My walking is about the exploration of place. Walking is an active process that can become a mind walk – I started considering landscape as that which can be created in the mind. The act of walking has to lead to repeated work in the studio – it started with looking into my collecting of found things as fragments whilst walking during the first part of this course where the first assignment was about a daily practice. Explorative making of imprints and embodied drawing with ink around tracing and mapping was critical in this relationship I had to make between theoretical studies and making a body of work.
Below are images of work during the course.
Walking took me to meet places between the self and place. I could research areas such as landscape architecture, literature, cultural geography and history, ecology and new materialism as well as materiality. I contemplated the ideas of materiality and the Rhizome thinking (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theoretical concept of the Rhizome, 1983) which I believe helped me to understand ontology, connectivity, and experiences. A rhizome is taken from botany with a root system that grows horizontally across, alongside, and as part of other matter — this helped me to understand the multiplicity of any becoming (things, plants, animals, humans). I see it as an ontology of all things – materiality was mostly seen by emphasizing humanness over thingness, but when we look at the materiality of things we see these connections, or networks, or assemblages presenting in how we talk and think about the art-making process.
During this course and work done, questions have started to arise which I could consider as material work. On a deeply personal level, I can share that of my earliest memories of a recurring dream, which is about a walk with my parents along a familiar beach (we continue to try and spend summer holidays in that area, as my parents and extended family has beach houses there) In this dream I get lost between a crowd of people. My fondest memories are about walking hikes with my grandfather in the hills around their home in a small town in the Overberg area, Western Cape, South Africa. As an adult, I have used this memory as my safe place when I ever felt the need to ground myself. Here I spent many days following trails, running after butterflies, sunbathing on rocks, swimming in pools, or visiting old graveyards on the farms and listening to my granddad’s recollections of stories about this community.
My current walking practice is sometimes unidirectional, irregular, or repetitive. I mostly use an App that uses GPS location where I am able to record a walk in terms of date, time, and duration as well as take photos or video images. (Strava image below) I have contemplated using these measurements in my work and will continue to develop these ideas. Later in the project, I used soundscapes during my walks. I am now starting to consider these GPS maps as ‘found object’s which I utilize to ‘draw’ place.
I discovered many questions about what I am documenting in my work when I consider place – is it an exploration to help better understand myself and others? Do I think of different thoughts in different landscapes? Do I walk in my imagination or even in my dreams? Why do I prefer to walk intuitively? Why do I prefer to walk alone? I learned in my making when considering theory on making that I prefer to explore organic patterns and repetitive works as outcomes. It is important to continue to allow for space within uncertain places of making, as I learn to explore materials and blurriness of a complex narrative between place and myself. In a way walking took me to look at my relationship with making and theory – I attempt to find a continuation. I would like to see the everyday experience as my work practice. I also think my walking became my way of being visible and seeing myself as taking up public space and take the liberties to create my own landscapes. I believe this Parallel Project opened an opportunity for me to challenge Romantic approaches to walking by applying critical thought and look at alternative perspectives on embodiment and experience of place through an experimental art-making process.
In a written conversation with a fellow student on the writing of Barthes when we considered art as a social practice being temporal, that it ‘happens’ in a space of shared experience in order to gain understanding and knowledge. We considered that there are no authors-only participants in an aesthetic relationship and that understanding can be something without verbal interpretation – a felt sense. (Learning blog during September 2020)
I made online connections with walking groups and valuable learning came recently from looking at The Walking Lab. According to their viewpoint on Critical place Research it moves beyond static understandings of place: they see it mostly concerned with how place is entwined with the social, material, cultural, and political dimensions of diverse human bodies, experiences, and communities. So place is understood as intimately tied to issues of race, gender, capitalism, history, and colonization. I feel that these insights have been opened up to me through the work I produced during the course. Walking has brought me closer to looking at place as a relationship between humans and nonhuman. It has also confronted me to be accountable and honest in my work with regards to Indigenous knowledge and powers of sovereignty when it comes to use/access and ownership of land: such as to consider geo-social formations of the other, to find and react to affective subjectivities, and emphasize movement as a way of knowing. I see possibilities to look at walking as art to be accountable to the ethics and politics of critical walking methodologies. I would like to think that this research was a look into contemporary walking as a combination of bodily movement with other creative practices that can or might include, photography, drawing, the technology of GPS enabled mapping, use of senses, performance as well as conceptual art practices. I have but barely touched certain parts of the possibilities.
