Reflections of walk #3 as part of 'Lines in the Landscape' residency.
Reflecting on my thoughts that grew out of a walk between Paddington station and Tate Modern.
14 February 2017.
When I knew that I would be attending a lecture about walking at Tate Modern in London, I decided that walking from Paddington station to Tate Modern could help me in understanding the act of walking better. As this walk was done with the intention of research into the act itself, my experience of walking had shifted. Just knowing that my intention was to observe, experience and absorb my perceptions seemed so much more open. I had wondered about the fact that this walk would be in an urban landscape, one so different to the rural agricultural landscape here at The Rodd. I wondered whether, through memory, if the experiences would connect in my mind whilst walking; if I would carry the landscape of The Rodd with me in my mind- therefore having a personal imagined experience of a hybrid landscape. As I walked the streets of London I thought about how Sidney Nolan painted Australian landscapes whilst being surrounded by the lush green land of the English / Welsh borders. In a sense, Sidney carried the Australian landscape with him- in his mind and I thought about how this is the case with not only artists, but with all of us. These landscapes we hold in our mind as a point of recollection, comparison and comfort (or discomfort maybe) are with us always- so can we ever be completely present in a landscape? Can we ever just experience ‘it’ without any other landscape creeping in? Is the landscape that which we walk upon and move across, or does it exist purely within our perceptions?
As I moved through the streets I realized how controlled we are when we walk. We learn to walk when we are toddlers, and we don’t tend to question this movement until it is challenged or taken from us through injury or illness. This repetitive one foot in front of the other action just seems to happen! We just do it. Walks are often contained within routes with invisible boundaries- like imaginary tubes. We occupy space within; not above or below our bodies- but within; moving through space, along predetermined/ influenced paths. A to B. Start to finish. Beginnings and ends. Even a wander that is seemingly unplanned is controlled or navigated through environmental tracks; along pavements, tunnels, stairways. I started to think about how we don’t ever challenge how we walk. We walk forwards and upright. A sidestep only to avoid collision / contact with another.
I wonder- Is it possible to navigate a town completely without those learnt / imposed rules of walking? Can we reject all that society says about how journey happens and why? How can I dismantle the act of walking, and if I did manage to dismantle it, how would I move through space? What would that walk look like? What would my body look like? How would it sound?
There are recognisable sounds that happen when we walk. The rhythmic repetitive sounds of my footsteps and the insides of my thighs rubbing. The tonal mumble and too-ing and fro-ing of conversation. The in and out gasping of breath as I rush up steps and I try to catch my breath. Despite all these sounds I feel silent. If I were to reject this ‘standard’ of walking- what would I sound like and would this disruption mean that I would become more physically aware- physically present?
I suppose the first rule to break is the rule that says a journey’s purpose is to get from A to B…. so what would happen if I navigated space with no destination? My pre-programmed mind can’t help but wonder where I would end up and what would influence my path- but I know that I’d need to ‘not think’ / not predetermine. Is that even possible? Isn’t our inbuilt ‘sat nav’ instinctive? Is it part of our basic nomadic DNA?
I now see that the urban space has made me realise how we are conditioned- and that these rules apply even when navigating rural spaces. We are still upright, forward facing and following paths. I feel that I am returning to The Rodd with a desire to disrupt, dismantle and question the very act of walking.