104. Walk On: From Richard Long to Janet Cardiff—40 Years of Art Walking
Walk On: From Richard Long to Janet Cardiff—40 Years of Art Walking is the catalogue for a 2013 exhibition of work related to art walking at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, UK. It contains four essays about walking—Cynthia Morrison-Bell’s foreword; Tim Ingold’s “The Maze and the Labyrinth: Walking and the Education of Attention”; Alistair Robinson’s “On Walking”; and Mike Collier’s “On Ways of Walking and Making Art: A Personal Reflection”—as well as examples of work by artists who have used walking in their practices, ranging from Marina Abramovič to Carey Young (the artists are helpfully arranged in alphabetical order). I’ll begin this summary with the four essays, and then move on to discuss the work that is included in the book (and that was part of the exhibition itself).
Morrison-Bell’s foreword begins with memories of “Bruce Nauman’s enigmatic video works from the 1960s in which the artist filmed himself in his studio performing banal and repetitious tasks,” including walking around a square (1). That work, Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around The Perimeter of a Square, from 1969, “made a big impression” on Morrison-Bell (1). The work’s materials, she writes, “are simple: time, space and the body, the artist’s own. What else is needed to make art?” (1). The meaning of Nauman’s perambulation is “left open-ended for us to understand or interpret, whether it be hilarious, absurd, or existential” (1).
The body, Morrison-Bell continues, “was an important point of departure for much art of the 1960s and 70s” (1). Performance art used “the body as the tool and medium, as sculpture even, making it endure the limits of the language of art, testing it to its extremes, just as you would any material, to find out how much you could mould it, push it, twist or break it” (1). One example of that use of the body was Marina Abramovič’s 1988 The Lovers: Great Wall of China, “an epic 3,700 mile walking journey which the artist undertook with her long-term collaborator Ulay” (1). She and Ulay began at opposite ends of the wall and walked towards each other “through perilous and unknown terrain towards each other” (I’m sure someone knew it, and since they were being picked up at the end of each day, I’m not sure “perilous” is the right word) “until they met and reunited; walking as a symbolic gesture, as endurance, as pure physicality” (1). And, as Morrison-Bell notes, The Lovers was their last collaboration: when they met on the Great Wall, that reunion marked the end of their artistic and romantic partnership (1). According to Morrison-Bell, Abramovič says that, “for her, it is the physicality of making art, the way of overcoming the pain, the repetition or danger, that focuses the mind, allowing for another level of consciousness” (1). Other commentators on performance—Catherine Wood, for example—would probably ask how that level of consciousness is transmitted to the audience, but of course there was no unmediated audience for The Lovers.
Three recent exhibitions, Morrison-Bell continues, have been instrumental in making her think about walking as art (1). They include Richard Long’s “heavenly” Heaven and Earth at Tate Britain in 2009, Francis Alÿs’s Story of Deception at Tate Modern in 2010, and Hamish Fulton’s Walk at Turner Contemporary in Margate in 2012 (1). She also participated in Janet Cardiff’s The Missing Voice (Case Study B) in 2001, an experience she describes as “a mysterious part-walking tour, part historical account of London’s East End” (1). She also took part in “one of Hamish Fulton’s memorable group ‘slow’ walks on a bitterly cold day in an open-air car park on the Quayside in Newcastle,” an event that marked a turning point in her “understanding of art and where art actually exists” (1). Art, Morrison-Bell states, “can reside in an open-air car park on the Quayside in Newcastle on a bitterly cold day. The thing is, it takes an artist to make you see it” (1).
Morrison-Bell notes that there’s a long history of associations between writers and walking—Wordsworth, Rousseau, and Charles Darwin’s “circuitous ‘sand-walk’ path round the perimeter of his home at Down House to ensure uninterrupted thinking time” (1)—but she notes that artists, as opposed to writers, “‘walk’ in a multitude of ways and different settings” (1). “Some trace their daily movements, sometimes aided by GPS devices, and others narrate, record, follow, photograph, make, paint, draw, drift, walk guided by the wind or navigating in the dark,” she writes; all of them are “devising extraordinary ways to record, annotate and translate their walks into art objects or experiences” (1). Some—Abramovič, Richard Long, Chris Drury—“map out epic journeys,” while others, “such as Richard Wentworth[,] collect found objects from daily walks and pair them into photographs creating a portrait of place—its stories and its histories combined” (1). (In this city, those stories would include a lot of discarded Tim Horton’s coffee cups.) Julian Opie’s 2012 computer simulation Summer is a “wonderful continuous computer animation with sound,” which replaces Wentworth’s sidewalks with “virtual pastoral hills in a circular, endless landscape that transports you along country lanes into a rural idyll devoid of people and filled with music” (2).
Those works give a sense of what walking art can be, but Morrison-Bell states that the show she has co-curated is not a survey of walking art: “What lies behind it is the question of what leads an artist to turn his or her footsteps into art” (2). “By presenting this selection of works in such different media, form and content, we hope it may encourage other shows and investigations,” she continues, noting that Walk On was intended from the start “to look at works since the late 1960s, as well as works by emerging artists, and bring these together in a single exhibition; for their paths to cross, so to speak, and for the viewer to experience, look or feel how an artist’s walk could also possibly become the viewer’s own, leading him or her to hitherto unknown places” (2). What the exhibition presented, then were works inspired by walking, or that documented walks, or that constituted traces of walks; the walks themselves, if they were performances (and some of them were not), may have had no unmediated audiences, although they may have had participants other than the artists themselves. The question of audience is one that is central to Wood’s or Roselee Goldberg’s discussions of performance, and it is interesting to see how considerations of walking art (again, when that art is considered performance) may or may not think about audiences—other than the ones that encounter those traces or documents within a gallery space.
Tim Ingold’s “The Maze and the Labyrinth: Walking and the Education of Attention” was apparently the keynote address at a conference on walking art at the University of Sunderland, a conference that coincided with the exhibition (“On Walking—Conference Proceedings”). (It was later published in a collection of scholarly essays, Psychology and the Conduct of Everyday Life, which my institution’s library doesn’t own.) Ingold begins with the Scots poet Andrew Greig, who speaks of his friend and mentor Norman MacCaig in his recent book, At the Loch of the Green Corrie. MacCaig, according to Greig, was drawn to animals and birds, even though he knew little about them and believed that knowledge of their Latin names, habitat, or feeding and mating patterns “would obscure their reality” (7). “Sometimes the more you know the less you see,” Ingold quotes Greig as saying. “What you encounter is your knowledge, not the thing itself” (7). According to Ingold,
Greig has touched on something quite profound, which goes to the heart of the meaning and purpose of what we call education. Does knowledge actually lead to wisdom? Does it open our eyes and ears to the truth of what is there? Or does it rather hold us captive within a compendium of our own making, like a hall of mirrors that blinds us to its beyond? Might we see more, experience more, and understand more, by knowing less? And might it be because we know too much that we seem so incapable of attending to what is going on around us and of responding with care, judgement and sensitivity? Which of them is the wiser, the ornithologist or the poet—the one who knows the name of every kind of bird but has them already sorted in his head; the other who knows no names but looks with wonder, astonishment and perplexity at everything he sees? (7)
I think that watching writer and naturalist Trevor Herriot identify grassland birds by their song—and to see his expression of wonder as he does so—at the beginning of this episode of CBC’s The Nature of Things would dissolve the binary opposition Ingold is constructing. But never mind that—at least, not right now. For Ingold, “these alternatives”—knowledge and wisdom—“correspond to two quite different senses of education,” which correspond to different etymologies of that word: one derived from educare, meaning “to rear or to bring up,” in which information and knowledge is instilled into students, and another, derived from educere, meaning “to lead out,” which “is a matter of leading novices out into the world” (7). That second alternative is, he proposes, “quite literally, to invite the learner out for a walk. What kind of education is this, which one obtains by walking? And what is it about walking that makes it such an effective practice for education in this sense?” (7).
