Walk anywhere anytime

Last updated: 4 Nov 2020

Part of a series of posts on my participation in the Walk Exchange’s Walk Studies Training Course – see justification.

This walk is designed to take place at any time and anywhere. It is constructed around the simple premise that in art restrictions can be liberating and walking operates as oppositional, resistant and responsive practice.

Exercise (from Idit Elia Nathan):

    1. Print out the DIY Walk Anywhere Anytime die.
    2. Choose your starting point.
    3. Decide on how often to throw the die.
    4. Throw the die.
    5. Respond to the word (colour, landscape, line, portrait, still life, untitled) in any way you want (discuss, sketch, photograph etc).
    6. Continue walking.
    7. Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 for as long as you like.

See also Play the City Now or Never (FB), an app developed in conjunction with Helen Stratford “enabling audiences to engage in a self-directed live art event/walk exploring two different urban environments” [Peterborough and Southend], based on the belief that playfully limiting a walk can generate creativity and unexpected encounters”. 

Update: in October 2016 and February 2017 in the foyers of the National Theatre, “the nation’s sitting room…play the cultural spaces in and around the building with the help of props, cards and dice”.

As a serious child I have issues with play. And while disrupting the structures of designed-in fun has some perverse appeal, I’m not sure throwing a die is the way to do that.

So what gives with the reading, De Certeau’s On the oppositional practices of everyday life (42 pages; source: Social Text 3 (Autumn 1980))?:

The act of walking…is a process of appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian, it is a special acting out of the place”.

See also Walking in the city, chapter 7 of De Certeau’s The practice of everyday life (1980).

An oppositional approach to the everyday cycling hegemony has appeal too, but in the climate of #brexit the here and now does not feel like the time for binary oppositions, so let’s focus on the everyday instead.

The AHRC funded Understanding everyday participation project is exploring “the articulation of cultural values via the everyday”and “how people make their lives through culture”. What meanings do people attach to ‘everyday’ practices – do supposedly mundane activities, such as taking the dog for a walk, have cultural worth? And what is the interplay between participation, time and place?

The project’s case studies are investigating everyday participation via inter alia the mapping of local cultural assets and participation opportunities. How are communities formed, both in formal cultural environments (the choreographed life) and more informal settings (designed in). Other contexts include life histories, attitudes and the sense of personal identity and belonging.

How Denmark articulates its cultural values, and how internationals engage and/or participate therein, is at the heart of my current concerns. Placemaking (see Lisanne Gibson), including exploring the heritage of a city, can make a strange place feel more familiar, but the lack of ‘alternative’ heritages can be problematic, making negotiating and maintaining identity harder.

Heritage is a political tool very often used to construct an official narrative of the past, which can then be used in the present to mould a particular narrative of national belonging.

PhDer Ruth Webber is articulating the issues from her personal case and through her research. See her preso (esp slide 17) from the recent UEP conference on migration, identity and home-making – our archive of senses help us make sense of unfamiliar places. Your context shapes your experiences of home-making, centred around people, places and things. If, for example, a space makes you think of home this connection may make it feel like home.

The project also has a strand on issues of wellbeing (aka happiness; see Susan Oman).

From QMUL’s 2015 Performing urban archives event:

the current obsession with the new, removing all memory of other uses and thus the experience of these objects, challenges the potential of urban materiality to function as a medium for sharing and establishing relationships that brings one closer to the crowd.

The redevelopment of Copenhagen’s harbour is a case in point. A Harbour Circle has recently been launched, offering “13 km of waterside experiences” with “harbour baths and waterside living” but few traces of the once busy port and docks are visible. Former landmarks are being entirely remade. The results may be pleasing, but the narrative around Copenhagen as a ‘harbour’ is entirely missing, making the building of temporal and spatial connections problematic. How will future memories be made in this context?

It is, of course, the same story in London: “The most extraordinary thing is probably an absence—the lack of the port..now it’s almost impossible to imagine London as an industrial port city; and the concomitant riverside landscape of yuppiedromes is the most unfortunate recent consequence of that.” (Owen Hatherley)

Sherre DeLys’s #brexit woes cure (edited):

When you choose to approach a ‘difficult conversation’ take your die for a walk. At moments of difficulty throw the die and respond in any way you want, then pick up the original conversation. Do this rigorously and repeatedly in response to challenges such as the conversation becoming bogged down or noticing yourself being flooded with emotion or opinion.

Optionally, you might choose to conduct this walk through a cemetery.

Look what can happen when you take a die for a walk!

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