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Just keep walking

A city’s movements are informed by tension, friction and purpose. The intoxicating flow of lights and abrupt sounds compete for attention to form the city’s dense canopy. For the pedestrian below, the abrasive nature of work and the resistance to stillness feeds the hovering metropolis. On the city floor, the protester, the homeless, the affluent, the eccentric and those who want and don’t want to fit in, shape the expendable and fluid form of the city.

Just Keep Walking was commissioned by the Museum of Art, Utah, USA for the exhibition Outside Inside: Fragments in Place (2004). Developed over a 12 month period, this project involved working alongside Mormon Missionaries based in Sydney, Australia.

This project explores the physical and social dynamics between the Mormon missionary and the passer-by. The city of Sydney and its familiar thoroughfares informs the ideas, materials and visual current of this installation. On Sydney streets, Mormon missionaries are the most prominent and identifiable representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Missionary elders are often seen working in particular areas of the inner city. Major walkways such as George Street, Hyde Park and Chinatown draw a noticeably stronger missionary presence. Physically, the ever evolving assemblage of LDS missionaries has become a feature within Sydney’s public life. Visually, their uniform and collective presence creates a constellation affect upon the city’s sprawled pavements.

While working in the field, missionaries are encouraged to strike-up a natural conversation but be confident in their conviction. Operating against the grain of pedestrian traffic, the missionary’s morale is tested by frequent rejection. Avoiding eye contact, the crossing of paths and voicing a polite ‘no thanks I’m not interested’ are all examples of the often awkward relationship between the Mormon missionary and the passer-by. Some people react with aggression or contempt, but it is the more common and subtle approaches to aversion that is examined in this work.