Taking the turtle for a walk

By Rhonda Dredge

A figure walks through the city. She’s trying to feel her way into the spaces. She isn’t sure where she is heading. A flash of colour or an open door might lead her astray.

Bronwen Kamasz could be in a movie, one of those slow motion sequences in which the moments seem to go on forever.

The trouble is that the rest of the city is moving a lot faster. People stop and stare. 

“Some of the stares suggest destabilising discomfort in the viewer,” Bronwen said. She doesn’t mind. “I’m trying to create tiny little micro shifts in people’s experience of place.” 

The walk Bronwen is doing is part of a performance piece-come-research project called Taking the turtle for a walk in which she leads another person through the streets near her studio in the Nicholas Building.

She is slowly moving away from her roots in Perth to become a CBD local. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this in Perth. The stares would feel pointed and troublesome.” 

The aim is to inhabit the city in an intimate way. “The more time you spend in it in an everyday, quotidian way, the less you are able to inhabit it,” she says.

 Every time she does the walk she notices something different. The issue is not to look for difference but to be open to the discovery of new things.

In St Collins Lane she discovered a ceiling full of glitzy reflections that she’d never seen before, prompting her to acknowledge the importance of abstract ideas in her practice.

After doing a Masters course at the Victorian College of the Arts, she’s begun writing articles for an online dance magazine. She likes Walter Benjamin as a thinker because his descriptions of the arcades of Paris have political underpinnings.

Her own, most recent slow journey through the CBD began on the footpath in Flinders Lane where she hugged the left-hand side close to the buildings.

The first diversion was into Scott Alley, where she noticed some small, metal receptacles at ground level plastered with poison warnings, which she took to be there to control rats.

She crossed Flinders Lane at Centre Place then continued until turning right into an unnamed arcade, which leads through to a beautiful pair of brass doors on Collins St. 

A light show in St Collins Lane across the road was amazing as she ascended on an escalator, with rivers of light and a green galaxy of strangeness to meet her.

She followed the hand railing for a while, using her sense of touch to guide her. Large monumental forms hovered, shell-like, above her. The refracted roof was overwhelming.

After the here-I-am presence of this flamboyant architecture the street seemed dull and grey in comparison. Perhaps she got lost in a time warp. It took a couple of inviting shops on Little Collins to break her out.

Turning back towards Swanston St, she approached the Manchester Unity building from the back. This is where she looked most at ease, looking up as the light shone down from somewhere or other.

Soon, an historical setting with old brass letterboxes was enticing her down some stairs to a dead end where an automatic light lit up the marble. 

Back on Collins, she appreciated the overcast day but the temperature was dropping as she neared the end of the walk at the corner of Elizabeth. 

“Thousands of people were walking past us,” she said, as we settled for a conversation at a café she’d never seen before, “experiencing one place. It’s fractured with a million pieces at any moment.” •

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