Category Archives: Meditation

Marina Abromović, Shoes for Departure (1991)

“Shoes for Departure”, an art piece by Marina Abramovic (1991). In her artist statement she says, “Then I have crystal shoes. I have instructions for the public to take off your shoes and, with naked feet, put on the two crystal shoes, close your eyes, don’t move, and make your departure. I’m talking about a mental, not physical, departure. So the public can enter certain states of mind helped by the material itself. Material is very important for me. I use crystals, human hair, copper, iron. The materials already have a certain energy. ” (credit)

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.

Ana Mendieta, Silueta Series (1973-78)

“The “Siluetas” comprise more than 200 earth-body works that saw the artist burn, carve, and mold her silhouette into the landscapes of Iowa and Mexico. The sculptures made tangible Mendieta’s belief of the earth as goddess, rooted in Afro-Cuban Santería and the indigenous Taíno practices of her homeland. Exiled from Cuba at a young age, Mendieta said that she was “overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature).” Seeking a way to, in her words, “return to the maternal source,” she used her body to commune with sand, ice, and mud, among other natural media, as a way to “become one with the earth.”

Yet these works resist easy categorization in form or theme. The “Siluetas” are not self-portraits or performance pieces, except perhaps to the few who witnessed them. Each piece was subsumed by the earth, meaning photographs are the only remaining traces. Similarly, the thematic complexity of Mendieta’s life and these sculptures resist collapsing into neat categories of nation, diaspora, race, or gender. By using the body as both an image and medium, these aspects of identity are complicated. Mendieta’s earthworks occupy a liminal space between presence and absence, balancing the inevitable politicization of the self while searching for meaning in older, sacred traditions. …

The “Siluetas” were an ongoing, ritualistic relationship between Mendieta and the land. I read each work as a spell, a fragment of an ongoing incantation that was not “the final stage of a ritual but a way and a means of asserting my emotional ties with nature,” as Mendieta once said. She wanted to send “an image made out of smoke into the atmosphere,” so that each work was designed to disappear, to be reclaimed by the force she revered in an effort to come closer to it.” [credit]

“Spanning performance, sculpture, film, and drawing, Ana Mendieta‘s work revolves around the body, nature, and the spiritual connections between them. A Cuban exile, Mendieta came to the United States in 1961, leaving much of her family behind—a traumatic cultural separation that had a huge impact on her art. Her earliest performances, made while studying at the University of Iowa, involved manipulations to her body, often in violent contexts, such as restaged rape or murder scenes. In 1973 she began to visit pre-Columbian sites in Mexico to learn more about native Central American and Caribbean religions. During this time the natural landscape took on increasing importance in her work, invoking a spirit of renewal inspired by nature and the archetype of the feminine.

By fusing her interests in Afro-Cuban ritual and the pantheistic Santeria religion with contemporary practices such as earthworks, body art, and performance art, she maintained ties with her Cuban heritage. Her Silueta (Silhouette) series (begun in 1973) used a typology of abstracted feminine forms, through which she hoped to access an “omnipresent female force.”¹ Working in Iowa and Mexico, she carved and shaped her figure into the earth, with arms overhead to represent the merger of earth and sky; floating in water to symbolize the minimal space between land and sea; or with arms raised and legs together to signify a wandering soul. These bodily traces were fashioned from a variety of materials, including flowers, tree branches, moss, gunpowder, and fire, occasionally combined with animals’ hearts or handprints that she branded directly into the ground.By 1978 the Siluetas gave way to ancient goddess forms carved into rock, shaped from sand, or incised in clay beds. Mendieta created one group of these works, the Esculturas Rupestres or Rupestrian Sculptures, when she returned to Cuba in 1981. Working in naturally formed limestone grottos in a national park outside Havana where indigenous peoples once lived, she carved and painted abstract figures she named after goddesses from the Taíno and Ciboney cultures. Mendieta meant for these sculptures to be discovered by future visitors to the park, but with erosion and the area’s changing uses, many were ultimately destroyed. While several of these works have been rediscovered, for most viewers the Rupestrian Sculptures, like the Siluetas before them, live on through Mendieta’s films and photographs, haunting documents of the artist’s attempts to seek out, in her words, that “one universal energy which runs through everything: from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy.”²

Nat Trotman

1. Ana Mendieta, quoted in Petra Barreras del Rio and John Perrault, Ana Mendieta: A Retrospective, exh. cat. (New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1988), p. 10.

