Category Archives: History of Walking

Christine Sun Kim (LISTEN) (2016)

[CREDIT] – “A Silent Soundwalk, Noisy with Abstract Compositions” via HyperAllergic

person with ipad outside

Christine Sun Kim during her sound walk (LISTEN) on October 29 (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

“What is the sound of arms moving? Or of rats gossiping? What about the sound of slight anticipation, or the sound of memories?

These were among the many sounds that artist Christine Sun Kim invited us to consider during “(LISTEN),” a recent soundwalk she led in the Lower East Side organized by Avant.org. We were a group of about a dozen, following her as she visited a handful of sites around the neighborhood to pause, share a personal memory of hers, and offer us an accompanying composition.

But these compositions were technically silent. Serving as audioguides of sorts, they were void of mp3 players, headsets, or other audio devices. Instead, Kim presented a series of textual prompts on an iPad, like flash cards, that described sounds ranging from those that may play immediately in our minds (the sound of a bicycle spinning) to those that are utterly abstract (the sound of an urge to punch someone). Born deaf and originally focused on painting, she has been exploring sound as a medium for nearly a decade and the various ways we may experience and understand it.

(LISTEN)” readapts Max Neuhaus’s own soundwalk, “LISTEN,” when, 50 years ago, the musician took a small group of his friends on a sonic journey through the Lower East Side. For his iteration, Neuhaus stamped the word LISTEN on his companions’ hands and encouraged them to absorb the familiar noises of the city. As he recalls:

After a while I began to do these works as ‘Lecture Demonstrations’; the rubber stamp was the lecture and the walk the demonstration. I would ask the audience at a concert or lecture to collect outside the hall, stamp their hands and lead them through their everyday environment. Saying nothing, I would simply concentrate on listening, and start walking. At first, they would be a little embarrassed, of course, but the focus was generally contagious. The group would proceed silently, and by the time we returned to the hall many had found a new way to listen for themselves.

person with ipad outdoors

Christine Sun Kim during her sound walk (LISTEN)

“(LISTEN)” made me hyper-vigilant of surrounding sounds, but with its designated stops and paired stories,  it also brought a more focused approach to Neuhaus’s exercise. At each site, Kim animatedly relayed in American Sign Language the associated memories that her interpreter Vernon Leon spoke aloud. They ranged from her serendipitous encounter with someone who ended up writing her a recommendation for graduate school to a rage-filled bike accident outside the New Museum caused by a negligent cab driver. Outside Audio Visual Arts gallery (currently on hiatus), she recalled experiencing John Andrew’s 2009 exhibition The Now with Before and AfterShe could not hear its audio component, but she pressed her hands against the room’s yellow walls and through the strong vibrations, experienced the throbbing waves.

The iPad slides that followed such recollections probed our own understanding of sound: descriptions moved from the familiar to the obscure, increasingly prodding individual memories, imaginations, and sensibilities. Short but suggestive, the text pushed sound beyond an experience dependent on hearing; it may be seen or felt, as Kim made incredibly clear as she invited us so associate it with the material and texture (“the sound of pavement floor”); with moments (“the sound of condensation”); with emotional states (“the sound of uncertainty”); and with action and restraint (“the sound of not trying to smell”).

a drawing of words

Christine Sun Kim, “a map of a sound as a space” (2016) (image courtesy Avant)

Parentheses often appear in Kim’s visual works, which deal largely with text. The coupled curves appeared in “(LISTEN),” too, bookending each phrase she showed. When anchored in the space between the two lines, words and their sonic implications are visually isolated and highlighted yet are also reduced in both presence and volume. The physical pockets of the neighborhood Kim carved out on her soundwalk worked similarly, becoming temporary spaces for each of us to consider the subjectivity of experiencing sound, which extends beyond the use of just a single sense.

We ended “(LISTEN)” at a quiet creperie next to a boisterous bar, where Kim crossed out the word stamped on each of our hands. As I walked away, my ears picked up the rough grating of a trash can hobbling across park gravel; the metallic tinkling of a trotting dog’s leash nudging its collar.

(LISTEN) took place on October 29 and October 30 around the Lower East Side.

Aristotle, The Peripatetic School (335 BCE)

“While Alexander [the Great] was conquering Asia, Aristotle, now 50 years old, was in Athens. Just outside the city boundary, he established his own school in a gymnasium known as the Lyceum. He built a substantial library and gathered around him a group of brilliant research students, called “peripatetics” from the name of the cloister (peripatos) in which they walked and held their discussions. The Lyceum was not a private club like the Academy; many of the lectures there were open to the general public and given free of charge.” [credit]

“The Peripatetic school was a school of philosophy in Ancient Greece. Its teachings derived from its founder, Aristotle (384–322 BCE), and peripatetic is an adjective ascribed to his followers.

