13 November 2009

The walk as a method and an artistic practice

A work-shop by publik, autumn 2009.

How do we approach a space? How do we make research of a specific place in the best way? What kind of impressions and experiences create the sense and the character of a certain place? How do we physically experience places? How do our own body, experience and personality influence our experiences of the new places that we explore?

With this workshop we aimed to make a research on Malmö as a city through the walk and the walk’s forms and methods. The students have been working together in teams where they together have been given an area of research and chosen a theme for their research. As a starting point they have uses the area of research on a walk and represent it in their own chosen format.

By this workshop the students have tried out their ideas and tested them on reality by using the walk and thereby choosing an optic to see the city through. Here you can see the different results of the groups works.

Background knowledge

By the beginning of modernity and the rise of the cities a new term was made for a specific group of men that walked or strolled around in the city. They were given the name ‘flaneur’. A person with a certain self-consciousness who had time and peace to just walk around and watch the life of the city and the ever changing character of the city – and thereby stood out of the mass but at the same time was the quintessence of the city. The perfect flaneur combined empathy and distance. Often the persons were writers or artists who would depict their experiences in text and pictures. The movement is the essence for the flaneur and his strolling through the city in contrast to the life of the city that he moves through that constantly haste by him. This gives him the possibility to voyeur the city but also to take it in on his own conditions.

Concurrently with the rise of the city sociologists, theorists, artists, urban scientists and city-planners have found a profound interest and core research material in the space of the city and the changes as well as the urban population way of taking over the space of the city. Important to mention is the French theorist Michel de Certeaus thoughts in his book ‘The Practice of Everyday Life’ where he analyses how people as individual has a need to create his or her own rolls and rituals in a mass-society such as the city. So when the citizen goes against the planned paths in the parks and makes her own ruts by walking across the lawn she takes in the place in her own way and creates her own rules.

Today many artists still use the walk as a method and an approach for an artistic practise. Here plays the artists personality an important roll for the outcome of the artwork. This becomes clear in the choice of frame or thematic the artist wishes to present. One of the most important and contemporary artists using the walk, as a method is the Mexican based artist Francis Alÿs. He has been doing his city walks in a lot of cities such as London, Mexico City, Jerusalem, Copenhagen, Berlin and Lima – just to mention a few. Before doing his work he first walks the city where he research for the character and the special sphere of the city. Then he sets a certain complex of problem in play of that specific place and often combined with an existential and self-referring approach. As for instance his walk through Mexico City where he pushed a big ice cube, which due to the high temperature quickly became smaller and smaller. This doing for no reasons points at mankind’s ever lasting wondering around with no goal. The walks of Francis Alÿs are afterwards turned into videos, photos, drawing and paintings.

The workshop is made by publik – a Danish organisation producing contemporary art for public spaces in Copenhagen since 2005. publik initiate and produces temporary art projects that has a debating and researching approach towards the boundaries of today’s public spheres. www.publik.dk

Nis Rømer and Johanne Løgstrup

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