2. Ana Mendieta, “A Selection of Statements and Notes,” Sulfur (Ypsilanti, Mich.) no. 22 (1988), p. 70.” [credit]

Erika Knerr, The Mourning After: Duration’s Wisdom II (2004)

person walking and dragging a marking instrument

“Duration’s Wisdom II was made on the floor, by using a long handmade paintbrush. Twelve silver bowls were filled consecutively with black ink, brown pigment and water placed in a circle around the canvas. Dipping the brush into the bowls, placing it on the canvas and walking around the painting, she created a long circular, continuous line. Redipping the brush whenever needed, “I simply walked as long as I could around and around the canvas until I could walk no longer.” [credit]

Tendai Buddist monks, Kaihogyo (1310-)

[credit]

“It is March. It is midnight. Snow still covers the trails of Mount Hiei, which lies just northeast of the ancient city of Kyoto, in central Japan. Kakudo Suzuki, an aspiring Japanese Buddhist spiritual athlete or gyoja, attends an hour-long service in the Buddha Hall. He sips a bowl of miso soup and chews on a couple of rice balls. Then he dresses. His outfit is pure white—the color of death—the same thins he would be dressed in at his own funeral. It is cotton and consists of a short kimono undershirt, pants, hand and leg covers, a long outer robe and a priest’s outer vestment.

He wraps a white “cord of death,” around his waist with a sheathed knife tucked inside. Tendai Buddhist tradition dictates that if Kakudo does not complete his prescribed marathon runs and walks, and all the accompanying tasks, he must take his own life by either hanging or disemboweling himself. He also carries a small bag that holds his secret holy book, which will guide him on his journey and help him remember the 250 prayer stops to make along his 18-mile trip around Mount Hiei. Some of those stops will be to honor monks of the past who did not make it and died by suicide. Kakudo also carries candles, matches, a small bag of food offerings to the deities, and a rosary. Mount Hiei has five main peaks, the highest being O-bie-dake at 2769 feet. It is a lush landscape of rain, high humidity and winter snows. The mountain is located in temperate western Japan, but the combination of relatively high altitude, trees that block out the sunlight and frigid air masses that move in from Siberia turns Mount Hiei into the “frozen peak” during the cold months. The mountain is a wildlife preserve full of forest animals — fox, rabbit, deer, badger, bear, boar and the famous Hiei monkey.

Kakudo puts a pair of handmade straw sandals on his bare feet, and carries a straw raincoat and paper lantern. In stormy weather, the rain destroys the sandals in a couple of hours, extinguishes the lanterns, washes out the routes and soaks the spiritual trail runner to the bone.

Kakudo is one of the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, and this will be only the first of 100 successive nights that he will get up at midnight, attend the service and start his marathon run/walk (kaihogyo) around Mount Hiei, completing the route between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. He will then attend an hour-long service, followed by bathing and the midday meal. After lunch, Kakudo will rest, then attend to temple chores. The last meal is taken around 6 p.m., and Kakudo gets to sleep around 8 or 9. The only variation in the 100-day ordeal will be a special 33-mile run through Kyoto, robbing him of one night’s sleep altogether.

