Flaneuse Fox and Croissant the turtle.
I introduced the Flaneuse Fox to Melbourne city, playing on Francis Alys’s work, The Nightwatch. In this work Francis Alys lets loose a fox in the London Portrait Gallery at night and uses the gallery's surveillance cameras to record the fox's movements. In my work the agency has shifted from a fox under surveillance to one doing the watching.
The flaneuse fox … part fox /part human, time travelling, keen observer and detective… is investigating the kinds of spaces women had access to and those from which they were barred and exploring what it might mean today to be a female flaneuse in contemporary Melbourne.
In this series of incursions I am making a retrospective claim to public space on behalf of the women who were excluded from this space at the time of modernity.
The art work is made up of incursions where the flaneuse fox and her turtle are out walking in public space, a mini video documentary on the flaneuse fox and what she has been investigating hosted by the Melbourne city tourist guide, and a zine that she handed out as part of the Melbourne Puppetry Festival at La Mama theatre in 2017.
Flaneuse Fox and Croissant in their incursions investigated some historical aspects of Melbourne city through a feminist lens.
At the Welsh Church on Latrobe st, there is a plaque that commemorates Dr Emma Constance Stone. Here, she set up the first women and children's out patients medical dispensary in 1896. Dr Stone was the first woman to register with the Medical Board of Victoria in 1890. As women were not allowed to study medicine at the University of Melbourne at the time, she travelled to the US and Canada to get her degree. She eventually went on to found the Queen Victoria Hospital for women and children. Flaneuse Fox goes in search of a possible statue that might commemorate Dr Stone but only encounters a predominance of male memorial statues within the city.
Here, Flaneuse Fox is at the site of the first female public toilets in Melbourne city in Russel St. Female public toilets appeared in 1902 with the men’s public urinals tellingly existing in the city from 1856. This absence of public toilets for women speaks of the inaccessibility of public space for women at the time of modernity in Melbourne. As noted in my research on the flaneuse, women were essentially relegated to the private sphere. The installation of female public toilets in the city can be seen as a representation of the significant social change occurring at the time in Australia. It was at this time that women got the right to vote in 1902.
The site has a public sculpture on it by Chris Reynolds' ‘A History Apparatus - Vessel, Craft and Beacon’ and was conceived as part of the National Metal Industry Sculpture Project. Flaneuse Fox wonders if this is a lost opportunity for the site? Where is the female voice to this story?
Here, Flaneuse Fox is at the site of The Great Petition, by Susan Hewitt and Penelope Lee, 2008 celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Right for women to vote in Victoria.
The commemorative plaque that the sculptural form rests on, speaks of “the individual and collective efforts of Victorian women and their fortitude in claiming the right to vote.” The reality is that the right to vote for women was not claimed for all women…only the ‘settler women’.
I am interested in this problematic space as a feminist. Acknowledging the great work of the suffragettes but at the same time acknowledging that the right to vote for an Aboriginal woman was not claimed until 1962. In fact, it was not until 1965 in Queensland.
The character of the flaneuse fox in being part fox is positioned as an introduced species to indigenous Australia. By positioning myself /the artist as part fox I am attempting to acknowledge my position as a settler/ coloniser / introduced species as opposed to the original custodians of the land. It is from this space I investigate and explore.