11 December 2015 – 20 February 2016
Curators: Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Participating artists: Anca Benera and Arnold Estefan, Fokus Grupa, Oto Hudec, Michal Kindernay, Cecylia Malik, Davor Sanvincenti
To walk in the landscape today is to do so with awareness of the anthropogenic transformation of the natural world, while walking in the urban environment synchronises the rhythm of our steps with the great acceleration of the high-tech city. The sensory experience of strolling, hiking or rambling creates the conditions for uncharted reflection, providing space and time for observation, contemplation and engagement with the material world. Walking is however as much historically-conditioned as it is an innate human experience and in the current moment of ecological crisis the familiar ways of walking, from the determined strides of the wilderness explorer to the carefree saunter of the urban flâneur, are shaken by the encroaching prospect of climate change. This exhibition investigates how in today’s twenty-four seven culture, where minimising time and maximising speed is a prerequisite, the choice to move through the world at a pace of five kilometres an hour could create the conditions to reconnect with ecological realities.
Walking without Footprints considers artistic practices that address walking as a strategy to rethink our relationship to the natural environment and devise exquisite tactics for uncovering new vistas of the overbuilt city. Walking as an aesthetic activity entails performative aspects that use the body to measure surroundings, reveal the psychogeographies of place, as well as intervene conceptually in the social-construction of public space. What is distinctive about ecologically-attuned approaches to walking as art however is the realisation that there can be no more aesthetics without ethics. Expeditions to the countryside have regularly resulted in the removal or rearrangement of natural materials, the marking of territories and leaving of traces on the ground, habits that now cause unease in respect to their environmental impact. In that sense, with their understanding of the interconnectedness of planetary and social issues, the artists in this exhibition demonstrate that another way of walking is possible.
The transformative potential of walking is manifest in this exhibition through works that amplify sensory experiences of the urban environment, uncover despoiled channels that flow unnoticed through the crevices of the city fabric and record the resilience and longevity of trees found in a sleepy neighbourhood of a teeming metropolis. Furthermore, contemporary experience of nature is explored in projects that evoke increasingly rare encounters with wilderness by following a mysterious solitary walker in the snow, or take us on a trek through desolate landscapes scarred by devastation so they can no longer provide refuge. Also, the act of walking as a collective activity investigates the possibility to offset the relentlessness of post-Fordist labour through non-instrumentalised encounters with nature. The web of associations spun by the works extent to the contemplative path of Taoism, the sentiment of protest in popular culture, as well as the radical insights of anti-establishment walkers of the past from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Henry David Thoreau. Walking without Footprints isan invitation to experience walking both as an engaging and political, as well as a contemplative and liberating activity that holds out the promise of bringing us an inch closer to a more ecological existence.