During the route, Kakudo will sit down only once—beneath a giant sacred cedar for two minutes—to pray for the protection of the imperial family. After a first run with a master, Kakudo will be on his own. He may suffer cuts, sprains, stone bruises and punctures to his feet and ankles. He may run a fever, experience back and hip pain, develop hemorrhoids and diarrhea, suffer from frostbite dehydration and hunger. But by about the 30th day, according to the predecessors’ accounts, his discomfort will lessen as his body adapts to the pain and strain. By the 70th day he is run/walking with a smooth gait, head and shoulders erect, back straight, nose and navel aligned. He will continually chant mantras to the god Fudo Myo-o. His spiritual goal is to become completely absorbed in the mountain and its surroundings, so that the pain and discomfort of the physical ritual will not be noticed, or at least be ignored. Kakudo hopes to achieve a state of Enlightenment—the pure spiritual joy of feeling one with the universe. As rugged as it appears, however, this test is merely a warmup in the ultimate spiritual quest of the Marathon Monks—the complete process entails seven more years and becomes progressively and unfathomably more difficult.

It is not clear exactly how these spiritual mountain marathons began, but records show that Chinese and Indian Buddhist texts of the eighth century stated that, “Mountain pilgrimages on sacred peaks is the best of practices.” From about 830 to 1130, pilgrimages took place to mounts Hira, Kimpu and Hiei. Kaihogyo, as the rituals are known today, evolved from 1310 to present.

Since 1885, 46 marathon monks have completed the 1,000-day journey—an ordeal that is an option for the gyoja who passes the 100-day test. Two monks completed two full terms; another died by suicide on his 2,500th day, trying to complete three terms. The majority of monks who complete these odysseys have been in their 30s. The oldest completed his 2,000th day when he was 61 years old. The number of monks who actually died or committed suicide along the path is not known, but the route on Mount Hiei is lined with many unmarked gyoja graves.

When he finishes the 100 days, Kakudo can petition Hiei Headquarters to be allowed to undertake the 1,000-day spiritual challenge (sennichi kaihogyo). If this petition is accepted, he must free himself from all family ties and observe a seven-year retreat on Mount Hiei. Kakudo will then commit himself to 900 more marathons over a seven-year period. The first 300 are 18- to 25-mile runs undertaken 100 days in a row, from the end of March to mid-October over three years. Starting in the fourth year, Kakudo will be allowed to wear socks with the sandals. During the fourth and fifth years, he will run 200 consecutive marathons each year and will be allowed to carry a walking stick. At the completion of the 700th marathon, Kakudo will face the greatest trial of all, called doiri—seven and a half days without food, water or sleep, sitting in an upright position and chanting mantras day and night. If he lives through this trial, which brings him to the brink of death and therefore to the ultimate appreciation of life, he will have attained the Buddhist level of Saintly Master of the Severe Practice (ogyoman jari).

In his book, The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, John Stevens sums up the greatest contributions of these spiritual adventurers: “The most admirable thing about the Hiei gyoja is their warmth, open-heartedness and humanity … Facing death over and over, the marathon monks become alive to each moment, full of gratitude, joy and grace … [They] have much to teach us: always aim for the ultimate, never look back, be mindful of others at all times and keep the mind forever set on the Way.”

>What is Tendai Buddhism?

Tendai Buddhism, practiced by the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, is a Buddhist sect that was started in the 8th century by a much-heralded and respected monk named Saicho, which means “Highest Clarity.” Saicho was a great synthesizer who brought together the teachings of Korea, China and Japan to form his own interpretations of Buddhist philosophy and form a “great unity with insignificant differences.” Saicho had many followers, and after his death, the modest monastery on Mount Hiei grew into one of the largest religious complexes in the world, a state within a state. Tendai Buddhism has endured over the centuries and its followers still gather together on Mount Hiei to practice its principles and meditations

Dave Ganci, the Rogue Senior, trains Navy and Army Special Warfare troops on desert survival. He describes himself as “a middle-aged desert rat whose skin is hard and wrinkled from too much time running, climbing and drinking cheap beer under the sun.”