“There are many ways of walking,” Ingold continues, “and not all of them lead out” (7). When children make their own ways home from school, for instance, their “attention is caught . . . by everything from the play of light and shadow to the flight of birds and the barking of dogs, to the scent of flowers, to puddles and fallen leaves, and to myriad trifles from snails to conkers and from dropped coins to tell-tale litter” (7). For such children, “the street is a labyrinth” they navigate with curiosity (7). “But growing up, one learns to banish such childish follies,” Ingold continues. “To recover what is lost, one has to go beyond the city, to take a walk in woods, fields or mountains governed by forces as yet untrained” (8). To apprehend the city streets as an adult the way one did as a child, Ingold suggests, citing Walter Benjamin’s account of his Berlin childhood—“to regain the labyrinth and lose oneself in it”—takes effort (8). And for most of us, “disciplined by education and going about our business in the city, the streets are not a labyrinth” (8). We don’t walk them for what they might reveal to us, but rather to get from one place to another. “We may still get lost in them, but that loss is experienced not as a discovery on the way to nowhere but as a setback in the achievement of a predetermined goal,” Ingold writes (8). When that happens, the streets become a maze, rather than a labyrinth. “Technically, the maze differs from the labyrinth in that it offers not one path but multiple choices, of which each may be freely made but most lead to dead ends,” he explains. “The maze, then, does not open up to the world, as the labyrinth does. On the contrary, it encloses, trapping its inmates within the false antinomy of freedom and necessity” (8).
But the walls of urban buildings are “replete with advertisements . . . which inform pedestrians of possible side-tracks they might choose to take,” and every time there is a fork in the road of the urban maze, “a decision has to be taken: to go to the left, to the right, or possibly straight ahead. A journey through the maze may thus be represented as a stochastic sequence of moves punctuated by decision-points, such that every move is predicated upon the preceding decision” (8). In walking a labyrinth, however, “choice is not an issue. The path leads, and the walker is under an imperative to go where it takes him” (8). The path may not be easy to follow; the walker may have to watch for “the subtle signs . . . that indicate the way ahead. Thus signs keep you on the path; they do not, like advertisements, tempt you away from it” (8). The danger isn’t coming to a dead end, as in a maze, but “in wandering off the track” (8). “At no point in the labyrinth do you come to an abrupt stop,” Ingold continues, and while you may take a wrong turning, it will not be by choice, as in the maze (8).
“The maze puts all the emphasis on the traveller’s intentions,” Ingold writes. “He has an aim in mind, a projected destination or horizon of expectations, a perspective to obtain, and is determined to reach it” (9). And yet, “the intentional traveller, wrapped up in the space of his own deliberations, is . . . absent from the world itself” (9). In contrast, the “path-follower” in the labyrinth “has no objective save to carry on, to keep on going. But to do so, his action must be closely and continually coupled with his perception—that is, by an ever-vigilant monitoring of the path as it unfolds” (9). Path-following, then, “is not so much intentional as attentional. It draws the follower out into the presence of the real” (9). This is the difference between wayfaring and navigation, he continues: “Of course there is a mind at work in the attentional wayfaring of the labyrinth, just as there is in the intentional navigation of the maze. But this is a mind immanent in the movement itself rather than an originating source to which such movement may be attributed as an effect” (9).
It strikes me that what Ingold is suggesting about the “attentional wayfaring of the labyrinth” is precisely what Phil Smith is getting at in his discussions of mythogeography: in his call for a walking that becomes drifting, Smith is advocating for an experience like one in which the mind is “immanent in the movement itself rather than an originating source to which such movement may be attributed as an effect.” And yet, such walking is next to impossible in a place like rural Saskatchewan, where walkers are confined to roads by trespassing legislation and the presence of crops—unless they have permission to walk on a remnant piece of grassland or in some other wild place—and our cities are too small to provide the kind of drifting that might absorb a walker’s consciousness. I’ve struggled with Smith’s version of walking for months now, and Ingold’s account of the distinction between the maze and the labyrinth has clarified what Smith is talking about. Of course, I could be completely wrong about that, but the distinction Ingold makes between the labyrinth and the maze seems to relate to Smith’s work.
The difference Ingold is describing—“between the navigation of the maze and the wayfaring of the labyrinth”—is the distinction “between the two senses of education” with which he began the essay: drawing learners into “rules and representations, or the ‘intentional worlds,’ of a culture,” on the one hand, and on the other, the “drawing out” of the learner “into the world itself, as it is given to experience” (9). The problem, however, “lies in the way that a world that can be known only in its representations, in a plethora of images, slips from us in the very move by which we try to hold it in our sights” (9). The kind of education Ingold describes as “ex-duction,” as a drawing out into the world of experience, has nothing to do with the objectives or arrival at perspectives of points of view” that characterize the maze; instead, it is learning “by walking the labyrinth” (9). We escape the maze, Ingold writes, following educational theorist Jan Masschelein, “quite literally, ‘through exposure’” (9). “In the labyrinth there is no point of arrival, no final destination, for every place is already on the way to somewhere else,” Ingold continues. “Far from taking up a standpoint or perspective from this position or that, walking continually pulls us away from any standpoint—from any position we might adopt” (9-10). “The walker’s attention comes not from having arrived at a position but from being pulled away from it,” Ingold concludes,” from displacement” (10).
This conclusion might seem close to psychologist James Gibson’s account of the ecological approach to visual perception, in which Gibson “proposed that we do not perceive our surroundings from a series of fixed points,” but rather that “perception proceeds along what he called a path of observation,” in which things “disclose what they afford, in so far as they help or hinder the observer to keep going, or to carry on along a certain line of activity” (10). “The more practised we become in walking these paths of observation, according to Gibson, the better able we are to notice and to respond fluently to salient aspects of our environment,” Ingold continues. “That is to say, we undergo an ‘education of attention’” (10). But, despite this superficial similarity, “the education to which the walker lays himself open through exposure . . . is quite the reverse of what Gibson had in mind,” Ingold writes. “It is not a matter of picking up, and turning to one’s advantage, the affordances of a world that is already laid out” (10). Instead, “attention abides with a world that is not ready-made but always incipient, on the cusp of continual emergence” (10). Whereas for Gibson the world waits for the observer, for Masschelein “the walker waits upon the world. As the path beckons, the walker submits, and is at the mercy of what transpires. To walk, as Masschelein puts it, is to be commanded by what is not yet given but on the way to being given” (10). Or, following philosopher Henri Bortoft, in walking the labyrinth, one attends—waits for—things to appear: “The appearing of a thing is tantamount to its emergence, and to witness the appearance is to be present at its birth” (10). Rather than the grammatical construction “it appears,” Bortoft suggests that “appears it” is a more accurate description of the processes of perception, despite its bad grammar (10). “Appears it,” Ingold suggests, “ gets around the conundrum that otherwise leads us to suppose that things exist prior to the processes that give rise to them” (10). To be honest, I’m not sure how to unpack all of this: being “at the mercy of what transpires” makes more sense to me than “appears it.” Perhaps to get Ingold’s point I would have to read Masschelein and Bortoft.
