promenade. It shows a pair of patent Mary-Janes with fuschia tights. These shoes are not made for walking but that’s kind of the point. Promenade is a sound walk created by Friskis Fillis (Leanne Hall, Emah Fox and Amy Tsilemanis) for Melbourne Fringe’s Uncommon Places. Through media voices, vox pops and satirical advertisements it explores the way women encounter public space. To participate you download the audio, locate yourself, plug in and await instructions. You’re also invited to take photos of your shoes and Instagram them #everyshoetellsastory. (Later I’ll reimagine the lone stiletto of Collins Plaza as a poignant artefact of an increasingly alienated society.)
In Victorian times, the ‘promenade’ was one’s daily constitutional, women could stroll in public without male escorts. Times have changed - or maybe they just look like they have. My tram ride down to Docklands was peppered with headlines about the murder of Masa Vukotic in a Doncaster park last year. At the time, a police chief warned women not to be alone in parks. Promenade takes this line of thinking to Orwellian proportions.
Cities with their infinite layers can be seen as palimpsests of human experience, but Docklands seems to have no past and no centre. With its unfinished air, and its streets that are either too full or too empty, it is a site made for wrong-place-wrong-time narratives. I can’t help reflecting on my own as the Promenade soundscape unfolds. I walk and think and perky voices advertise holographic companions and surgical social-safety enhancements; a matriarch gives advice on how to fashion weaponry from the contents of the average handbag.
Promenade is spiky and playful. It messes with place, subverts landmarks and provides new purposes for public art. It works as a response to society, and as a potential tool for social change. What if everyone listened to it? What if all the workmen around me were sent to Promenade on their lunch-break, or the clutch of schoolboys playing soccer on the lawn outside the library? My walk lasted around half an hour. My inner Harriet The Spy was thrilled to be walking around being secretly subversive. On the grassy knoll, I studied the people around me - most of whom were wearing earplugs - and wondered if they were listening to what I was listening to. I wanted the walk to end at a bar where we could all down headphones and talk about our feelings. Instead, I mosied back to the city, falling in with the stream of commuters, all of us plugged in, just not to each other.
Promenade - Friskis Fillis