100. David Evans, ed., The Art of Walking: A Field Guide
The last book I summarized in this space was RoseLee Goldberg’s Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present. When I finished that book, I found myself wondering whether the best way to think about walking as an art practice is to think of it as a performance. Some walking artists—Richard Long, for example—don’t consider their walks to be performative (Long, Selected Statements and Interviews 67). Perhaps, I thought, walking ought to be considered a theme, or even an interdisciplinary methodology, rather than tying it to a specific art form, such as performance.
David Evan’s collection of documentation of many different walking-art projects confirms that hunch, I think. The work collected in this book covers a wide range of different art forms: performance (both private and public): Marina Abramović and Ulay’s The Lovers—The Great Wall Walk, 1988; Susan Stockwell’s Taking a Line for a Walk, 2003; Francis Alÿs’s The Green Line, 2004; Franko B.’s I Miss You, 2000; Regina José Gallindo’s Who Can Erase The Traces, 2003; Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Marches, 2008-2009; Rut Blees Luxemburg’s Chance Encounters, Broadgate, 1995; Sophy Rickett’s Old Street, Vauxhall Bridge, and Silvertown, all 1995; Simon Faithfull’s 0°00 Nagivation, 2008; Simon Faithful’s Going Nowhere 2, 2011; Mona Hatoum’s Performance Still, 1985-1995; Marcus Coates’s Stoat, 1999; Bruce Nauman’s Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk), 1968; Matthias Sprling and Siobhan Davies Studios’ Walking Piece, 2012; Francis Alÿs’s The Collector, 1990-1992; and, finally, Oleg Kulik’s Mad Dog, or Last Taboo Guarded by Alone Cerberus, 1994.
But there are other art forms represented in the book as well: text (Fiona Robinson’s The Journey Sequence, 2007; Alec Finlay and Guy Moreton’s The Wittgenstein House (Skjolden), 2001-2005; Dara Birnbaum’s Robert Walser, Translated, 1994); drawing (Fiona Robinson’s The Journey Sequence, 2007); conceptual art (Chloé Regan’s Untitled (After Paul Klee), 2012; Richard Long’s A Line Made by Walking, 1967; Christian Edwardes’s Walking the Dog on Google Earth, 2008); sculpture (Richard Long’s A Line in the Himalayas, 1975, and A Line Made by Walking, 1967; Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Homeless Vehicle, 1988, and Alien Staff, 1992-1993); photography (Peter Liversidge’s photographs; Ingrid Pollard’s Wordsworth Heritage, 1992; Alec Finlay and Guy Moreton’s The Wittgenstein House (Skjolden), 2001-2005; David Bate’s Zone, 2001; Sophy Rickett’s Old Street, Vauxhall Bridge, and Silvertown, all 1995; Richard Long’s A Line Made by Walking, 1967; Simon Faithfull’s 0°00 Nagivation, 2008; Tom Lovelace’s In Preparation no. 11 Diptych, 2012; Keith Arnatt’s Walking the Dog, 1979; Tim Edgar’s Nature Trail, 2012); map art (Jan Estep’s Searching for Ludwig Wittgenstein, 2007; Dara Birnbaum’s Robert Walser, Translated, 1994); relational aesthetics or social practice (Simon Pope’s The Memorial Walks, 2007; Francis Alÿs’s The Modern Procession, 2002; Melanie Manchot’s Walk (Square), 2011-2012; Hamish Fulton’s Slowalk (In support of Ai Weiwei, 2011; Jeremy Deller’s Procession, 2009); digital and audio art (And While London Burns, 2006; Catherine Yass’s High Wire, 2008; Janet Cardiff’s Louisiana Walk, 1996; Conor McGarrigle’s WalkSpace: Beirut-Venice, 2012); and one unclassifiable project, the Long March Project, 2002 and after. I’ve classified some of those works in more than one category, and guessed at where to place others; it’s not always clear from the book’s photographs what kind of work I’m looking at. Evans’s short explanatory essays are helpful, but not every work or artist gets one. The point of the book, I think, is that readers can use it as a guide to further explorations and research; it’s an excellent place to begin learning about walking art.
Evan’s introduction adds to Goldberg’s Performance Art as well, in a surprising way. He notes that “traversing the city street on foot was treated by every major avant-garde group from Paris to Moscow as a form of creative activity, anticipating the eventual merging of art and everyday life” (13). That’s true—the Russian Futurists, for example, “walked the streets in outrageous attire, their faces painted, sporting top hats, velvet jackets, earrings, and radishes or spoons in their buttonholes” (Goldberg 32). The key detail there, of course, is that those artists were walking; it’s easy to miss that detail in the midst of Goldberg’s detailed descriptions of the Russian Futurists’ activities. Moreover, Evans continues,
By the mid-twentieth century the institutionalisation of the avant-gardes was well under way, and generally took the form of reducing these movements to tangible artefacts like paintings and sculpture that could be easily stored and displayed in museums. In other words, performative but ephemeral activities like walking were forgotten or marginalised. Yet it was precisely such activities that were excavated and re-activated by experimental artists across Europe, North America and elsewhere from the 1960s onwards. (13)
That is also borne out by Goldberg’s book; Vincent Trasov’s 1974 mayoral campaign in Vancouver, dressed as Mr. Peanut, was a walking performance (180), as was, in a very different way, Gilbert and George’s 1975 work, The Red Sculpture (168). Trasov’s performance took place in the street, while Gilbert and George’s was staged in a gallery, but walking was a central method—even methodology—in both. I really ought to re-read Goldberg’s book, looking for examples of performance that involve walking. I’ll think about that as I read other general texts on performance.
So, The Art of Walking: A Field Guide is an excellent place to begin an exploration of walking as an artistic theme, or an interdisciplinary methodology, and it’s chockfull of examples of walking in many different art forms. Not only that, but it was my 100th book in this project: a milestone. What’s not to like about either of those things?
Evans, David, ed. The Art of Walking: A Field Guide, Black Dog, 2012.
Goldberg, RoseLee. Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present, third edition, Thames and Hudson, 2011.
Long, Richard. Selected Statements and Interviews, edited by Ben Tufnell, Haunch of Venison, 2007.