Public & Me Space.

by Alex from Maybe ( ) Together

I sit in public space.
Waiting for those brave & curious enough to approach me.
I offer an unexpected world within the grey landscape.
I chose to work in public space:
– as a claim to public space
– to reduce barriers of accessibility
– to interrupt routine and expectations
– to gift and interact with strangers

Yesterday this all was rocked. And I’m confused on many levels, as to where I am naive, defiantly optimistic, overly critical, compromising or lacking resilience.

Throughout the day, there was a man loitering near by. He had a conversation with me earlier in the day. He was concerned about my caravan as he felt that it was scary and would make people “sick” being in there.
He was quite sick himself. He had cancer. And wanted to die. Really wanted to. And muttered this many times during the day..
“Melbourne is the worst city in the world. It’s poisonous. Why can’t I work? I have to rob to eat.”
Do you go to the soup kitchen?
“Would you eat soup and pies five days old? It’s poison.”
Have you been to the shelter?
“I don’t want to be around the junkies. They scare me.”
“I had an operation. They fucked up my stomach. I have cancer. I didn’t ask them to cut up my stomach, but they did.”
And when I say loitered, he was always within sight for 8 hours. Behind me. Down the street. Left. Right.
I felt he was harmless, but the same conversation muttered throughout the day wore me down. Mainly, for the sympathy I felt for him.
And I didn’t know how to help.
My little caravan felt pretty useless…

Then. Towards the end of the day another (assumed) homeless guy started talking to me about 20cm away from me, and started criticising me for wearing white. He tapped me on the breast and said “you shouldn’t wear white you know. You can see your…(whistle)…you know what i mean.” (I should point out here I was wearing 4 layers of white, including a white wool coat.)
He wouldn’t leave me alone.
I tried asking him to leave. To answer him with 1 word answers.
A male stranger walked up behind him and mouthed “are you ok?” at me, sticking around and helping me get rid of him. (oh god, there are some lovely people!)
Eventually he wandered off.

But so did my cloak of protectiveness. My defiant claim to space.
Was I stupid standing there by myself for an art project, without a back up friend to keep an eye out?
Was it the fact that he touched me that freaked me out?
Or that my skill/luck in avoiding those situations failed?
Or maybe I’m over-reacting and its just something that I should have expected, and deal with it.
And the man that stopped to help me, is that my back up plan: to rely on someone stopping, should it happen again?

Obviously, there are worse things that could have happenned. I just need to murmur the name Jill, and women stand up straighter, sadder, angrier.

Clarity of thoughts blurred.
Assistance to refine appreciated xx

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