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The Fox and the Many Cities

On my way to Fitzroy one night, I saw confused a fox looking out over the back fence of Parliament at all the traffic on MacArthur Street. I understood why the fox looked confused it was just after a daylight saving started and the fox had not adjusted its clock.

guerilla territory - baby guerilla

Wandering the city, the feeling of knowing the city, the sense of familiarity leads to ideas of possession. It is not my city, I am aware that I share it. There are many cities within the city, the urban foxes and all the other animals in the urban environment live in a different city. Different inhabitants have different paths through the city and different uses for the spaces in it.

As Alison Young in her book Street Art, Public City points out that there are multiple cities: the tangible, the “kaleidoscope of images, which jointly and singly communicate the identity of the space as ‘urban’” (p.41), the city as site of cultural production and the legal architecture. “Legal architecture produces a certain conceptualisation of urban space: the ‘legislated city” as space in which a particular kind of experience is encapsulated and produced through the regulation of space, temporalities and behaviours. Within the legislated city, citizens experiences are framed by discourses of cartography, planning, criminal law, municipal regulations and civility. The legislated city has mappability, it has aspirational qualities expressed through social policies, statutes, local laws and strategic plans.” (p.41)

There are of course gaps in the map of legislated city; temporary autonomous zones as described by Hakim Bay The Temporary Autonomous Zone, from large areas like Christiania in Copenhagen to smaller anarchic areas. The CCTV, the police and the state cannot control all the areas. And there are always gaps in timing of the patrol, time for the urban foxes and other unofficial inhabitants.

A modern city requires an after hours city whatever the business hours. The after hours city reminds us that there are different forms of life. The Waiter’s Restaurant in Meyers Place, started as a place for Italian waiters and other hospitality workers to have somewhere to eat after hours.

At the end of nineteenth centuryMelbourne had trams running up St. Kilda Road twenty-four hours a day. There are plans for a return to twenty-four hour public transport after a century of limited hours.

For the inhabitants the city, including the fox, their city is made of routes, hubs, landmarks and other esoteric and eccentric features. Esoteric features are known only to the insiders, vinyl record fans will have a mental map of the stores that still stock them and what routes to take to get there.

Platform Degraves St Underpass

Routes are paths that are common to a number of people but it only takes as few as 15 people to make a recognisable path.  I find myself falling into familiar routes around the city and forgetting that the artist run space, Platform is no more and there is just empty vitrines in the Degraves Street underpass to Flinders Street Station.  When I started blogging I would often write about the exhibitions at Platform and I have neglected to note the end of this unusual artist run space.

The fox listened politely to my advice about the dangers of cross the road at this time and changing it clock for daylight saving. It then retreated behind the fence and disappeared from my view.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

7 responses to “The Fox and the Many Cities

  • lisj63

    What a lovely reflective piece. Is that a Baby Guerilla paste up in the first image?

  • Stef

    Great post Mark. My interest of late has been aligned: the liminal places where the ever-restless urban meets the remnants of older, pre-existing environments. Reserves and traces of bushland, places where the wild and the dark inhabit, as well as as the offcasts of urban life… refuse, ruins and violent untold histories among the restful presence of the gum trees. BTW I was in ‘guerilla territory’ yesterday – the Guilford Lane precinct, such a remarkable island of Victorian brick stables amongst the skyscrapers.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Thanks Stef, this all is starting to remind me of my father’s research into animal territories. The Guilford Lane precinct is a very interesting area for ghost signs, urban history, vertical gardens (unfortunately no longer there), art galleries… The last time I was there was to go to Arts Hub.

  • James

    Thanks for the post, Mark! What a shame “platform” has ended. Where can I find out more about the history of this, including its disappearance? How sad! The tunnel is still one of the most charming places in Melbourne, though.

  • Mark Holsworth

    It is a shame that Platform has ended (after 23 years) and hasn’t been replaced with anything. For more information about Platform see their website http://www.platform.org.au and also Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platform_artists_group

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