“The walker in the labyrinth, having no goal, no end in sight, always waiting, ever present, exposed yet astonished by the world through which she fares, has nothing to learn and nothing to teach,” Ingold continues. “Her itinerary is a way of life, yet it is a way without content to transmit. There is no body of knowledge to be passed on. And because there is nothing to pass on, there are no methods for doing so” (10). Between “education as instilling knowledge” and “the sense education” Ingold has explored and advocated “as a leading out into the world,” he writes, “lies the difference between rich methodology and what Masschelein calls ‘poor pedagogy’” (10). Ingold believes, though, that Masschelein would deplore “the notion of methodology,” as he does himself: “For in its deployment it turns means into ends, divorcing knowledge-as-content from ways of coming to know, and thereby enforcing a kind of closure that is the very antithesis of the opening up to the present which a poor pedagogy offers” (11). Even a rich methodology “sets a block on movement,” Ingold concludes:
Knowledge flies from head to head, but the heads themselves—and the bodies to which the heads belong—are fixed in place. To walk on is not to face and be addressed by those who stand in front but to follow those who have their backs to you. The farer in the labyrinth, abiding with the world and answering to its summons, following on where others went before, can keep on going, without beginning or ending, pushing out into the flux of things. He is, as Masschelein would say, truly present in the present. The price of such presence is vulnerability, but its reward is an understanding, founded on immediate experience, that goes beyond knowledge. It is an understanding on the way to truth. For as Greig says of the poet: knowing little of the world, he sees the things themselves. (11).
I’m still uncomfortable with the apparent advocacy of ignorance in Ingold’s use of the quotation from Greig. From experience, I know that prairie grasses and forbs began to individuate themselves, to stand forth from their background, as I came to know their names and relationships. Yet I find myself returning to my earlier comment about Trevor Herriot identifying grassland birds by their songs, and I wonder if what is important about that example might not be the way he acquired that knowledge, by walking, literally, on the grasslands, by talking to others, by spending time getting to know the ecosystem where he and I both live over the past 30 years. What we see in that video clip, then, might be a combination of knowledge and wisdom that is the product of Masschelein’s “poor pedagogy” and which demonstrates its paradoxical richness. I doubt there was any goal or predetermined end in that long process of learning; it would be closer to Ingold’s labyrinth than to his maze. If that’s the case, then “poor pedagogy” might lead to both knowledge and wisdom.
The book’s third essay is Alistair Robinson’s “On Walking,” a discussion of the exhibition that it documents and the theoretical perspectives that informed the curators’ choices. The purpose of that exhibition, Robinson writes, is “to gently challenge the orthodox distinctions through which artists’ work created by walking has been understood” (15). It included “both well-established figures who have pursued their entire careers through walking and figures that might seem surprising inclusions” (15). Other recent shows “had explored some of the territory that ‘Walk On’ covers, but have taken partial views,” including Bruce Ferguson’s1996 Walking Thinking Walking at the Louisiana Museum (a catalogue was published but is apparently unavailable now) and Stuart Horodner’s 2002 Walk Ways (which I’ve been managed to find a copy of) (15). The latter, Robinson states, “was an examination of the ‘agency of pedestrianism in the realm of creativity,’ which we might paraphrase as urban games undertaken through walking” (15). Walk On, however, “includes artists who have made work in the city and country,” and more importantly, it set out to challenge “the binary thinking that defines those categories as separable” (15). For that reason, the show included “playful and contrary points of views” and proposed “that there is an almost unlimited range of ways in which artists have used walking as the pretext for new forms of art production, or new forms of relationship between artist and viewer” (15). For instance, walking artists have asked viewers to adopt roles that include “instigating new forms of political participation, imagining ourselves in a future after the end of civilization, and seeing ourselves as though we were in a panoptic[o]n overseeing the city” (15).
Walk On also asked viewers “to think again about what the possible purposes of undertaking a walk as an artwork could yet be and what walking can achieve poetically and politically” (15). “Accordingly, we should begin by considering what the most commonly imagined uses have been, in order to measure how far some artists have travelled away from it in order to find their own roles,” Robinson continues (15). One “well-worn story or established chain of associations,” for instance, is the one “between artists and thinkers and walking,” which “has been circulated from at least the eighteenth century onwards” and is associated with Romantic thinkers and writers, including Wordsworth and Rousseau (15). “The business of walking, for subsequent Romantics, has often lain in the idea that it provides the opportunity to immerse oneself in open space, whilst simultaneously allowing access to one’s truest or best self,” Robinson writes:
The narrative here is that walking allows one to become an infinitely receptive being, or else opens the channels to one’s deepest imaginative resources. In other words, the act of moving through space allows the walker to occupy a distinct or special mental space in which habits of mind can be cast off or refreshed or else be exposed to new stimuli that sharpen their perceptions. (15)
Robinson sees this idea in writers ranging from Rousseau to Rebecca Solnit (15). “To expand on this narrative, we might say that in wide open spaces, the walker can feel a kinship with the infinite number of species of flora and fauna that have been banished from the man-made world of the city, or which surround us unnoticed,” Robinson continues. “One variant of the story is that walking allows us to develop an almost pantheistic state of mind in which all things are equal” (15-16). (I recognize some of my own descriptions of what I tried to accomplish during Wood Mountain Walk in that statement, and wonder if all I’ve been doing is rehashing a 200-year-old paradigm. I don’t think that’s the case, but I have to recognize the possibility that it could be.) Another variant of that story is the notion “that by setting one’s body the task of undertaking a mundane activity that can be achieved almost unconsciously, one’s imagination and higher faculties are given licence to flourish” (16). A third variant contends that “walking is similarly a process of giving oneself licence to undertake speculative and imaginative thought about one’s own place in the world” (16). “In all three scenarios, walking enables either an intensity of observation, or a kind of daytime dreaming or introspection that cannot be undertaken when one is occupied in ordinary or ‘productive’ activities,” Robinson concludes (16).
These ideas “have endured for solid reasons”: “walking (even in a straight line) prevents us from thinking in straight lines” (16). In what Robinson terms “the post-Romantic world,” the walker exchanges the active life for the contemplative life, doing “the hard work of thinking and judging, in distinction to working or acting upon the political or social world directly” (16). Walk On, he continues, “reappraises this dominant story while introducing new ones,” treating “the most prevalent clichés about the figure of the walker as stories to be retold with great scepticism and curiosity, at best,” and “adopting a critical or even quizzical stance” towards projects which adopt such “humanistic positions” (16). The work of Joe Bateman is characterized by a “search for a physical or a psychological place where solace or redemption can be guaranteed,” Robinson continues, “albeit in an unpredictable way,” because “Bateman’s role is to be a highly unreliable narrator of his own work” (16). Bateman’s works “are set in ordinary places such as East Yorkshire, which are transfigured into both ultra-banal non-places and mystical landscapes,” Robinson writes. “Bateman shows us the world without us: an alarming prospect, rather than a consolatory one” (16). Another artist who calls the “quest to recover a sense of wholeness and oneness with ‘nature,’ experienced through the state of solitariness found in far-flung places,” is Hamish Fulton (16). “[R]ather than being a ‘retreat’ from the world, his walk-works should be read as political actions in the fullest sense of that term—as urgent forms of public address,” Robinson contends (16). Fulton’s work “calls into question the binary terms of rural and urban walking, ‘Romantic’ and civic in orientation, poetic and politicised, that so often structure the discourse around walking. His work requires us to see it in terms of both/and, rather than either/or” (16). Mike Collier’s work also suggests that any “simple or single distinction between urban and rural” is “illusory”; his walks “on the fringes of the city underline the fact that the two domains are both co-dependent and highly indistinct at their edges. Each term both presupposes the other and indeed is inhabited by the other” (17).
Robinson notes that the exhibition links the “‘golden age’ for experimental art practice of the mid-1960s to early 1970s” with the present, “taking two figures as being exemplary of their times, Richard Long and Janet Cardiff,” who “have been extraordinary figures whose works have inspired countless other artists whilst having such distinctive practices that they have no direct followers” (17). While the exhibition’s subtitle “implies there is a chronological journey between their work,” the curators “also suggest that there are even some aspects of their work that are, in some ways, commensurate” (17).
