The space between things and passing time - choreographic maps for the mental space between Scheveningen and Katwijk. A series of engaged walks bookended by two articles (which can be read below) in art magazine Le Merle.
The eclipse reveals itself briefly through gray cloud cover, a silver smile in the sky on a sea that is a brown hushed whisper instead of its roaring self.
The sea’s foaming at its lips as it roars and licks my shoeless feet. The futility of battling the elements, I embrace the wind and sail euphoria.
The sea and the sand embrace and release. Two soul mates giving and taking, always a little of the other in themselves. Inseparable as the sun shines on.
When I return the tide is coming in. It appears gentle but the power of the sea is indisputable and inevitable. The waves extend upon the sand revealing tiny desperately bubbling holes gasping for breath as the beach prepares for another drowning.
The connection is strong between myself and this North Sea along which I walk. Metaphorically speaking, I crawled from here at birth… and will return when this life is done. There is a sense of solace in the idea of swimming with my ancestors.
A twinge of mournfulness for the ones that will never sting my summer swimming as I avoid the tiny translucent blobs which scatter the sand signaling the return of the jellyfish as the sea’s waters warm.
There is a moment between two events when it’s not one or the other, when the tide is neither coming in or or going out. Is this a moment of turmoil, currents and intentions colliding… or one of complete tranquility?
The sea is silent in its roaring hush and the sand speaks no words. In fact, even the wind only pretends at whispering.
I wish my time more geological. Like the sea witnessing the movement of continents and mountains. Watching civilizations behind the dunes rise and fall and rise and fall.
The sand might get heavy and the sea’s currents strong but in a cloudless sky the sun is summer’s strongest player in this movement’s time and space.
Article one (before)
“Walking Hours: the Space Between Things and the Passing in Time”
I will walk. That is the work.
This work lies somewhere between a choreographic expression and an artistic gesture. Walking as an act of engagement, my senses attentive. I am prepared to embrace what I might encounter: ideas, interactions, objects, artistic epiphanies precipitated by the serendipitous convergence of events. But the work is the walk and anything it inspires is supplemental. Between March and August of 2015 I will walk. In essence, that’s it. Just the action of walking: one foot in front of the other, experiencing the gravity induced pressure between the soles of my feet and surface of the Earth below.
I limit the space by walking back and forth between the two Dutch coastal towns of Scheveningen and Katwijk, along the North Sea from A to B and back to A. The fact that I live in one and my father grew up in the other is just an interesting coincidence, nothing more.
I will walk between 9 and 5, or working hours. Walking hours. The work is to walk.
It is a progression of work which started a few years ago with “Choreography of Love and Labour: The Flower Picker” where for six weeks I embedded myself as a daffodil picker on a farm in the South East of Ireland. Every morning I would stretch and prepare mentally before consciously stepping onto the stage that was the daffodil field. There I would pick till the end of the day funding the work directly by making the work (as I was paid 10 cents per bunch of 10 stems.) I was spectator as well as performer just as my co-workers were simultaneously the audience and part of an intricate, arbitrary choreography. I chose not to document the work in any way. It was ephemeral and lives only in memories maintained by a story of that particular movement and time and space.
“Walking Hours” intends to take the work outside of the conventional space and considers alternate mediums for artistic expression. The work is without the necessity of a tangible result, not creating for the sake of a product but sooner an object of thought or an inspired vibration set in motion. It seeks to engage in dialogue with unexpected audiences, perhaps unschooled in artistic appreciation. It does not want to be restricted by conventions or paradigms – perhaps inadvertently breaking some and discovering others. There are no expectations of what the work might be. All that is intended is to embrace the process and be engaged in the action of walking.
“Walking Hours: the Space Between Things and the Passing in Time” will be bookended between two publications of Le Merle. This first – this text - sets the work in motion. It is a statement of intent and also a proposition to participate for anyone who might feel so inclined. I leave it open, just as I have no expectations of what (if anything) “Walking Hours” might bring. There is a title and a loose score to set something in motion. For the rest there is a wide openness within which to explore… from A to B and back to A. The final bookend – published after the summer of 2015 - will present some sort of documentation referring to what “Walking Hours“ was.