Viewing the PP as part of a process of making and allowing for material and research exploring helped me to view failures as learning and not judge it negatively. I am open to reading but need to show learning in these explorations clearly. I am currently reading The Radicant, by Nicholas Bourriaud. He discusses artists who do not want visible traces of an artwork left behind and how this is a challenge to the art world – who has an ‘institutional character becoming indistinguishable from archiving’ (2009, 75). He asserts that there are new types of contracts concluded between a works’ physical and information duration – art is drawing new strength from its current unstable environment and giving rise to what he says could be described at a ‘precarious aesthetic regime’. He refers to the materials Kurt Schwitters used to fill multiple volumes and the Fluxus movement who’valorized everyday life against its capture by artistic means and introduced a poetic of the next nothing. In this reading I learn that I could look to walking as a neautral place to discuss: Where are you going to? Is it also about searching the unknown and being more flexible?
Looking back over the research I did on walking as art I do feel it is necessary to move to questions such as
Does walking art need to be preserved, or if the walking itself is the art, does it make sense at all to register it?
These thoughts have been part of group discussions in online workshops. Below is a short summary of a recent workshop.
Comments on documenting walking after the workshop with WAC on a walking project called Walking as question,which happened in Prespa, Greece (April 2021)
This online event was useful as the participants were artists, filmmakers, postgraduate students, university academics with diverse theoretical and critical opinions about documenting walking, sharing practices, and processes; it is an open conversation. Provocation/impression was presented around the previous Prespa walk, 2019. Documenting the event systematically was a pillar of this work, but always keeping in mind that walking by its nature is something that passes by, is ephemeral. General concepts about recording artwork were considered. A video artist shared her experience and mostly concerns to stay true to the events when considering editing her work and keep it raw. Editing is a personal view/aesthetics. Her opinion was that a new art piece was created by doing this video documenting. She also felt that another part of the documentation was done by the participants who chose ‘found items’ and carried it along. A total of 40 videos was eventually created after this performance, as well as a book. A filmmaker discussed how he looked at this performance by capturing how the artists did the walk – a documentary or place and time.
When the discussion opened up Geert Vermeire a walking artist/poet/academic who also studied music, but who does not consider documenting his work, explained his view on walking, which he sees as music, being a medium to experience the moment of walking, of doing it. It was compared by another participant to Plato’s cave -the walking is a unique experience, and documentation is like watching shadows on the wall. Geert sees the difference of being in reality itself – something which he believes cannot be represented. (Vermeire manages the Milena principle, an interdisciplinary art platform centered around ecology and science. His practice is specifically interested in walking as a creative instrument, unfolding around human connections, text, and space, resulting in works of arts, site-specific interventions, locative media, and creative walks engaging with both the landscape and those walking through it. www.themilena.com). Hamish Fulton’s work was discussed after I posed a question with regards to experience to Geert Vermeire who do not document his work. It is a work of art, walks is the last action that is free of all materialism and gives us moments and feelings of being free. Jeremy Hastings who use photography and stories to document his walks and journeys shared the ideas of Vermeire. On his website I read that he is “coming from a deep sense and understanding of ecology as well as environmental activism, he has worked in creative arts for over forty years interpreting and questioning place, ownership, and landscapes.”
Silent walks were also discussed -as a space to open up to what is around you. Kadinsky and spiritual ways of drawing as a line on a walk. It was thought that landscape was made by walking -the mind (thinking) creates the landscape (gives it a name). My thoughts went to thinking of walking as a landscape as something more interior, and Nature which is exterior, as also an experience of deeper meaning? Is it about how we project meaning onto Nature and Landscape? One could look at it as a type of psychology of landscape – how the landscape is perceived, experienced, and appreciated. I would think culturally shared meanings and images are what I came to be more aware of.
We were thinking about documentation as a form of translation – as becoming works of art. Jeremy Hastings felt strong about this -seeing it as a continuing process of translation. Other views around documenting are that it is only fragments of being there, doing it, and recording it – it is a process that contains decisions you make. Walking with participants is also different -now you have a collective memory. It was also asked if the body can be a documenting medium and how one can use GPS to record this.
A practical discussion was initiated by artist participant, Laura Reeder (see an image of a work by her below) who sees her work as etching space with maps and mazes, chalk drawing, and scratching through the surface -like with your feet, a rake, a stick. Afterward, I read the following on her website: “When nature and daily life align, it is possible to walk + draw + connect before the tide refreshes our time together.” I like how she describes herself as a cultivator.
by now I re-visit the work and ideas of Hamish Fulton and have asked myself if I found my voice in walking as well as consider the influence of work by feminist artists and new materialist theories. I believe it important to re-consider the work of Trinh T Minh-ha and contemplate: Is there a voice of an activist in my work? I am still interested in the ideas of in-betweenness of Karla Black and will continue to explore material work as more than a drawing, writing, or painting.
I would also like to question in which way I looked at walking or elaborated on the aesthetics of walking as an art practice. I believe that many of my drawings have the potential to develop into connected bodies of work.
Bourriaud, Nicholas, (2009) The Radicant, New York, Sternberg Press
Reeder, Laura, (2017)Artist bio, Cultivator, 2017 https://laurakreeder.com/artist/ accessed on 7 April 2021