That’s an intriguing and surprising suggestion, and Robinson goes on to explain. “Despite differences in form, media and ways of working, both of them ask to invest much in what can be imagined through understanding a walk,” he writes. “The most simple and universal of acts is made to speak about the state of the world. It allows us to ask what can be rethought about the world and what cannot be easily changed” (17). The show “attempts to present Long’s work as it appeared at the beginning of his career: as a radical and even divisive figure,” Robinson continues, and one of the purposes of the exhibition “is to recover the sense of how controversial and contentious figures who have subsequently attracted enormous acclaim once were” (17). Moreover, Robinson argues that Long’s work has “been misrepresented as rugged and wholesome or, worse, merely anodyne,” when it might be more accurately characterized “as being concerned with the basic materiality of the world” (17). Long is neither a “modern-day pilgrim” nor an “emissary, whose work has quasi-religious functions,” as he is often portrayed (17). Instead, Robinson argues that Walk On contends “that Long’s decision to base his practice on walking was an audacious, even astonishing one for his time,” and “that it might be only now—some forty-five years after Long first set out of his studio into the world to make artwork—that we might be able to get a true perspective on his achievements” (17). Two works exemplify “how Long’s work has both extended the language of sculpture and offered alternative readings to different critical tendencies” (17). Fourteen Stones, from 1977, is one of Long’s first works intended to be seen in a gallery. “The stones are carefully laid,” Robinson states. “The delicacy of the composition and the brute physicality of its components sit in perfect tension. The simplicity of the form, and the imaginative complexity that it gives form to, are in perfect alignment” (17). Long has said that his work is “a balance between the patterns of nature and the formalism of human, abstract ideas like lines and circles” (qtd. 17), and Robinson agrees; he states that “Long’s work offers up humble materials with an austerity or even astringency that allows a multitude of possible readings,” and that Fourteen Stones “commands the gallery space whilst having a very human vulnerability” while precluding “any obvious sentimental response at the same time” (18). It’s connection to walking—and I’ve never understood the connection between Long’s gallery works and his walking works—lies in the way that it “invites us to undertake our own literal as well as imagined walk to negotiate it. The scale of the work asks us to imagine it in a natural landscape—to imagine the place, or kinds of places, that it could have come from” (18).
In contrast, Long’s A Line in the Himalayas “suggests how Long’s photographic works have been so readily misread and caricatured” (18). The walk that photograph documents “was undertaken in a location of breathtaking beauty and splendid isolation where no other presence is seen—or implied,” Robinson writes. “The temptation to view such a location as a personal heaven, as a place outside of history, is all too obvious,” and the “easy criticism of such a work” is that “it invites a reading of the artist’s work”—and, frankly, the artist as well—“in an epic-heroic mode” (18). “The tougher response,” Robinson suggests,
would be that the extreme subtlety and care of the artist’s intervention is easier to ignore when represented on two dimensions. It is also harder to pay attention to when the physical and ecological distance between our own environment and the one on view is great. Long’s presence in the scene is almost subliminal, subtle to the point of requiring us to search for the traces of his presence. (18)
Well, we don’t have to search that hard: his presence is there in the mark made by his feet or his hands, in the act of rearranging the stones to create a line. Nevertheless, Robinson continues, “The power of the work as sculpture lies in its integration into the site, so that it becomes part of it, rather than an autonomous object. To view it as sculpture, rather than firstly as photography, becomes the challenge in such works” (18). A Line in the Himalayas “rests on the simple act of rearranging stones, as though the artist’s act was a kind of primordial mark-making” (18).
That act of making a mark by rearranging stones on the top of a mountain generates many questions, according to Robinson:
Our reading of the work depends on whether we imagine the principal purpose of it as being that we are allowed to vicariously share in the majesty and sublimity of “nature.” Or is it proof that Long’s sculptures are able to be made in every type of environment—wherever stone exists, in fact—however few other people ever see it first hand? Is the fact that walking in spectacular and remote places is intrinsically “Romantic” that determines our reading? Or the quality of the artist’s intervention into it? Is there a way in whcih we can see past our own received image of a place, and see it through the artist’s eyes rather than through the myths we attach to it? (18)
“The success of Long’s work rests on being open-ended in the ways it can be understood,” Robinson suggests. “The greater the imaginative demands on the viewer and the interpretive work they perform, the stronger the work” (18). The problem with photographs, he continues, is “how simple and unproblematic” they appear (18). “Put another way, it is all too difficult not to let what we assume to be the dominant functions of photography spill over onto our experience of a work like ‘A Line in the Himalayas,’” Robinson continues. “Rather than viewing it on its own terms as an imaginative enterprise in which we have an equal share, the weak interpretation would be that it is a kind of ‘expedition’ that only a male artist might undertake” (18)—an interpretation that always seems to circulate around Long’s work. Robinson cites landscape historian John Barrell regarding “the associations between power and place, or relative position in or over a landscape”: “To occupy a high vantage point is to occupy a position of relative supremacy. It is all but impossible not to imagine oneself being metaphorically elevated when one is physically elevated” (18). So “we might have to keep watch of ourselves when encountering Long’s works” (18)—or at least A Line in the Himalayas, since not all of Long’s walking sculptures are set on the tops of mountains. In addition, A Line in the Himalayas “complicates our understanding of ‘the sublime’ in a characteristically modern way” by offering us “both a kind of imagined omnipotence and an imagined insignificance at the same time” (18). “We have to ask ourselves if we are natural or rightful occupants of this space, or else are defying nature even to set foot there,” Robinson suggests. “We have to ask if we can be changed by our experience of the place—even though we cannot change it in any meaningful way” (18).
Robinson argues that “Long is one of a number of artists in ‘Walk On’ whose work might be thought to complicate the Romantic tradition of the lone, silent walker who seems to live inside their own skull and records their impressions or ideas to share with us” (19). Several of the artists included in the exhibition “play with the expectations that such a mode of address sets up” (19). Tony Cragg, for instance, “responded directly to Long’s now canonical works by using only man-made found objects instead of ‘natural’ materials” (19). His 1978 New Stones, Newton’s Tones was made of plastic that had washed up on the banks of the River Wupper in Germany, “suggesting that Long’s work was merely a whimsical or wilfully unworldly, picturesque pastoral” (19). Carey Young’s work examines “what are thought of as the ideological assumptions associated with the canon of radical performance works from the late 1960s and early 1970s” (19). While Long’s “arduous walks” require “stamina, endurance and strength of mind,” “Young’s photographed walks see her in a business suit in Dubai, in soulless environments including piles of waste from construction sites” (19). She casts herself as an anti-hero,” Robinson argues, “a humourless capitalist, seen in something like her ‘natural habitat’ of a desolate newly built environment” that is implied to be “ a sign of the times and emblematic of the twenty-first century” (19).
“The contrasts to Long’s work are comically extreme: Young’s walk is undertaken across a seemingly vast bed of slate piled into an unruly mass, rather than placed into an elegantly ordered circle,” he continues. “Young’s stones suggest that the chaos and vulgar destructiveness of capital-at-play is what determines the character of life, in the last instance—not elegant geometries, nor myth, nor even what ‘natural’ materials can be made to do” (19). The stones in Young’s photograph point towards the towers of Dubai in the background, structures “which have no human scale, no obvious relationship to their setting and which are made from modern, mass-manufactured concrete” (20). “Young’s hypothesis is that across the political spectrum, the ideology of ‘progress’ is now inseparable form the idea of economic growth, which is underwritten by the extraction of oil from the Middle East,” Robinson writes (20). Dubai, he continues, “is one of the locations where the consequences of the dominant belief system are made most brutally manifest—and where walking ceases to exist”; indeed, walking there is doing something “quite counterintuitive” (20). “Walking is the activity of the underclass alone,” and the wealthy “cocoon themselves into air-conditioned environments” (20). Young’s walk, and her photograph, could “be a bitter commentary on the power of art to change the world” (20). If we take Young to be an ironist, then her work fails, Robinson contends, but if “we imagine she is a realist—a mirror of our times—it succeeds. Neither ‘nature’ nor the ‘public sphere’ can survive capitalism, she implies—and nor, in the long run, can we” (20). “Young’s work shows how walking obviates material consumption, and how material consumption requires us not to walk, with all of the associated mental activities traditionally involved,” Robinson argues. “To walk is to begin to look, think, imagine and engage with the world, rather than be absorbed into economic exchange” (20). In other words, walking keeps us “from becoming historical actors for whom ‘participating is reduced to consuming,’” he continues, citing curator Bruce Ferguson (20). “Art-walking seems to invite us to be better citizens and less successful consumers,” he writes (20). I wish that were true, but I suspect it might be hyperbole. Perhaps I’m wrong.
