On the 6th August we met performance artist James Cunningham (http://igneous.org.au/ ) at Perrin Park for ten minutes of groundings before slowly descending down an entangled tree root bank into Toowong Creek.
Some of the walking party questioned its status as a creek. To read about the origins and current status of the creek see –
Gumbooted up, we stepped slowly into the creek. James had instructed us to walk slowly and silently. We were now in hidden territory, exploring a space concealed from everyday urban movements. The water was brown so there was uncertainty about depth and stability for placing gumbooted feet. The group strode on with commitment to the creek walk encounter until it went past gumboot line then most of the group opted to traverse along the Singapore daisy riddled bank. James and Walter were in the water as were Elaine and Ann. I knew James and Walter had done this before, but Elaine and Ann had joined the adventure from promotion of the event. I was struck by their capacity to feel the cold irkiness but do it anyway. My inner voice wrestled between “go on just do it” to “you’ll get your pants wet – it will be cold”. Comfort overruled. But I really wanted to be in the water – having the experience that I had been talking up for months—to be within the creek, rather than on the land—to physically engage with the posthumanist concern of being with bio-matter. After one or may be two sections of trampling weeded banks I re-entered the water as it seemed a manageable height, but then suddenly I took a step and the cold water gushed into my gum boot. Such a rush of sensation rapidly emanated my whole body. I yelped with shock. Elaine calmly offered: “ just go with it”. I breathed in and out and strode on. The water slowly rose up my legs. I hitched my skirt up around my waist, feeling the coldness of water permeate my legs gliding with water. Though I’d gone past the gumboot line, there was another line I was not prepared to go past. I looked ahead and saw six foot Walter waist deep and scaled back up on the bank, as had the rest of the group. We had planned to walk another hundred or so metres to where the creek meandered through a bat colony, but it was just too deep and cold for which we weren’t prepared.
It struck me how in our comfortable middle class lives we need to have bodily comfort and how limited our relinquishing of comfort is. Our humanist needs overrode posthumanist endeavours—to blur lines between matter. For only brief moments, as David observed, we became polluted with the creek. The motivation to clean and redress was strong, as was concern for the health and care of our waterways.
We went to the highest building with balconies for traditional custodian, Uncle Des Sandy, to talk through the lay of the land for welcome to walking on country. Unfortunately, at that point in time both balconies were occupied with white fella meetings. So Uncle Des flexibly worked with the space in the middle of the top floor, with large window views of mostly buildings and treetops. He invited us to connect with each other without words. Then shared that we were in the area that the Yuggera called Toowong after a species of cuckoo who is the totem for the area. Uncle Des explained that the Brisbane river that we stood near was not named because many tribes lived along the length of it. Uncle Des meandered us up to the mouth of the river sharing Yuggera language names and stories and cultural significance along the way. Then he spoke Yuggera language to welcome us to country—the sound of this ancient rare language permeated my body to my bones. Such a privilege to have Elder Uncle Des share language and culture to deepen our connection to place.
After lunch, Andrew Hickey shared the proposition of gopro, heart monitor and gps mapped walks producing a trilogy of data to ponder, especially when used to map detournements as defined by Lefebvre. We then set off to walk UQ campus to experiment with detournements. We lay face down on the grass of the great court, offered to spice up a wedding party’s photo shoot, walked backwards up stairs then backwards down again, spied in on physics labs, curiously explored the physics department’s post grad student tea room, reversed a bush turkey mulch trail in turkey mode, honoured a turkey and her mound, and mused over the myriad of coats of arms (mushrooms? beavers?) in the cloisters.
The data gathered from this walk can be viewed on request. Collectively, we explored possibilities for interrogating and playing with such quantifiable data with ethnographic sensibilities.
We gathered in the foyer of the UQ Art Museum, where artist Lenine Bourke shared a promo of The Walking Neighbourhood hosted by children (http://thewalkingneighbourhood.com.au/) at the Sydney Opera House, in which this elite arts space is unsettled by sixteen year olds wandering the alcoves and sharing their art forms. We then strolled around UQ campus auditorily accompanied by Hayden (one of the walk hosts from the Sydney Opera House walks) telling us his life stories, such as the time his cousin broke his bass guitar and when a chicken got stuck in a trombone at the opera House. Lenine invited us to share with a partner the first song we recall ever listening to and what we listen to when blue, just as Hayden invites his audience to share when touring the Sydney Opera House. At various stops along the walk, Lenine shared anecdotes from various iterations of The Walking Neighbourhood hosted by children, that demonstrate how children’s ideas are supported and negotiated in adult centric public spaces.
In closing, we enhanced our sensory engagement with space by walking bare foot on the lawn in front of the UQ Art Museum to discover that it was quite damp as moisture oozed between our toes.
The walk was designed to give walkers a taste of The Walking Neighbourhood hosted by children project vicariously. We gathered on the grass and shared what the walk made us notice, feel and ponder – opening new awarenesses just as the child led walks of The Walking Neighbourhood do.