The school dates from around 335 BC when Aristotle began teaching in the Lyceum. It was an informal institution whose members conducted philosophical and scientific inquiries. After the middle of the 3rd century BC, the school fell into a decline, and it was not until the Roman era that there was a revival. Later members of the school concentrated on preserving and commenting on Aristotle’s works rather than extending them; it died out in the 3rd century.

The study of Aristotle’s works by scholars who were called Peripatetics continued through Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the works of the Peripatetic school were lost to the Latin West, but they were preserved in Byzantium and also incorporated into early Islamic philosophy. Western Europe recovered Aristotelianism from Byzantium and from Islamic sources in the Middle Ages.

The term peripatetic is a transliteration of the ancient Greek word περιπατητικός (peripatētikós), which means “of walking” or “given to walking about”.[1] The Peripatetic school, founded by Aristotle,[2] was actually known simply as the Peripatos.[3] Aristotle’s school came to be so named because of the peripatoi (“walkways”, some covered or with colonnades) of the Lyceum where the members met.[4] The legend that the name came from Aristotle’s alleged habit of walking while lecturing may have started with Hermippus of Smyrna.[5]

Unlike Plato (428/7–348/7 BC), Aristotle (384–322 BC)[2] was not a citizen of Athens and so could not own property; he and his colleagues therefore used the grounds of the Lyceum as a gathering place, just as it had been used by earlier philosophers such as Socrates.[6] Aristotle and his colleagues first began to use the Lyceum in this way about 335 BC,[7] after which Aristotle left Plato’s Academy and Athens, and then returned to Athens from his travels about a dozen years later.[8] Because of the school’s association with the gymnasium, the school also came to be referred to simply as the Lyceum.[6] Some modern scholars argue that the school did not become formally institutionalized until Theophrastus took it over, at which time there was private property associated with the school.[9]

Originally at least, the Peripatetic gatherings were probably conducted less formally than the term “school” suggests: there was likely no set curriculum or requirements for students or even fees for membership.[10] Aristotle did teach and lecture there, but there was also philosophical and scientific research done in partnership with other members of the school.[11] It seems likely that many of the writings that have come down to us in Aristotle’s name were based on lectures he gave at the school.[12]” [credit]

Helen Frankenthaler, Soak-Stain Painting Technique

“Helen Frankenthaler (Dec. 12, 1928 – Dec. 27, 2011) was one of America’s greatest artists. She was also one of the few women able to establish a successful art career despite the dominance of men in the field at the time, emerging as one of the leading painters during the period of Abstract Expressionism. She was considered to be part of the second wave of that movement, following on the heels of artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. She graduated from Bennington College, was well-educated and well-supported in her artistic endeavors, and was fearless in experimenting with new techniques and approaches to art-making. Influenced by Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists upon moving to NYC, she developed a unique method of painting, the soak-stain technique, in order to create her color field paintings, which were a major influence on such other color-field painters as Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland.

One of her many notable quotes was, “There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.”” [credit]

Apollo 11 Moonwalk (1969)

Footage from the Apollo 11 moonwalk that was partially restored in 2009.

[credit] “July 1969. It’s a little over eight years since the flights of Gagarin and Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.

 

62297main_neil_on_moon_full.jpg
Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong working at an equipment storage area on the lunar module. This is one of the few photos that show Armstrong during the moonwalk. Click image to enlarge.
Credits: NASA
62295main_liftoff_full.jpg
Smoke and flames signal the opening of a historic journey as the Saturn V clears the launch pad. Click image to enlarge.
Credits: NASA
62288main_aldrin_ladder_full.jpg
Buzz Aldrin climbs down the Eagle’s ladder to the surface. Click image to enlarge.
Credits: NASA
62291main_crater_orbit_full.jpg
Crater 308 stands out in sharp relief in this photo from lunar orbit. Click image to enlarge.
Credits: NASA

 

It is only seven months since NASA’s made a bold decision to send Apollo 8 all the way to the moon on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket.

Now, on the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop another Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit. (› Play Audio)

After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a “go” for what mission controllers call “Translunar Injection” – in other words, it’s time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia.

Collins later writes that Eagle is “the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky,” but it will prove its worth.

When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle’s computer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, “unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems.”

When the lunar module lands at 4:17 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.” (› Play Audio)

Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying “the unknowns were rampant,” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” (› Play Audio)

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In an interview years later, Armstrong praises the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the project. “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.'” (› Read 2001 Interview, 172 Kb PDF)

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong calls the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talks about future journeys to Mars.

Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts will follow in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission leaves the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.” “

Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the City” from The Practice of Everyday Life (1980)

a white man in glasses and dark blazer

Michel de Certeau – French Jesuit philosopher and social theorist (1925-1986)

Certeau is often referenced for his essay, “Walking in the City,” in The Practice of Everyday Life (1980).