This article originally appeared in our March 2003 issue.

On Kawara, I Got Up / I Met / I Went, 1968-79

On Kawara (Japanese, 1933–2014)

Photomechanical prints, 8.3 x 14.0 cm (3 1/4 x 5 1/2 in. ) each

Credit Line: Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2001

“In the I Got Up series, Kawara sent two postcards every day to friends, family, collectors, colleagues. The postcards that Kawara chose were always horizontal in format, and always of the touristic variety. He played games with the cards, sometimes sending a single recipient multiple[s] of the same image, or taking recipients on tours around the cities.

Transcript

Narrator: Here on Rotunda Level 3, you will see three bodies of work organized by On Kawara to be viewed as a single section of the exhibition that he titled Self-Observation. These works all represent a record of ordinary activities—the kinds of things we all do, each day. Every day for 12 years beginning in 1968, Kawara sent postcards for the series I Got Up, recorded lists of names for I Met, and traced his movements on maps in I Went.

Presented here are over 1,500 of the more than 8,000 postcards comprising I Got Up. Kawara used various kinds of stamping tools to date and address the cards, including a return address, which provides another way to plot his whereabouts. Along with this information he stamped the phrase I GOT UP AT followed by the precise time he arose from bed. Assistant curator Anne Wheeler:

Anne Wheeler: In the I Got Up series, Kawara sent two postcards every day to friends, family, collectors, colleagues. The postcards that Kawara chose were always horizontal in format, and always of the touristic variety. He played games with the cards, sometimes sending a single recipient multiple of the same image, or taking recipients on tours around the cities.

Narrator: Curator Jeffrey Weiss:

Jeffrey Weiss: He’s taking advantage of mediums that already exist in the world. What he’s doing is supposed to reflect the parameters of daily life that are decidedly nonaesthetic. Kawara’s work seems to be the residue, in a way, of a practice of these activities. It takes the form of the repetition of modular elements, or units, that are roughly but not quite the same from one to the next.” [credit]

“Considered the most personal and intimate of his works, I GOT UP is part of a continuous piece produced by On Kawara between 1968 and 1979 in which each day the artist sent two different friends or colleagues a picture postcard, each stamped with the exact time he arose that day and the addresses of both sender and recipient. The length of each correspondence ranged from a single card to hundreds sent consecutively over a period of months; the gesture’s repetitive nature is counterbalanced by the artist’s peripatetic global wanderings and exceedingly irregular hours (in 1973 alone he sent postcards from twenty-eight cities). Moreover, Kawara’s postcards do not record his waking up but his “getting up,” with its ambiguous conflation of carnal and existential (as opposed to not getting up) implications.

Contrasted with the random temporal shifts conveyed in the text messages are the diverse images of Manhattan featured on the postcard fronts, which accumulate over the piece’s forty-seven day duration into an unexpectedly quasi-cinematic aerial tour of the city-circling around the United Nations (and inside the General Assembly), down the East River along the waterfront to New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty, and finally roaming around Federal Plaza at street level before coming to rest at City Hall. Like the newspaper pages that line the special cases housing each date painting, these found images juxtapose the infinite variety and quotidian reality of the public world with the elliptical, self-reflexive messages on the back. The sequence also extracts a drifting urban poetry from the mass-produced and anonymous, layering it conceptually over the banal, functional postal route of the objects themselves, as well as reintroducing a formal design to a work that is at first glance anticompositional.

With tremendous economy of means and a surprising visual elegance, Kawara creates a complex meditation on time, existence, and the relationship between art and life.” [credit]

Hamish Fulton, A Walk Around the Block (2010)

This work utilizes equal spacing between each walker – a concept Fulton explored in “Walk dance art co” created by Christine Quoiraud & Hamish Fulton,  at Chamarande in 2002 (with 23 other artists).

