Friday, 29 July 2011

thoughts on walking

I attended a symposium at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern art yesterday entitled Critical dialogues on Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge with presentations by Alec Finlay, Matthew Beaumont, and Misha Myers, part of the Walking, Art, Landskip (sic) and Knowledge Reasearch Group at the University of Sunderland.

I felt closest and most sympathetic to Eck's presentation, where he spoke of various walks from his history, and I was especially pleased to listen to his description of his daily family walk from his childhood in Stoneypath, where he recounted so much topographical detail as to almost present us with a form of verbal cartography.

Eadweard Muybridge, girl running, Collotype, 1887, 203x318mm
Almost as an aside however, Matthew Beaumont showed this slide by Eadweard Muybridge amongst many others in an idiosyncratic presentation "beginning with the big toe - a peregrination on bipedal plantigrade locomotion" (or as I interpreted it, a cultural and physiological history of the big toe).

My 10 month old son recently started walking. I've been interested in the connections between art and walking and their relationship to process for a long time now, but for some reason didn't connect Angus' tentative learning of a new skill with the more conceptually based ruminations and meditations on walking in relation to my art practice until I saw this Muybridge photograph again.

His tentative first steps are becoming more steady, and he crawls less, but still he falls often although we no longer measure his achievement by counting his steps - they're far too numerous for that. But this too reminds me of Laurie Anderson's brilliant "walking and falling", a work that's personally very dear to me.

Falling, falling down, falling in love, free falling, foot-fall, falling slowly; falling seems to metaphorically sit as an edgy counterpane to the activity of walking, of attempting to find stability, to move oneself forward, step by step.

Thomas Eakins, Marey wheel photographs of unidentified model, c.1884

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