To the Walking Artists Network:
I’m writing to introduce myself and report on an art-walk that you might enjoy pondering or possibly replicating.
I’m a professor of English at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York, where I teach courses that explore the cultural history of walking. (I’d be glad to share my syllabus if you are interested.) I will be in the UK from January to July 2018, studying what is still a radical notion to many people, the idea that a walk can be a work of art. I am going to be based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where I will be a Fulbright Visiting Professor.
My focus will be Scotland’s role in the evolution of art-walking, but I would be glad to hear from anyone in the UK or beyond who has thoughts about the following topics: 1) how walking is represented in the arts, 2) how it is involved in the ways that people interact with artworks; and 3) how words, documents, intentions, restrictions, audiences, etc. can transform the act of walking into something “more” or “other”—into something that is not “just” life, but is art, thereby soliciting for itself all the special scrutiny that art-status carries with it.
I can be reached at [log in to unmask]
As for the art-walk mentioned above, here it is:
“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.”
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Richard Long’s pioneering artwork, “A Line Made by Walking” (1967), members of William Sharpe’s Walk This Way course at Barnard College, Columbia University, created a new work called “A Walk Made by Lining.” It was performed in Riverside Park, New York, on April 20, 2017, in the following manner:
Fifty students formed into two lines facing each other and took turns reading one line apiece from Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of the Open Road.” After reading a poetic line, students walked between the human lines made by their classmates until they reached “the end of the line,” physically and aurally, advancing the walk by fifty paces. The walk in its collectivity was then repeated twice, advancing another 100 paces through Riverside Park. The walk concluded with the professor reading Whitman’s 54th line, “From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines.” After the art-walk was finished and its makers had dispersed, all that remained on the site was a wavering trail of scuffed dirt and leaves, while the passage of words and bodies sent invisible ripples through the air. No museum-ready photograph of these ephemeral traces is known to exist.
with all best wishes,
William Chapman Sharpe
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