Like Janet Cardiff and Francis Alÿs, Long refuses “this dominant logic, rather than enacting and amplifying it in the way that Young does,” Robinson continues (20). Cardiff’s walks, he suggests, “are the collective property of the citizens who have undertaken them. They are made for the cities in which they are commissioned. Their meanings reside in the heads of those who have undertaken and heard them, and there alone” (20). Her works are “intangible experiences,” “interventions in collective memory and our spatial imaginations,” and their “‘consumption’ lies soley in the minds of the listeners—and relates to both unobserved or underappreciated phenomena and to coincidences and contingencies” (20). For Robinson, while Cardiff “has not dwelt exclusively on the fact that her work eludes the logic of mass consumption, it is crucial to a full understanding of her work” (20). Alÿs, on the other hand, “seems to make us owners of our own city again, through the most improbable of gestures” (20). His work Guards is “a prime example of a kind of playful and yet strangely aggressive intervention into the city—the kind of intervention that only a visual artist could make” (20). In that work he employed Coldstream Guards, “professionally famous for their complete immobility,” were “‘set free’ to wander the City, as if ‘let loose’ by the authorities” (20). In the work, “Alÿs makes the apparently simple act of walking through city streets into an experience that is liberating and threatening, comic and beguiling,” observing that “locating one’s place in the world means, as often as not, finding out what society’s unwritten rules are (and sometimes breaking them). Stepping out into one’s city, to traverse it, from one side to the other has been the means to test what is expected of us in public space” (20).
Robinson suggests that, “despite their enormous differences, Alÿs’s and Cardiff’s mediums are the same,” since they both “take the composition and choreography of urban space as their theme, as well as the usually unspoken social rules that police its use” (21). The “actual impositions” both artists make on urban space are “usually minimal”; rather, both “intervene in our perception,” and by “acting on our imagination, the fabric of the city itself itself seems to change” (21). Alÿs and Cardiff create “interventions as subtle as Long’s,” and “they invite us to re-read the environments that surround us—and hence greatly challenge both our sense of identity and sense of orientation in the world” (21). Both artists “provoke us into adopting a new world-view—through microcosmic gestures,” asking us “to enter a mental space that was previously unimaginable, or left unimagined beforehand” (21). “They perform that most impossible task, reinventing what we do when we place one foot in front of the other and set out into the world,” Robinson suggests. “Alÿs and Cardiff offer us new paths into our cityscapes—lesser trodden ones which take us away form our familiar landmarks, points of orientation, and ways of being in the world” (21).
Robinson’s essay leaves me with a lot to think about in relation to my own practice. What is the connection between walking on rural grid roads and highways and Romanticism? Is an interest in coming to a more intimate relationship with the land, even when it has been industrialized, merely a Romantic fantasy? How can long solo walks avoid being dismissed as epic or heroic? Is his response to Long’s work accurate? Many artists and art historians would disagree. Is there any connection between Long’s work and mine? (I don’t ask that question of Cardiff or Alÿs, since I typically walk outside of the city.) I don’t think there is: I don’t leave any material traces (or at least, I try not to)—the roads themselves are enough. I do take photographs, although they are not as aesthetically-oriented as Long’s. I would like to find some analogue to what I’ve been doing and what I want to do; that would reassure me, give me a sense that it has some kind of value.
The book’s final essay is Mike Collier’s “On Ways of Walking and Making Art: A Personal Reflection.” Collier begins by suggesting that he thinks it’s possible “to discuss an artist’s work within the framework of something which they do—something practical, based in the everyday . . . something such as walking” (73). In this essay, he writes, he hopes “to explore a range of widely different practices that, in one way or another, involve or gain inspiration from the simple act of taking a walk” (73). He has broken his essay into subheadings—“Walking and Identity: Agency and Political Action”; “Walking and Painting”; “Walking, Maps/Mapping and Poetry”; and “Culture and Nature”—but he acknowledges that it would be “almost impossible to categorise the artists represented in ‘Walk On,’” and that most of them could have been included in any of those sections (73). Still, he continues, “I do feel there may be something fundamental that links all (or at least most) of the artists here,” and that is what he calls “an embodied or phenomenological approach to the making of their work” (73). Collier provides a list of ways that artists may take an embodied or phenomenological approach. They may “respond directly to things as they find them” (73). They may “‘represent’ movement through space (by walking), activating senses we sometimes take for granted (smell, touch, taste, temperature)” (73). They may “engage with an embodied experience of space and depth (what Merleau-Ponty called the ‘flesh of the world’)” (73). They may engage “with others (a fundamental and much overlooked element of phenomenology—if we experience the world through our bodies, then we must engage with others, touch/brush up against them and be aware of their sense fo self and of our responsibility to others)” (73). And, finally, their practices “could be seen as philosophy in action”; in other words, Collier suggests, “making art is a practical application of phenomenology” (73).
That was Collier’s preface. The first section of the essay proper, “Walking and Identity: Agency and Political Action,” begins with Richard Long. He quotes a statement in which Long realizes that walking could be an art form: “I like the idea of using the land without possessing it . . . I have become interested in using a walk to express original ideas about the land, art and walking itself” (qtd. 74). According to Collier, “[m]any artists in ‘Walk On’ recognise and value the natural world, making art that is not about possession or power, glamour or material things, but about real things in our environment, presented straightforwardly” (74). (Robinson, I think, would disagree.) “Long’s insistence that art is in need of renewal is still relevant today,” Collier continues (74). He wants to dispel “some historical ‘myths’” about walking and art-making, “especially the link often made between art-walking and the idea of the ‘pastoral’” (74). “Walking-artists are not walking away from the real world,” he states, although many are “challenging the notion of the pastoral as an ideology,” as a refuge for the landowning class (74). “The reality is that the relationship between art, walking and the world is a complex one,” Collier writes. “The idea, the culture, of walking is (and has been) politically and socially value-laden. At various times it has been socially exclusive and yet (for instance) for Wordsworth and the Romantics, walking and mobility became a weapon of resistance, a symbol of independence and self-determination. It embodied the free and radical mind” (74).
Tim Brennan, for instance, “has developed a walking practice based around a series of what he calls ‘manoeuvres’ over a period of some twenty years,” Collier continues (74). In his most 2013 work, iAmbic Pedometer: Ur Manoeuvre, Brennan “resurrects the idea of the radical Wordsworth” in combination with Kurt Schwitters’s sound poem “Ursonate” (74). “Brennan’s work contextualises and interrogates notions of Romanticism and the picturesque,” Collier writes. “In his work, the relationship between culture and nature, countryside and city, remains a complex one, and, indeed, in recent years the ‘countryside’ has become an increasingly contested area politically and socially, still seen by many as representing a hierarchical, privileged and exclusive culture” (74). That perception is something Ingrid Pollard’s work addresses. Her work “disrupts such simple commonsense notions, questioning the construction of the Romantic countryside idyll and challenging assumptions of identity and ownership,” particularly through her 1992 Wordsworth’s Heritage, which was included in Walk On (75). Imitating the postcards sold in the Lake District, but originally placed on billboards, “Pollard introduces contemporary black walkers into the setting of the countryside near Grasmere, and features Wordsworth’s profile in the centre of the ‘constructed’ image” (75). “The placing of black walkers transforms the Romantic landscape and questions of identity, belonging and heritage are brought to the fore in a thoughtful, powerful work that wryly and sensitively questions issues of identity,” Collier states (75). “Walking, Pollard seems to be saying, may appear to be one of the most egalitarian ways in which we can experience the world in all its richness and complexity and, as such, we may think of it as an experience that, intuitively, is common to most and shared by many,” he continues. “But this is an illusion. The walking experience is contextual and relative; issues of race and class are still barriers to engagement with the land” (75). That’s certainly true in Canada, as the story of an Indigenous woman threatened by a farmer with a gun for walking down a grid road suggests.
