Category Archives: Leading and Following

Diane Borsato, All the Names for Everything (2017)

“ALL THE NAMES FOR EVERYTHING, Walk/Performance,  2017

ALL THE NAMES FOR EVERYTHING was a walk on Mount Nemo with diverse outdoor education leaders bringing various scientific and cultural perspectives on naming flora and fauna along the Bruce Trail in Ontario, Canada.

The popular nature educator Richard Aaron spoke of scientific botanical and common English naming, while Melanie Gray of wolf clan from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory discussed spiritual and medicinal connections to plants in addition to some of their names in Mohawk, and Jon Johnson, a community-based Indigenous scholar discussed place names and the history and ongoing presence of Indigenous peoples in the Toronto region.

Together we considered the origins and meanings of botanical names, numerous common names, and names in different languages of many of the places, plants and animals encountered along our walk.

I had been thinking about the colonial histories that are conspicuously silent (or worse, the violence and erasure still being perpetuated) whenever I study nature, take workshops, read field guides, or lead students and others in the woods. With this project – I hoped to expand the terms of nature-education, by bringing together a diverse crowd of knowledgeable community members interested in plants, ecological relationships, and land.

We discussed names that give evocative descriptions, that tell of our many relationships to plants and other creatures, to languages and names that were absent and lost to Indigenous peoples, and to racist names – that speak to our often difficult relationships with each other.

ALL THE NAMES FOR EVERYTHING is part of an ongoing commitment to developing relationships with Indigenous elders, artists, researchers, and educators – and including Indigenous perspectives in my own work and teaching.

The piece was part of a larger project by Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatsky of Public Studio called New Field: Tracing Decolonisation.

Photos here by Emily Moriarty, Amish Morrell, Richard Aaron and Diane Borsato. ” (credit)

Maraa Collective, The Olfactory Chambers of Ward No. 88 (2014)

an agenda

Credit: Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts

Maraa Collective (2008-)

This walk took place in Bangalore, India in October of 2014, and used the format of a tourism walk to critically examine the processing of waste and the caste system. The walking route followed the same route as the street sweepers and waste sorters. In India, the Dalits caste has been traditionally responsible for clearing excrement.

This work may remind some of Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ work in which she shook the hand of every sanitation worker in New York City, shining a light on their labor and demonstrating respect for their work.

CreditL

Diane Borsato, Your Temper, My Weather (2013)

“One hundred amateur and professional beekeepers performed periods of guided meditation and slow walking together in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Walker Court. While exploring the tangible effect of collective stillness, the work created a platform upon which to
reflect on the health and temper of bees and their keepers, and on the policies and environmental conditions that affect our shared future. The work was performed for five hours for Nuit Blanche at the Art Gallery of Ontario.”

Credit: Morrell, Amish and Diane Borsato. Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art. Douglas and McINtyre, 2021. Page 134.

Amish Morrell, Henri Fabergé, Christine Atkinson, Epic Ravine Marathon (2015)

ravine

ravine

“On November 15, 2015, more than thirty people, including artists, adventure racers, casual joggers, track champions, walkers and other members of the general public, ran from Old Mill subway station in Toronto to Sherbourne subway station, following four major urban watersheds. The route followed the Humber River from Bloor Street to the Black Creek, crossed the North York hydro corridor north of Finch Avenue, joined the West Don River and followed the main artery of the Don River to the finish at Bloor Street, passing under Highway 401 twice. Covering fifty-five km in total, the route took more than 9 hours and almost entirely followed riverbanks and ravine trails. Two people finished the entire distance.”

Credit: Morrell, Amish and Diane Borsato. Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art. Douglas and McINtyre, 2021. Page 62.

“Toronto’s ravine system provides city-dwellers with an urban oasis that’s not often explored. But on Sunday, a small group of Torontonians will run a day-long marathon through these expansive green spaces.

Organizer Amish Morrell, who’s the editor of C Magazine, says these runs aren’t competitive. “It’s not a race at all, it’s really an adventure.”

Morrell notes that his friend and performance artist Henri FabergĂŠ started doing conceptual running routes a few years ago. Together, along with artist Jon McCurley, they ran from Kipling to Kennedy (35 kilometres above ground).

About a year ago, Morrell mapped out a marathon route through Toronto ravines – areas that he regularly explores and runs through. He even cross-country skies the ravines in the wintertime. “A lot of this kind of evolved out of finding different ways of moving through the city,” he says.