Article two (after)
"Walking Hours: The Space Between and the Passing in Time"
I chose the day of an eclipse to commence my project “Walking Hours.” A celestial choreography of planetary scope was to herald in my far more humble choreography representing a man walking the Earth. I thought it poetic and hoped it would be auspicious as I embarked on an artistic exploration of movement through time and space.
I announced the inception of “Walking Hours” in the Spring 2015 issue of Le Merle. I proposed to do nothing more than walk a specific space – along the coast from the Dutch town of Scheveningen to Katwijk and back - at a time of day corresponding to conventional working hours. I wanted the parameters to be simple, an aspect frequently applied to my work as a practical and conceptual fundament. As an artist I seek to better understand my place in society within the framework of humanity’s place in the world, in this time. Both directly and indirectly, walking is a suitable conduit for this investigation.
The choice of the space was personal and practical as I have history in both towns and live in one of them, giving me easy access. In walking I hope to find something universal. To some degree we all walk and if we don’t, it can be argued that we long for it – the crawling baby, the wheelchair bound paraplegic, the elderly. This creates the potential for conversation or exchange with anybody I might encounter during the process of the work.
In walking, attentively, with engagement, I feel I come closer to how I literally want to walk the Earth. Embracing that I am a small factor, a mere cog in a great big wheel and that my best contribution is to be engaged in a conscious, positive manner. In my walking I know humility and embrace the small and the large. My intention is to approach any situation with openness and look people in the eye, prepared for conversation or a simple nod in acknowledgement of their presence. I feel it is the purest contribution I can make in an increasingly complex world where my powerlessness – a sensation shared with many - is paramount.
I believe in the artist as a renegade of society. Part of a small class of subversives who challenge the status quo - maintained by the established elites - in order to question the direction we collectively take. I therefore find it difficult to participate in the more conventional economy of art that expects the artist to become an entrepreneur and find value in the work based on its financial worth. It is for this reason that I like to take alternative choices in my artistic endeavors. I prefer the aesthetic gesture, the object of thought or the ephemeral expression to a process that leads to a tangible product.
It is not that I am against a physical result, I just prefer anything physical to flow naturally from a process rather than have it be the goal from the outset. I see it as a statement against the consumerism and obsessive need in our societies to saturate our lives with stuff, perpetuating a system of people working low-end jobs in order to earn the money they need to purchase what they make. It is a system that leaves a majority teetering on the brink of survival and a planet that is on the brink of being inhospitable to our species. So my walking is political. It is in that sense an act of resistance.
When the work is not necessarily about creating a tangible result it becomes challenging to find a means of communicating it. Although initially happy to simply announce it and bookmark the project in Le Merle, I was pleased when the process uncovered different opportunities for communication.
I approach walking in a performative sense and prepare as a dancer might for a show subsequently entering within the physical boundaries of the walk much as if I step onto a stage. The walking itself is not particularly animated or acted, but rather resonates with its intention to be open and prepared to embrace what is experienced. This allows for interactions during the walk and, when not within the frame of “Walking Hours,” conversations with people who might be interested.
Some outcomes were more tangible. I created some sketch-like sculptural works with encountered objects that intrigued me and which I would take home. A little like an abstract memory, a collection infused with the intention of the journey. I also found pleasure in creating what I called “choreographic maps for the mental space between Scheveningen and Katwijk.” these were essentially drawings based on a specific day of walking accompanied by a poetic textual impression. I though a mental map was apt as the physical route was so obviously straightforward yet allowed for intangible wanderings of the mind. The maps were sent from Katwijk to individuals who lived in The Hague and with whom I had had a conversation about “Walking Hours.” It was a postcard reminder of our conversation and perhaps a catalyst for further exploration of the elements of the work. But like with the sculptures, it also gave me an opportunity to create a more tangible representation of the walking which by its nature is so ephemeral. It allowed me to develop a collection of drawings and at the same time scatter the collection in subversion to the conventional attitude of treating the art object with a near sacred reverence. I folded the drawing and it was imprinted with a postal stamp that penetrated the paper before being sent negligently by mail. One drawing never arrived.
I like to think the postman thought the drawing so nice he kept it for himself and now spends his weekends mentally wandering the contours of the map wishing for more walking hours rather than working hours.