Some of the artists included in Walk On—Brennan, Simon Pope, and Hamish Fulton, among others—“have tackled this notion of exclusivity head on” by undertaking group walks, “deliberately subverting the Romantic notion of the solitary walker” (75). Pope’s practice is socially engaged, operating “in direct opposition to the idea of the solitary walker” (75). For Pope, walking has the potential to bring people together “to share experiences and to learn from a mutual exchange of ideas,” and by walking and talking with others, “he questions culturally constructed views and values of landscape” (76). Brennan’s reprise of the 1936 Jarrow March takes sees walking as performative political action (76). In the Jarrow March (also known as the Jarrow Crusade), and the mass trespass of Kinder Scout four years before, “the ‘walk’ was a means of direct action in the political, social and geographical landscape” (76). In 1996, Brennan spent 25 days walking the 298-mile route of the Jarrow Crusade, an action documented in his book Codex: Crusade (76). Given the duration of that walk, though, I am wondering whether Brennan was able to make that walk with other people, or if it was a solo endeavour, and therefore not an example of walking that rejects the notion of the solitary walker. Luckily, Codex: Crusade is available in my university’s library, so I’ll be able to learn more about Brennan’s work.
The final artists discussed in this section of Collier’s essay are Dan Holdsworth and Tracy Hanna. Holdsworth’s “light box and photographs refer in scale and subject matter to both the notion of the romantic sublime, and to the need for us to take action in the face of potential environmental disaster” (76). The images included in Walk On were photographic negatives of the volcanic landscape of southern Iceland. “These ghostly images seem to preface an uncertain future—a landscape which is melting away,” Collier suggests (76). Hanna’s work, a video of “a walker endlessly climbing a hill but not reaching the top,” suggests something about “the absurdity of the romantic notion of the solitary walker striding off up the hill—a walker who sees only the summit as ‘his’ goal—and not the walk itself,” Collier writes (76). That figure, “moving single-mindedly and relentlessly towards a point but missing the flora, fauna and culture along the way,” is “disembodied” and “really misses the point” (76).
The next section of Collier’s essay, “Walking and Painting,” begins with a question: “What relevance does walking have for a painter?” (77). The painters included in Walk On are not walking artists, he admits, but “they are artists who walk and whose embodied practice” Collier would describe as “phenomenological” (77). “Their work is not about walking but, nevertheless, I believe that walking has played a role in defining the form that it takes,” he argues (77). James Hugonin, for example, walks or runs in the Cheviot hills (the location of his studio) almost every day, and Collier believes he can see the effect of those walks on Hugonin’s paintings. Another painter for whom walking and phenomenology are important, he continues, is Brendan Stuart Burns. “The paintings in the exhibition could not have been created without the artist having walked extensively through the landscape—in this case the landscape of Pembrokeshire,” Collier contends (77).
In “Walking, Maps/Mapping and Poetry,” the essay’s next section, Collier discusses the work of Alec Finlay that was included in Walk On. Finlay’s The Road North, produced in collaboration with another artist, Ken Cockburn, is “a word-map of Scotland, composed by Finlay & Cockburn as they travelled through their homeland in 2010 and 2011” (78). Their journey was modelled on one by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, taking in 53 “stations” and leaving Edinburgh on the same date that Basho and his travelling companion Sora departed from Edo in 1689. Unfortunately, Collier doesn’t discuss the importance of mapping in the work of any of the other artists included in Walk On. Maybe Finlay’s work was alone in its representation of mapping.
The essay’s final section, “Culture and Nature,” begins with a quotation from the poet Chris Drury, in which the distinction between culture nature is seen as an illusion (79). Many of the artists in Walk On, Collier continues, use technology in their work and explore “the relationship of technology to the body and to our embodied relationship to the world” (79). GPS, for example, is just a new kind of mapping (79). In Home, a book of photographs of 19 stone cairns in Iceland by Mark Wilson and Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir during a walking expedition in 1998, includes descriptions of the misty weather conditions, which made wayfinding difficult, and left the pair reliant on “their embodied, intuitive relationship to the environment of which they had become a part—a marriage of technology and animal instinct” (79).
Brian Thompson’s work, Collier suggests, “embraces a combination of both old and new technologies (culture and nature) in making and walking” (79). Thompson’s art “is phenomenological both in the way that he engages with the materiality of a place and in the way that his experience is materially re-presented as sculpture,” using traditional materials to record some of his walks “with modern satellite navigation” (79). In Thompson’s two-dimensional work, “lines traced are ‘layered over abstracted, pixilated maps, evoking a contemporary digital cartography,’” Collier writes, quoting Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (79). Tim Knowles’s work traces walks that are “dictated solely by the direction of the wind—wind walks,” thus dealing with “the boundaries between culture and nature” (79). Knowles’s tools include “a mechanical device which registers the movements and changes in wind direction” that he wears strapped to his head (79). In Seven Walks from Seven Dials, “the meandering route of the wind-walker (guided solely by the wind) collides with buildings, walls, railings, ventilation shafts, parked vehicles—culture and nature literally in collision” (79). The drawings that result from these walks “don’t differentiate between body, stone, concrete, road, tree or car and appear from out of this meander as unpredictable traces—lines sometimes organic and free-flowing and at other times, as the walker hits a wall, for instance, mechanistic and angular” (79-80). According to Collier, “Knowles’ work also acts a critique of the restrictions we take for granted in our everyday manoeuvring around the urban landscape—the hidden ways in which our lives are controlled” (80).
Younger artists are dealing with walking and mapping in new ways. Rachel Clewlow’s Explorer, for instance, “is a colour coded and abstract annotation of her daily routine,” in which her movements on different tracks are represented in different colours (80). The collective plan b’s All our GPS tracks, 2011-2012 are “etched into acrylic sheets creating an intricate web of lines that immortalises their everyday lives in Berlin” (80). Jeremy Wood’s White Horse Hill is a “sculptural rendition of a GPS walk in Uffington, Oxfordshire, as seen from the heavens,” and walkwalkwalk’s contribution to the exhibition documents their drifts through London’s Bethnal Green area “collecting stories and objects, creating a narrative of place” (80). “The delicate, beautiful ‘walk lines’” displayed in these GPS works “are also the traces of our contemporary social existence, of our daily movements traceable by others, under constant surveillance” (80). For example, Search, a 1993 video by Pat Naldi and Wendy Kirkup, “consists of silent video footage documenting a synchronised walk undertaken by the artists in Newcastle-upon-Tyne city centre in 1993, recorded on the then-brand-new sixteen-camera surveillance system run by Northumbria Police” (80). The pair walked separately across the city, “secretly observed by the surveillance cameras” (80). “The raw footage was given by the police to the artists,” Collier explains, “who edited it into twenty ten-second sequences which were then transmitted completely unannounced during the commercial breaks on Tyne Tees Television between 21 June and 4 July 1993” (80). The route of the walk, he continues, was “determined by the location of the surveillance cameras,” and “it revealed a secret and hidden ‘history’ of the way that we are monitored and corralled in our interaction with the urban environment” (80). Such containment “is the other side of the solitary romantic walker,” who is “unable to lose him or herself in the contemporary urban environment, observed and monitored, literally at every turn” (80).
