In Passing is a participatory community art project that will bring diverse groups of women together in the suburbs of Coburg and Coburg North to highlight and unpack concerns and experiences around gender, power and public space. In Passing will involve over 100 women participating across the twenty ‘salon’ events to examine their day-to-day experience of public space using the familiar and non-threatening form of a pass-the-parcel game.
While the issue of violent attacks against women often takes centre stage in the media, this project focuses on the constant undercurrent of gendered power plays that colour our everyday experiences of public spaces. From the lewd comments from men in passing cars, to offensive graffiti that lines our alleyways, to the omnipresent sexualised images of women plastered on bus shelters, these occurrences and images have subtle yet constant effects on our psychology. They act as ever present reminders that we can’t get too comfortable in our public streets, that public space isn’t women’s space. While such instances are considered too trivial to feature in the media or social commentary, they sit on the same spectrum as the more physical and violent acts against women in public space. They affect how we feel on our streets everyday.
In Passing salons, to be hosted in lounge rooms and parks across Coburg and Coburg North, will create opportunities for women to reflect on their day-to-day experiences of public space in a light-hearted, constructive and forward-looking manner through a series of facilitated activities. At the same time, by creating opportunities to connect with neighbours by inviting them to the salons, the sense of community and care will be strengthened across the suburb.
A pilot high school In Passing salon will also occur alongside the Coburg and Coburg North salons following interest from school counsellors and gender studies teachers.
The Brunswick, Coburg and high school iterations of In Passing can be considered the beginnings of a much wider participatory community art project seeking to highlight and challenge gender inequalities inherent in our cultural norms, and explore ways that women can reclaim our public space.
In Passing is a project developed by participatory artist and human ecologist, Asha Bee Abraham. This project is being developed in partnership with Big hART, and is supported by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria and by Moreland City Council.
Many thanks to Groupwork Institute‘s Steve Ray for facilitation guidance, and to Gabrielle de Vietri, The Seam, Julie Monro-Allison, Marc Martin and Jodee Mundy for artistic guidance and support in the development of In Passing. And huge thanks to all the salonniéres, participants & supporters of In Passing Brunswick in 2013.