At the corner of Bogie Street and Church Street, we get our instructions for today’s choreographed walk. For the next two hours, about 30 of us will walk repeatedly around the same block. We will walk in single file, maintaining a two-metre distance from the person in front. We will not talk.

So the focus of my attention for the next two hours are the heels of Allan Watson, course leader in sculpture at Gray’s School of Art. He’s taller than me, and there are moments when I have to jog to keep two metres between us. Passers-by stop to stare or snigger at this kenspeckle procession. By the fifth circuit, my calf muscles are screaming.

But by the tenth, something strange has happened. My legs don’t hurt anymore. My mind has relaxed. Time feels as if it is liquefying. Has it been ten laps, or 50? It doesn’t matter. I have no demands on my time, nothing is required of me but simply to walk. I wonder, briefly, if this is what it’s like to be Hamish Fulton.

Fulton is the artist who walks. For 40 years, he has made works of art exclusively relating to his walks. He has walked for thousands of miles in five continents. He has walked without sleep, got frostbite, climbed to 8,000m (26,246ft) without oxygen. He has got lost, been caught in storms, fallen down a crevasse (his rucksack wedged, allowing him to climb back out).

More recently, he has begun to choreograph walks involving groups of people, the idea of repetition inspired by the “Marathon Monks” of Mount Hiei in Japan, whose spiritual discipline involves running 40km (25 miles) a day on a repetitive circuit of the mountain. Focusing on the feet ahead of you becomes a secular meditation, a stilling of the mind. “It is a vehicle for a change of mind, a shift in where the mind’s located,” he says, carefully. “I think our minds go round and round and round in the same furrows, and possibly, when you do a walk like this, you go to another part of your mind. It sets in motion a variety of perceptions.

Fulton is in Huntly at the invitation of Deveron Arts, which invites world-class artists to run socially engaged projects in the town. The next day, some of the same walkers joined him on the first day of a 21-day walk in the Cairngorms. Over half a pint of lager in the Huntly Hotel, Fulton reflects that, of all the obstacles he has had to overcome in a lifetime of walking, he has never before been marooned by a cloud of volcanic ash (he eventually arrived by train after his flight to Scotland was cancelled). “It’s incredible, isn’t it? I know it’s costing so much loss of income for lots of people, so I’m sorry for that, but there is something… inspiring about it.

“We see the world in terms of us being able to build everything and make everything. But there are these other things, like volcanos, that we didn’t build. In these times, it’s pretty strange there is this other force, because we’re so used to pushing buttons and Googling data about something.”

Fulton was a contemporary of Richard Long and Gilbert & George at Central St Martins College of Art in the 1960s. He grew up in Newcastle, and his formative experiences of walking were on family holidays to Arran. He was profoundly influenced by a visit to the United States in 1969, when he walked at the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana and read the work of Native American Luther Standing Bear, who wrote in the 1930s about the Sioux relationship with the Earth. In terms of art, it was an era of exploding potential: art happened outside museums; art was experience; art could be a walk.

The ideas which crystallised at that time have remained consistently central to Fulton’s work. Unlike Richard Long or an artist such as Andy Goldsworthy, he makes no work in the landscape and takes nothing away. The work he makes afterwards – often using photography and graphic text – reflects the walk but cannot reproduce it. The walk and the work are separate creative acts. His work is evocative, but minimalist; Japanese haiku poetry is a key influence. A walk in Wyoming’s Wind River range became just two words: CLOUDS STONES. A road walk across Spain and Portugal is WARM DEAD BIRD. Seven days in the Pyrenees is simply RAIN.

By the time you read this, Fulton will have been in the Cairngorms for four days, carrying his tent, food and fuel. He has no plan, other than to arrive at Glenmore Lodge exactly 21 days after he set out. He will not film or webcast his trip. What happens in the mountains is a mystery, though prosaic details do slip out: one of the most important tools for a serial walker is his nail-clippers. Short toenails are essential for comfort.