Collier concludes by discussing the work of Janet Cardiff, whom he mentioned at the beginning of his essay. “In her audio walks, Cardiff also uses new technologies . . . and makes little or no distinction between the urban and rural; indeed both ‘sites of meaning’ often overlap in her work,” he writes (81). Cardiff “encourages us to experience/perceive the world by using a range of senses, not just the visual (something which our culture from the Enlightenment onwards has tended to preface)” (81). She is interested in the ways that listening to recorded sound affects and changes our perceptions of the physical world as we move through it (81).
Finally, I want to consider the work included in the show, and try to think about the range of practices for which walking is a methodology, as I did when I wrote here about David Evans’s The Art of Walking: A Field Guide. Performance is represented with documentation from a number of artists. The Lovers, the walk along the Great Wall of China made by Marina Abramovič and Ulay in 1988, is represented by photographs (accompanied by drawings) and text which document the action. “In this relatively unusual work, there was no immediate audience, but we, as the audience, become witnesses to a search for both true partnership, and those things that the West has lost touch with,” the accompanying text reads (24). Francis Alÿs’s 2004 Guards was apparently shown on video in the exhibition, which again raises the question of its immediate audience. The curators describe the performance this way: “64 Coldstream guards enter separately in the City of London, unaware of one another’s route; the guards wander through the city looking for one another; upon meeting, they fall into step and march together” (28). Photographs of Alÿs’s 2004 The Nightwatch, in which a fox was let loose in an art gallery overnight and captured by security cameras, is also included, in the form of two photographs. (I think that’s a performance, with the fox as the primary performer.) Joe Bateman’s video works, represented in the show by his 2010 Nomad’s Land, might actually be performances. According to the text that accompanies stills from his video, Bateman adopts “the persona of a post-apocalyptic survivor in a perfectly ordinary English landscape, roaming free” (32). In the videos, Bateman’s persona “appears as a kind of tragic or sacrificial figure—the ‘ghost of the environment future,’ perhaps” (32). The figure’s “anomalous behaviour” is intended to make viewers question their own actions (32). The exhibition included two videos of Tim Brennan’s performances, documented on video made with an iPhone: 2011’s Vedute Manoeuvre, and 2013’s iAmbic Pedometer: Ur Manoeuvre, which are represented in the book by video stills (Brennan also documents his walks with photography). The accompanying text states that Vedute Manoeuvre was (at that point) Brennan’s longest completed walking work. Brennan’s future plans included running the circumference of the Roman Empire; in 2013, when Walk On was published, he had carried out ultra-marathon runs of Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall (36). I’m particularly interested in Brennan’s practice because it doesn’t seem to be oriented around producing objects.
Sophie Calle’s performance work was exhibited as well, in the form of her 1980 Suite Véniteienne, which consisted of 55 black-and-white photographs, 23 texts, and three maps (41). In Calle’s urban walks, she takes on the personal of a private detective or a spy “in pursuit of knowing more about a person than they do themselves” (40). Her “motivations are unknowable, her ultimate goals opaque, and her behaviour seemingly contradictory” (40). Alec Finlay’s The Road North is a map and text work representing his layering of Basho’s poetry over his walking journey around Scotland; it was represented in the exhibition by photographs and a map (59). Bruce Nauman’s 1967-68 studio performance Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around The Perimeter of a Square was included in the show as a video. Nauman’s performances, according to the curators, “stretched what was acceptable in terms of the duration expected of the performer and the audience” (96), although I’m not convinced there was an audience in Nauman’s studio during the action. The “sheer banality” of the act of walking, “when removed from a poetic or politicized landscape, becomes the source of meaning of the work,” according to the accompanying text, and “Nauman teases unexpected meanings from what can, at first glance, seem like the most bizarre or banal premise” (96). Carey Young’s series Body Techniques recreates performance works from the 1960s and 1970s (126); it is represented here by a photograph of her 2007 Body Techniques (after A Line in Ireland, Richard Long, 1974), which is discussed at length by Robinson. I would disagree with the description of any of Long’s walks as performance, though, since he considers them to be sculptures.
Melanie Manchot’s 2011 collaborative work Walk (Square) is represented in the book by video stills. In Walk (Square), 1,000 children converged on a square in Hamburg and then undertook what Manchot describes as “‘simple walking choreography’” based on Bruce Nauman’s movements in Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around The Perimeter of a Square (92). It’s not entirely clear whether Manchot’s action imitates the form of a parade or a demonstration, but it does create, in her words, “‘a moment of collectivity’” (92). Manchot’s work is clearly an example of relational aesthetics or social practice, as is Simon Pope’s 2010 A Common Third (With Hayden Lorimer), an audio recording (included in the book as a photograph) of a discussion of a walk Pope took with Lorimer in a place neither knew beforehand. The audio recording presents a discussion of their process—“about the mental pathways taken as much as the literal ones” (104). Pope’s work is about the sociality of walking, and “how relationships, including power relationships, determine or structure our experience and expectations of landscape” (104). Another collective practice is the mapping of walks in London by the trio walkwalkwalk; photographs of their text works, “created as flyposters form stories harvested on their routes,” were included in the exhibition, along with Walk Finds, “a collection of found objects collected on the walks” (116). The work of Wrights & Sites (Stephen Hodge, Simon Persighetti, Phil Smith and Cathy Turner) was included in the form of their “[p]ublished provocations,” including A Mis-Guide to Anywhere, an “intellectual toolbox” that encourages readers to engage in their own “‘disrupted walking’” (122).
Examples of Janet Cardiff’s site-specific, walking audio art included in the exhibition were her 1991 Forest Walk; her 2006 Jena Walk (Memory Field), a collaboration with George Bures Miller; and her 1997 Münster Walk. All three audio works are represented in the text by photographic documentation. “Cardiff’s work depends on discrepancies between what we think we know, what we see and what we are told,” the accompanying text contends. “Characteristically, her narrative combines fictions with descriptions of the actual landscape so that the status of both fact and fiction are thrown into doubt. Knowledge is, temporarily, reordered” (42). Julian Opie’s 2012 computer animation Summer presents an ideal visual image of a walk in a park that “deliberately denies us the ‘feeling’ of being in the ‘great outdoors’” by blocking, and even mocking, “the traditional pleasures offered by a walk—such as identifying particular flora and fauna on one’s journey” (98). That work is represented in the book by still images from the animation.
Works that fall into the category of photography or video were included in Walk On as well. Atul Bhalla’s digital slide presentation Yamuna Walk is an “account of the four-day walk that the artist undertook along the banks of the Yamuna River which passes through his home town of New Delhi in India,” the curators write (34). That 53-kilometre walk, and Bhalla’s photographs, “reveal how the river shapes the life of the city across its different zones” (34). “Waste and breathtaking beauty sit side by side,” the curators write, which “alerts us to the fact that, while it has a sacred character in the culture, being associated with rituals of purification,” the river “is also used for refuse disposal” (34). It symbolizes the divine, in other words, but is treated like garbage (34). Bradley Davies’s photographic work begins with the idea of re-enacting Vito Acconci’s 1969 Following, in which the artist followed “a random individual through the streets of New York until he could no longer do so, at which point he chose another individual at the location he found himself, throughout the day” (54). Acconci’s photographic documentation, however, was staged after the fact, so Davies’s re-enactments are reconstructions of works which “only ever existed in the artist’s head, and which can only be known through images shaped and edited for our consumption subsequently” (54). Moreover, Davies’s work acknowledges the presence of CCTV cameras, by taking the perspective of one of those cameras (54). Davies’s video work is represented in the book by still images. Tracy Hanna’s video work is represented in the book by a still from her 2009 Hill Walker, in which an image of someone “struggling up a snow-covered hillside is projected onto a bag of plaster that has been formed into a cone shape that looks like the ur-form of a mountain” (66). “The hill-walker’s progress from top to bottom takes only a minute, after which it is repeated—again and again,” the accompanying text states. “The brevity of the process renders the arduous efforts on the task seem ludicrous,” and the walker appears to be more like Sisyphus than a heroic mountaineer (66). Dan Holdsworth’s photography is represented by his 2010 Blackout 10; its negative form “underscores how alien” the landscape of an Icelandic glacier is “by abstracting it—rendering it even more incomprehensible, impenetrable and immense” (68). Search, a 1993 work by Pat Naldi and Wendy Kirkup, is represented in the book by six still images taken by police surveillance cameras, and Naldi’s own 2013 project The View from Above, a video shot from two hot-air balloons, is present in the form of a video still.