In this essay he elaborates on an analogy between urban systems and language, with improvisational walking (shortcuts, wandering, etc) being like turns of phrase, inside jokes, or stories. He states, “The act of walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language or to the statements uttered.”

He describes the city as “a space of enunciation,” where walkers demonstrate possibilities through their walking choices. He states, “The walking of passers-by offers a series of turns and detours that can be compared to ‘turns of phrase’ or ‘stylistic figures.’ There is a rhetoric of walking.”

Jonathan L. Best writes a nice analysis of the essay here.

Women’s Suffrage Procession (1913)

“Thousands of women gathered in Washington, D.C. to call for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. While women had been fighting hard for suffrage for over 60 years, this marked the first major national event for the movement.

The huge parade, which was spearheaded by Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was held on March 3, 1913. Riding atop a white horse, lawyer and activist Inez Milholland led over five thousand suffragettes up Pennsylvania Avenue, along with over 20 parade floats, nine bands, and four mounted brigades.

parade with horses and flags

Women suffragists marching on Pennsylvania Avenue led by Mrs. Richard Coke Burleson (center on horseback); U.S. Capitol in background. (Library of Congress

The organizers of the parade also maximized attention on the event by strategically hosting it just one day before the inauguration of President-elect Woodrow Wilson. This tactic worked. As the women marched from the U.S. Capitol toward the Treasury Building, they were met by thousands of spectators, many in town for the inauguration.

Not all spectators were kind. Some marchers were jostled, tripped, and violently attacked, while police on the parade route did little to help.  By the end of the day, over 100 women had to be hospitalized for injuries. However, the women did not give up; they finished the parade. Their experiences led to major news stories and even congressional hearings. Historians later credited the 1913 parade for giving the suffrage movement a new wave of inspiration and purpose.

suffrage parade

While it took another seven years for the Nineteenth Amendment to be ratified on August 18, 1920, the women who marched on this day in history accomplished their goal of reinvigorating the suffrage movement. As the official parade pamphlet read, they gave “expression to the nation-wide demand for an amendment to the United States Constitution enfranchising women.” Alice Paul, Inez Milholland, and the others who marched in 1913 are just some of the women who made a more just and prosperous future possible for all Americans.” [credit]

Angela Ellsworth and Steven J. Yazzie, Museum of Walking (2014-)

[credit]

The Museum of Walking (MoW) is an artist led educational resource center committed to the advancement of walking as an art practice. MoW is an educational resource committed to people, land, action, and site through the everyday act of walking. Walking is a defining human activity with poetic and political resonance as well as mundane and ceremonial manifestations that play a central role in contemporary art, social and cultural history, health, and sustainable lifestyles. Whether alone or with a group, moving through space creates connections between people and the environment, as it promotes well-being and enhances creative divergent thinking.

MoW houses a small-but-mighty archive and library comprised of walking related material engaging disciplines of art, science, philosophy, health, activism, contemplation and cartography. Through workshops, exhibitions, experiences, and site-specific projects MoW fosters relationships between people, land, action, and place.

The Museum of Walking was founded in 2014 in 120 square foot space. As an itinerant museum we now reside in numerous places. “

The First Secession, Ancient Rome (494 BCE)

a painting of romans

Lucius Sicinius Vellutus organized the first of the Pleb strikes. Source: (quora.com)

[credit]

“In 494 BC, the plebs were fed up with the senate passing tax laws that increased the debt of the working class without offering them useful services in return. Lucius Sicinius Vellutus, a working-class pleb, suggested that the workers unite in a walk-off to protest the doings of the senate. In large numbers, the plebs walked out of the city and congregated on the Mons Sacer (“sacred mountain”) while Vellutus and others negotiated with the patricians.

The strike was a rousing success, resulting in the expungement of many plebs’ debts and the creation of the Tribune of the Plebs, the first government position to be occupied by a member of the plebeian class.”

These early strikes show civil rights have always been a human interest.

Bloody Sunday, Selma to Montgomery March (1965)

Edmund Pettus Bridge

Edmund Pettus Bridge

[credit]

“On March 7, 1965, the civil rights movement in Alabama took an especially violent turn as 600 peaceful demonstrators participated in the Selma to Montgomery march to protest the killing of Black civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson by a white police officer and to encourage legislation to enforce the 15th amendment.

As the protesters neared the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were blocked by Alabama state and local police sent by Alabama governor George C. Wallace, a vocal opponent of desegregation. Refusing to stand down, protesters moved forward and were viciously beaten and teargassed by police and dozens of protesters were hospitalized.

The entire incident was televised and became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Some activists wanted to retaliate with violence, but King pushed for nonviolent protests and eventually gained federal protection for another march.”