For Sunday, he’s planned a 55 kilometre trek between the Black Creek, Finch Hydro Corridor and Don River sections of the ravine. “I would say 90 per cent of it is trail in the ravines and about 50 per cent of that is totally kind of secret, clandestine paths,” though Morrell stresses that the event may not be for everyone.

“It’s a pretty DIY, kind of punk event,” he says. Anyone who decides to join needs to be well-prepared with proper equipment and supplies – a detailed list can be found on the Epic Ravine Marathon Facebook page.

And, don’t expect a timed race. “Our motivations are more about exploration, curiosity, discovering places and learning things about them,” says Morrell. He knows the distance may be daunting and expects many of those who join his small group will tag along for the first 10 to 15 kilometres.

Morrell says that while most of the route is accessible via the TTC, being the in the ravines provides an alternate way to view Toronto. “It totally shifts and transforms your experience of the city.”

Photo by Kevin McBride in the blogTO Flickr pool.” (credit)

Aislinn Thomas, The Slow Walkers of Whycocomaugh (2012)

Slow Walkers of Whycocomagh and Fast Walkers of Whycocomagh came about to address
what seems like an age-old problem: how to spend time walking with other people who
have an ideal pace different from your own. Negotiating precisely what “slow” and “fast”
looked like on any given day was an interesting part of the experience, as was noticing the different relationships to each other and the landscape facilitated by the different speeds. This piece was originally part of a larger project, the Whycocomagh Skillshare, which was conceived of in response to living in a rural context, in an intentional community that centres people labelled with intellectual disabilities. The skillshare took form as an ongoing series of free workshops, presentations and activities and was an attempt to actively seek out connection, engagement and exchange while challenging normative ideas of expertise and value. Since then, the slow walking groups have taken place in a mall in Mississauga, along rivers and downtown streets in Cambridge and on a mountain trail in Banff.

Credit: Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art edited by Amish Morrell and Diane Borsato. Page 120.

Lygia Pape, Divisor (Divider) (1968)

Lygia Pape, Divisor from Para Site on Vimeo.

Lygia Pape (1927-2004, Brazil)

Lygia Pape was part of the generation of artists who founded the Neoconcrete movement in Brazil, an experimental moment of constructivism and geometric abstract art, which manifested in South America in the late 1950s. Neoconcretist artists like Pape sought to explore ideas of colour and form in relation to the sensorial cartography of the individual and the collective.

The work Divisor was originally performed on the streets of Rio de Janeiro in 1968. It is composed of an immense white fabric, which can be seen as a large scale white monochrome and is activated by a participative audience. The only visible part of each participant is their head, piercing through the fabric, whilst their hidden bodies jointly move along public space. The amorphous mutant forms created throughout the piece reflect the subjectivity of the participants who struggle between individualism and solidarity with the collective experience.” (credit)

Hui-min Tsen, The Pedway (2009-13)

brochure

published 2013 by Green Lantern Press | Specs: 18 pages, 4.2 x 0.2 x 9 inches

“Deep beneath the surface of the city, a tangled ribbon of corridors runs throughout 40 blocks of downtown Chicago. This meandering passage appears to have grown up organically as if it were an animal’s burrow or a donkey’s path.  Its route is illogical: the corridors exist outside of known space, and its hidden entrances lead to mysterious destinations. What is this place?  It is the Chicago Pedway, an intricate non-system of pedestrian tunnels built to separate the citizens of the city from the dangers and foul weather encountered on the street.

On the Trail of a Disorderly Future was an interdisciplinary project consisting of a walking tour of Chicago’s Pedway, ephemera given and sold to tour participants as souvenirs, and a book for a “self-guided” tour of the Chicago Pedway. The project told a story across 36 points-of-interest, weaving together mythic and historical tales to tell the story of urban development, utopian impulses, and fears of the city from the Renaissance until now.

Details: Active from 2009-2013 | performance (90-minute walking tour), ephemera (postcards, map, website), book” (credit)

Han Bing, Walking the Cabbage (2000-09)

“Social intervention performance” is how Chinese artist Han Bing (b. in 1974 in Jiangsu, lives in Beijing) describes his Walking the Cabbage series, which he discusses with the New York Times linked video. [credit]

“From Ginza to Times Square, from Tiananmen to the Champs-Elysées, Han Bing and his cabbage have traveled the world. Through his photographic series, Han Bing asks viewers to stop and consider: What do we hurtle towards? And at what cost?

Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen (2000) features an androgynous figure walking a cabbage in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Nothing unusual about that, his easy pose and arm akimbo seems to suggest. The artist behind the work – and in front of the camera – is Chinese artist Han Bing. Han specializes in photography and site-specific performance art in which some of his performances span nearly a decade and cross continental divisions. Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is part of one such series of performative photographs. Han produced the Walking the Cabbage series over a period of eight years, from 2000 to 2008.

Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is one of the earliest photographs from the series; the journey continues with Han Bing walking the cabbage in the Houhai district of Beijing, Han Bing walking the cabbage in a subway carriage of Beijing (2004), Han Bing cradling his cabbage in Jiangsu Province (2005), Han Bing walking the cabbage in Miami Beach, USA and Chinatown (2007). Han Bing walks and walks, posing with his cabbage as if oblivious to the gawking crowds and ever-present camera.

According to the artist, his intention in making art is for “people to see how much of our daily lives are routines that we’ve blindly absorbed.” And in this work, Han does just that through his subtle manipulation of hackneyed imagery which raises important questions about contemporary Chinese social norms.

cabbage on wheels

Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen is a particularly ambitious undertaking. In it, Han takes on one of the most iconic of symbols of China – the Forbidden City. To the everyday Chinese, the Forbidden City is a symbol of imperial power; this frontal view from Tiananmen Square is also a place of great historical significance in modern China. Here on the first of October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China, reportedly declaring that “The Chinese People have Stood Up.”

Today, the site’s political and historical significance is overshadowed by its new identity as the necessary photo-op for seemingly every tourist who passes through Beijing. In this sense, Han Bing’s photo is so obvious as to be banal.

But all is not as it seems, for the composition demands viewers to ask questions. What is the artist doing with a cabbage in the midst of Tiananmen Square? And here lies the creative brilliance of the composition. Han ignores a half-century of art history discourse as he seemingly fails to realize that his is an age where iconography has become decidedly passé; this series of works employ ordinary symbols to create meaning.

The Cabbage is a particular favorite in Han’s oeuvre. According to Han’s website, the Chinese Cabbage is “…a quintessentially Chinese symbol of sustenance and comfort for poor Chinese turned upside down. If a full stock of cabbage for the winter was once a symbol of material well-being in China, nowadays the nouveau riche have cast aside modest (monotonous) cabbage in favor of ostentatious gluttony in fancy restaurants where waste signifies status…Yet, for the poor and struggling, the realities of cabbage as a subsistence bottom line have not changed—what’s changed is the value structure that dictates what—and who—is valuable or worthless in Chinese society.”

Omit the cabbage and the picture becomes almost ordinary as the requisite tourist picture in front of Tiananmen.

Knowing the iconographic significance of this site, Han Bing plays with the imagery through his composition. From the low-angle view of the camera, Han Bing dominates the composition; he literally stands head and shoulder above Tiananmen’s great wall.

This striking view point lends a monumentality to Han and his cabbage that the camera emphasizes by focusing on the foreground and blurring the background. This viewpoint brings to mind the imagery of old Communist posters depicting the exuberant triumph of the proletariat. And if one so chooses, one could read into the picture a political statement.

With his casual stance, Han lulls the viewer into forgetting the meticulous framing of the image; he sneakily causes us to forget what is missing from this iconic view — the framed portrait of Chairman Mao. But the image could just be another tourist photo, where the tourist in his eagerness to show friends that he’s made it to Tiananmen, inadvertently blocks out the nation’s most famous face. Make of that what you will, the image suggests.

Perhaps politics is indeed a distraction. Although Chinese art in the West is often viewed politically, with Ai Weiwei being the poster child of political criticism, Han’s works seek instead to confront the problems faced by ordinary Chinese people in the march towards modernization and urbanization. In this image, Tiananmen Square becomes a mere backdrop for Han and his cabbage, a suitable starting point for his photographic series and his critique of contemporary Chinese values.