Ingrid Pollard’s Wordsworth Heritage is included as an inkjet print and a photograph documenting its earlier installation as a billboard in London. Rachel Reupke’s 2002 video Infrastructure is included in the book as stills. Set in an apparently militarized alpine landscape, the video’s “miniature human figures are contrasted to both the sublime landscape—a walker’s paradise—and to the sublime technological achievements of keeping humanity in perpetual motion by road, rail, sea and air” (106). Her human figures, though, “seem fragile or lost,” their stories “all but lost amongst an endless flow of traffic” (106). Richard Wentworth’s photographs document “chance findings on the street, where ordinary people have hastily manipulated objects to solve a pressing practical problem” (118). These photographs parallel his sculptural practice, in which ordinary objects are transformed “through small alterations or juxtapositions” (118). Wentworth walks “to discover new ways of perceiving the world, and to discover how ‘everyday’ creativity suffuses the world” (118). Catherine Yass’s 2008 video High Wire “follows the French high-wire artist Didier Pasquette, who was invited by Yass to walk a wire strung between two towers on the Red Road Estate in Glasgow” (124).
Hamish Fulton’s walking art is represented in the book by works that combine text and photography, or text and mapping, or that consist of text alone, including his 1967 London, 2 February, which states, “no walk, no work” (61). Richard Long’s sculptural works included in the show (and the book) include his 1975 A Line in the Himalayas, his 1968 England (a work that, like his famous A Line Made by Walking shows the path of a walk marked out on grass covered with daisies), and his 1977 Fourteen Stones.
Rachael Clewlow’s map work “meticulously documents the ways in which she inhabits the city in which she lives: the routes she takes through it, the times and dates of her travels, and the methods by which (to paraphrase Warhol) she moves from A to B and back again” (46). Clewlow uses what she calls “‘statistical diaries’” to log her walks, and those notebooks become “the source material for Clewlow’s pictorial inventions,” in which she translates “the patterns of her own mobility” into “abstract patterns of form and colour” (46). Along with one of her notebooks, the exhibition presented her 2011 screenprint Explorer, one of those abstractions. Sarah Cullen’s map work was represented by two works from her The City as Written by the City series: 2005’s Out and About Florence with Muma, and 2007’s Walk to see Trudy and her new pin, Banff Centre—Banff Hospital. Cullen’s work derives from collaborations with geographers and other artists, and she uses a “‘drawing box’” which she has created, in which “a pencil pendulum . . . is able to record her movement in space in equivalent strokes of graphite on paper when carried around on a walk” (52). The resulting drawings, the curators suggest, “are almost anti-maps, in the sense that they cannot offer objectivity or legibility”; instead, they “bear indexical traces of her presence and motion” (52). Land artist Chris Drury’s work was included as well: 2003’s Ladakh III and IV and High Desert Winds. Drury’s work is also collaborative, involving “scientists and experts from a range of disciplines” in order to explore “what inner or outer nature mean, and the inextricable connections between the two” (56). According to the curators, High Desert Winds “shows an inkjet map of a walk in the Leh area of Ladak printed over a pattern from a cross section of a human heart made from rust iron filings. The patterns resemble the shape of winds from satellite weather maps” (56). The earth pigments he uses “are always brought back from the actual place” where he walked (56). Another mapping project is All GPS traces in Berlin in 2011-2012 by plan b (Sophia New and Daniel Belasco Rogers), which consists of an entire year of GPS data engraved onto a transparent acrylic sheet (100). Tim Robinson’s map and text work is represented by his 1990 Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage, pages from his book of the same title, and his 1996 oilerin Arann, a map of the Aran Islands. His work is collaborative and involves walking with naturalists, archaeologists, historians, and other experts (108). Brian Thompson’s topographical sculptures in Walk On included his 2012 River Wear and 2012 Sun Gate at Macchu Picchu. Thompson “is interested in the different ways in which we measure, describe and figure the land, and how his experience of walking through a landscape can be re-imagined through sculpture” (112). He uses GPS data to form the “line” of his walks, which become the starting point of his sculptures and prints (112). Jeremy Wood’s White Horse Hill is also a representation of a series of walks, recorded using GPS technology, and then reproduced as a cardboard sculpture or model (120-21).
Mike Collier’s text work was also included: a digital print of a billboard representing his collaborative group walks on the edges of cities, which are represented through colourful text. The show also included his 2012 Daffodils 1 & 2; Good Friday 1&2, which responded “simply, directly and intuitively” to the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, not only her words, but also the places they describe, which Collier has walked in many times, by drawing on copies of the journals with pastel, and his 2012 Was it for this?, which does something similar with a page from William Wordsworth’s manuscript of The Prelude. Home, a collection of photographs by Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson, documents a difficult 10-day walk in Iceland through images of the stone cairns that literally guided them home through the fog and mist (110).
Painting is represented in Walk On by the work of Brendan Stuart Burns and James Hugonin; it is harder to see the effect of walking on these. However, the show also included Tim Knowles’s abstract drawings, “showing one of a series of seven walks made from Seven Dials, London. Each of these walks is guided solely by the wind as Knowles steadfastly follows a windvane mounted on a helmet worn on his head” (86). Somehow—through the use of GPS?—a map of the result was included in the show as a drawing, along with photographs and the helmet and windvane themselves.
Walk On: From Richard Long to Janet Cardiff—40 Years of Art Walking toured throughout the UK in 2013 and 2014, and I wish that I’d been able to see it. The range of work included suggests the many different media in which artists respond to the simple act of walking. That range of work indicates that some of the prescriptive claims I have read about walking art need to be rethought; some will find particular forms or projects to be more sympathetic to their political or aesthetic sensibilities, but artists ought to be able to make the work they feel compelled to make. Collier’s essay ends with a quotation from Richard Long on this topic: “I believe in diversity (debate and discussion, we agree to disagree). A diversity of walk categories, a diversity of art-making, a diversity of artists” (81). That diversity, Collier states, is what he hopes Walk On achieved, and it rings true for me; there is nothing worse than prescriptive demands that artists make art this way or that way. It also suggests the variety of ways I might respond to my walks in Saskatchewan if I had the skills. Walk On also leaves me thinking that perhaps my photographs of Wood Mountain Walk aren’t as terrible as I’ve been led to believe; perhaps they might even be interesting. I don’t know. They were never intended to be fine art photographs, just documentation of an experience, and perhaps that’s good enough. Even so, I will probably end up responding to my walking through writing about it, although the range of work in Walk On is quite exciting.
Evans, David. The Art of Walking: A Field Guide, Black Dog, 2012.
“On Walking—Conference Proceedings.” Walk: University of Sunderland’s Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge Research Group. http://walk.uk.net/portfolio/on-walking-conference-proceedings/. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Schraube, Ernst, and Charlotte Højholt, eds. Psychology and the Conduct of Everyday Life, Routledge, 2015.
Smith, Phil. Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways, Triarchy, 2010.
Walk On: From Richard Long to Janet Cardiff—40 Years of Art Walking, Art Editions North, 2013.