The Urban Pollinators

MELBOURNE FRINGE FESTIVAL: Create your own journey through the streets of Fitzroy in a city-scale game of urban orienteering.
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The Urban Pollinators at this year’s at this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival mixes public art installations with a choose-your-own-adventure style walking tour of Fitzroy. A group of landscape architecture students from RMIT have used found materials to construct works and hidden them within the suburb’s numerous back lanes. As the organisers point out, Fitzroy is the oldest and most densely populated suburb of Melbourne and with its continuing development the amount of public space per capita is shrinking. In response to this the students have creatively explored issues of environmental impact, social cohesion and urban density in a variety of ways.

Starting at the window of Pollen Cafe on Brunswick Street, a large poster gives directions to the various works in order to start you off. The cafe provides an ‘Urban Pollinators kit’ – a pencil and paper – which is essential. At each site a placard gives the details of the work and the names of the student or students responsible for the work, together with a choice of directions to three other sites. Thus a ‘cross-pollination’ occurs as you make choices about which site to visit next and meander through the alleys and streets. The directions in the navigation system can be challenging but it’s all part of the fun of exploring the hidden corners of Fitzroy.

Issues of population density and urban intensification are dealt with in various ways, as the students were asked to explore the possibilities of public space. In Land of the Lanemites, Tom Beresford populates an alleyway with small clay figurines. They are differentiated by stencilled statements on their backs such as ‘I want justice’, ‘I have issues with you’ and ‘my head hurts’. In Living Spaces by Matthew Whitehead a green living room is set up in a lane below a block of flats. Complete with a grass covered armchair, an array of potted plants, and a television, the work explores the nature of public/private living spaces. Another installation, by Dayna Williams called Connecting People, Connecting Places, is an interactive jigsaw puzzle commenting on social cohesiveness within a diverse community.

As we meander through the streets on a beautiful spring day it becomes clear that the highlight of The Urban Pollinators is the journey. Rather than rushing to work or a coffee date, there was time to notice and enjoy the charms of Fitzroy itself, its architecture, history and character – so don’t worry if you get lost, it’s half the fun.

The Urban Pollinators, Fitzroy – various locations, until Sunday October 10.

Melbourne Fringe Festival, September 22 – October 10

Sama Hugo-Giali
About the Author
Sama Hugo-Giali is a Melbourne based arts writer. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Cinema Studies from the University of Sydney and a Masters in Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.