“The Cairngorms are like a person, I’m very fond of them. And, of course, anywhere like that is always threatened. So much of the world is either factory, agriculture, roads or housing, as time goes by these spaces are more and more unusual.

“I make the plan up as the days go by, which is extremely luxurious when everything in life has to be so controlled and planned. And then you have loss of control – someone sends you an e-mail, and you have to reply immediately, and then you realise that they sent their e-mail late. All this absurd behaviour that we just slip into.” Stepping into the unknown is a key component. “That’s the difference between making a geometric painting, where you’re fulfilling the plan, and something like this where you’re casting off, and you genuinely don’t know what the outcome can be. It could be a fall, or a wonderful sunrise; you don’t know.”

Fulton is not shy of being political. He is concerned about climate change, but speaks of the need for a profound shift in our relationship with the Earth, rather than simply incorporating a “green economy” into a money-driven system.

Last year, he organised a protest – a walk, of course – for Tibetan freedom, attended by Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan monk imprisoned by the Chinese for 33 years. A recent wall painting bears the words: “GOOGLE PALDEN GYATSO”. Those who do will find a story of torture and endurance. But in China, the link is blocked.

Last May, at the age of 62, Fulton reached the summit of Everest. An artist’s book about his journey will be published this summer. After a lifetime of walking, he was on top of the world.

“It is doing something which is unbelievable. We want a lot of things we want to be unbelievable but they’re not really. In this case, this completely fulfils the objective of doing something that feels unbelievable. The reality doesn’t hit you until five days later.” With that behind him, a forecast of snow in the Cairngorms is hardly a concern. The walking philosopher just shrugs, smiles and heads off into the unknown, one step at a time.” [credit]

Amanda Heng, Every Step Counts (2019)

Every Step Counts, 2019

Multi-disciplinary project: workshop, text work in public space, archival footage, video projection and live performance
Dimensions variable
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2019 commission

“Contemporary artist, curator and lecturer Amanda Heng (b.1951, Singapore) is known for making art that explores real-world issues through everyday activities – whether it’s walking, peeling beansprouts, or having coffee. Her recent work for the Singapore Biennale, titled Every Step Counts, draws upon the act of walking and takes an introspective look at the ageing body and how it is impacted by the rapidly evolving social and cultural environments.

Every Step Counts is a project spanning May 2019 to March 2020. The work comprises a two-day walking workshop, a text work, archival footage, a video projection and a series of live performances. The larger-than-life text work is featured on SAM’s hoarding along Bras Basah Road, while the video projection is exhibited at the Esplanade tunnel, joining the line-up of outdoor artworks displayed during the Singapore Biennale 2019.

WALKING IS A CENTRAL FEATURE IN MANY OF AMANDA HENG’S WORKS

Influenced by the Taoist principle of “working with rather than against nature”, Amanda sees walking as a form of meditation, a ritual from which to draw inner strength.

“It has to do with my intention of examining the body, which is an important element in live performances. The body is actually a live organic element that grows and gets old. This aged body – how should I look for the continuity of practising, of using it?”

KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE YET MEDITATIVE

Doing away with all bells and whistles, Amanda chose to present her work as a single line of text standing as a backdrop against a busy street; blue to represent the sky – a constant to anyone, anywhere; white to uplift; and bold italics to represent spirited movements. She hopes its simplicity will stop people in their tracks to savour the words amidst the hustle and bustle of life.

THE AUDIENCE COMES FIRST

Every component of Every Step Counts engages people in different ways. The workshop, for instance, involved nine participants spending two days charting their own routes of walking, who later had their walks filmed and are now being projected onto the walls of the Esplanade tunnel. It is hoped that when passers-by walk alongside these participants, albeit in a different space and time, they will become more attuned to their surroundings and their own pace.” [credit]

“Every Step Counts is exhibited at Singapore Art Museum on the hoarding, as well as Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. This work also comprises a series of performances.