Placing the focal point on Han and his cabbage on a leash, Han seeks to address ‘the way our everyday practices serve to constitute ‘normalcy’ and our identities are often constituted by the act of claiming objects as our possessions’. The modest cabbage on a leash “offers a visual interrogation of contemporary social values.” Once a symbol of well-being and a full stomach, it has now been discarded for bigger, better, more expensive, more impressive and more frivolous thrills. And those will, in turn, be cast off for something better.” [credit]

Keith Arnatt, Walking the Dog (1976-9)

man with dog

Walking the Dog 1976-9 Keith Arnatt 1930-2008 Presented by Tate Patrons 2010 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T13051

Walking the Dog is a large series of black and white photographs of individuals standing outside with their dogs. While the locations depicted in the photographs vary from street pavements and country lanes to parks and gardens, all the images in this series share consistent formal characteristics: in each case the single owner stands full-length in the centre of the image facing the camera with the dog at their feet, and no other human or animal can be seen within the tightly framed square shot.

The photographs were taken by the British conceptual artist Keith Arnatt (1930-2008) around his home in Tintern, Monmouthshire, between 1976 and 1979. During this three-year period Arnatt took over two hundred such pictures while walking in the area. Getting an individual to pose with their pet and to look directly at the camera proved to be a challenge, and so the artist devised a plan that involved calling out the name of the dog just as he was about to hit the release button. However, Arnatt recalled in 1993 that when he called out the name of the pet the owner would often turn away from the camera and check to see if their dog was behaving ‘correctly’. In many instances the owner would laugh, or the dog would look at the owner and become disinterested.

While the photographs on their own might not be so revealing, the consistency and repetition across the series – of poses, expressions and behavioural traits – testifies to the self-conscious ways in which different people choose to represent themselves in front of a camera. As Arnatt explained in a discussion of this body of work: ‘what interested me about photographs was the oddity of photographs that caught expression – things that people were doing while they were being photographed.’ (‘Oral History of British Photography: Arnatt, Keith (3 of 5)’, accessed 14 March 2014). By producing an artwork that mimicked in its scale and apparent neutrality the appearance of a sociological study, the ‘oddity’ of the photographs – exaggerated by the similar ways in which they are cropped and by the criteria by which they were selected – could be revealed, and thus serve to undermine the notion that photographs are objective documents of reality.

Seriality and repetition are key characteristics of minimal and conceptual art of the early 1970s and Walking the Dog can be seen as an example of a conceptual artwork that takes as its subject a social landscape particular to Britain. The sociological and national aspects of the series bear comparison to the early twentieth-century German photographer August Sander’s compendium of portraits of people from all walks of German life (see, for example, The Notary 1924, Tate AL00147), while the way in which Arnatt’s work registers a skepticism towards traditional forms of documentary and photojournalist practice aligns it with the work of Diane Arbus (1923–1971) and Martin Parr (born 1952), whose artistic projects critically address the framing of subjectivity by the medium of photography. Arnatt’s work often contains elements of subtle humour (see, for example, Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self 1969–72, Tate T07647) and with this in mind Walking the Dog may be seen to invite reflection on the familiar but farcical theory that dog owners resemble their pets.

The group of Walking the Dog works in the Tate collection (Tate T13047T13086) were selected by the artist to be exhibited as a part of his solo exhibition at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London in 1979. Earlier, a smaller group of twenty-eight prints from the series was exhibited at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1977. A larger selection of fifty images from the series was published in book form in 1979 with an introductory text by the jazz singer and writer George Melly (1926–2007).

Further reading
George Melly, Walking the Dog, photographs by Keith Arnatt, London 1979.
Keith Arnatt, Rubbish and Recollections, exhibition catalogue, Photographers’ Gallery, London 1989, pp.4–5.
‘Oral History of British Photography: Arnatt, Keith (3 of 5)’, 14 April 1993, audio recording, http://sounds.bl.uk/Arts-literature-and-performance/Art-photography-and-architecture/021M-C0459X0036XX-0300V0, accessed 14 March 2014.

— Sylvie Simonds, March 2014. Revised by Andrew Wilson, February and July 2019″ [credit]

Kay Burns, Footnotes: Cape Jourimain (2008)

lighthouse audio walk

Footnotes: Cape Jourimain, 2008, Cape Jourimain, NB

This 2 km walk took participants along the Lighthouse Trail at Cape Jourimain Nature Centre during the 2008 Eco-Arts Festival. The lighthouse on the island was home to 4 generations of the same family for nearly 80 years; the experience of those who dwelled there becomes the subject for exploration within this walk. Notions of the sense of isolation, the challenges and hardships of living at the lighthouse, as well as the pleasures and pastimes, are alluded to in the content of audio. The stories are told as remembered fragments – moments recalled about life on the island.” [credit]