Amanda Heng invites participation and intimate conversations in her performative works. Often, she harnesses everyday situations to explore issues like the complexities of labour or the politics of gender. For her project in this Biennale, Heng revisits her ‘Let’s Walk’ series, first performed in 1999. Drawing upon the act of walking, the artist moves forward, looks back, turns inward and ventures outward with others. In this piece, she returns to the seminal scene of the walk and facilitates a workshop with people who chart their own routes of walking, and with whom she walks. In so doing, she generates reflections and perspectives, as well as comes to terms with the limits and stamina of the aging body.” [credit]

Okwui Okpokwasili, Market Thrum (2016)

[credit]

Okwui Okpokwasili led a 9-person walk that explored the making of an “embodied collective” in the charged landscape of the South Bronx. Facilitating a multi-sensory exchange with each other and the space, the group slowly walked through the Gold Coast Trading Company (an African market) and worked toward an expansive group practice of dynamic movement. No previous dance experience was required.

Click here to see photos from “Market Thrum.”

[credit]

” “It a people market!” a woman shouted as nine of us slowly followed Okwui Okpokwasili through Gold Coast Trading Company in the south Bronx.

She was telling us this wasn’t our market. It is a place where Africans shop, gather, and commune. It wasn’t our place to create art. One of our participants — an African American woman — tried to explain our mission. The woman disappeared and left us to our ritual.

Walls of Bounty, Ajax, Goya, and West African spices hovered over us as we weaved our way through the market’s maze. Prior to entering the market, Okpokwasili explained women would cleanse the roads to the market, and we were symbolically going to do the same at Gold Coast Trading Company. At a walking meditation pace, we moved together as much as a unit as we possibly could contain.

But what if a space and its owners do not want the roads to their market cleansed? What if they have a special place in their neighborhood in which Americans do not visit? As participants, we became performers for people who didn’t want a performance. They were confused, concerned. But we never felt unsafe.

One man, in a green cap with a red star, stopped and stared. He grinned, seemingly getting it, turned around, and headed down another isle.

But to other customers and employees, the ritual seemed sinister. Maybe it was a ceremony to bring bad juju. That’s what the market’s owner suggested to Okpokwasili after the walk as we stood outside and waited for her to finish negotiating with him.

Shalom said someone told him, “This is an African market. Not an American market.”

Outsider. Infiltrator. Other. For a change, I was placed in the uncomfortable position of feeling unwelcome.

Okpokwasili grew up in this neighborhood, and she wanted to share something from her childhood. The smells, the energy, the malts, and chin chin awakened a childlike joy in her. All she wanted to do was share a special experience in a special place with a small special group of people.

In the end, Elastic City decided it best not to return to the market and disturb them again. The remainder of Okpokwasili’s walks trekked through the Harlem Market.”

 

Hamish Fulton, Slowalk (In Support of Ai Weiwei) (2011)

[credit]

30 April 2011, 12.00 – 14.00
Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

Since the late 1960s British artist Hamish Fulton has made sculptures, actions, images and text pieces in response to his direct physical engagement with the landscape. In 1973 he resolved to ‘only make art resulting from the experience of individual walks’, a strategy that he maintains today.

Fulton will present Slowalk (In support of Ai Weiwei) at Tate Modern as a collective action created specifically in response to the iconic architecture of the Turbine Hall and in the context of the recent disappearance of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose work Sunflower Seeds is currently on display in the east end of the Turbine Hall as the eleventh project in the series of Unilever Commissions. Fulton’s Slowalk (In support of Ai Weiwei) is conceived as a meditative experience to which he invites ordinary people to come together and walk very slowly, in a formation created by the artist over a period of two hours. This is a form of silent activism, where the participants are both art and viewer on a communal journey. Both Fulton and Ai Weiwei explore the role of political and social activism as a force for change in art and as such this action forms a public gesture of solidarity towards Ai Weiwei as a gesture towards freedom of expression.

Example of a slow walk: