Category Archives: Public vs Private

Lucia Monge, Plantón Móvil (2010-)

Lucia Monge (1983-)

“Lucia Monge started bringing people and plants together as Plantón Móvil in Lima, Peru. This is a participatory, walking forest performance that occurs annually and leads to the creation of public green areas.

“Plantón” is the word in Spanish for a sapling, a young tree that is ready to be planted into the ground. It is also the word for a sit-in. This project takes on both: the green to be planted and the peaceful protest. It is about giving plants and trees the opportunity to “walk” down the streets of a city that is also theirs. This walking forest performance culminates with the creation of a public green area.

Plantón Móvil started in 2010 while I was walking around Lima, my hometown, and noticing how many trees and plants had their leaves blackened with smog, were being treated as trash cans, or even used as bathrooms. I started to put myself in their place, and thought I would have left town a long time ago. Instead they are sort of forced to sit there and accept this abuse because of their planted “immobile” state. I wondered what it would be like to encounter a walking forest that had taken to the streets like any other group of people would do, demanding respect.

Plantón Móvil, however, is not a group of people carrying plants: at least for that time being we are the forest. I find it important to make this distinction because it changes the nature of the gesture. This is about lending our mobility to plants so that they can benefit from the speed and scale that draws people’s attention. In return; we may momentarily borrow some of their slowness. Essentially, it is about moving-with as a form of solidarity.” (credit)

Alex Villar, Temporary Occupations (2001)

man jumping fences and fitting into narrow passages

Alex Villar, Temporary Occupations, 2001, USA, miniDV, colour, silent, 4 min. excerpt of 6 min.

“Drawing from interdisciplinary theoretical sources and employing video-performance, installation and photography, I have developed a practice that concentrates on matters of social space. My interventions are done primarily in public spaces. They consist in positioning the body of the performer in situations where the codes that regulate everyday activity can be made explicit. The body is made to conform to the limitations of claustrophobic spaces, therefore accentuating arbitrary boundaries and possibly subverting them. A sense of absurdity permeates the work, counterpoising irrational behaviour to the instrumental logic of the city’s design.
Theoretical references cover the extensive work done on the problematic of space, especially the works of Foucault and de Certeau, which describe panopticon and heterotopic spaces as well as the potentialities for everyday re-writings of urban space. Aesthetic traditions foregrounding my work go from the sixties and seventies performative-based sculpture and installations by Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark and Cildo Meirelles, to the urban strategies of the Situationists and the anarchitecture of Gordon Matta-Clark. Like the in-between activities it seeks to investigate, my work lives between various fields: part nomadic architecture, part intangible sculpture and part performance without spectacle.

Temporary Occupations from alex villar on Vimeo.

Temporary Occupations depicts a person running on the sidewalk in New York while ignoring the city’s spatial codes and therefore resisting their effects upon the organization of everyday experience. The clips in the video register situations of temporary invasion and occupation of private spaces located in a public setting. The action simply articulates the continuity of these spaces with the remaining areas from which they were extricated, drawing attention to, and possibly subverting, the boundaries that demarcate them.
This piece is part of a long-term investigation and articulation of potential spaces of dissent in the urban landscape, which has often taken the form of an exploration of negative spaces in architecture.” (credit)

Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Cistemaw inyiniw (2001)

(credit)

In the summer of 2001 on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan Indian Reserve in the northern reaches of Saskatchewan, a woman was running, reenacting running done two generations earlier by Cistemaw inyiniw, a Cree man who delivered tobacco from community to community to ask for their attendance and support at ceremonies. He was part of the Moccasin Telegraph: a runner, a traveler, and a messenger. Cistemaw inyiniw (whose name is Cree for tobacco being) walked or ran even when horses were available to him. People were amazed at the distances he could cover and how he traversed them so quickly. Cistemaw inyiniw’s grandson, Harry Blackbird, recalls that “[h]e could cross all the rivers in the region without seeming to get wet.”

Wearing a racing jersey with a number (distinguishing her as a member of a formal event), Cheryl L’Hirondelle ran from one end of the reserve to the other (approximately twenty-five kilometers) on the main road through the community. In most places, her action went by unnoticed, but on the reserve—as in most small communities—everyone knows what everyone else is doing. During L’Hirondelle’s performance, and inspired by her action, some women in the community began a Moccasin Telegraph of their own by phoning other people on the reserve and notifying them about the event.

Aware of what normally constitutes the art audience, certainly not the people from Makwa Sahgaiehcan, L’Hirondelle’s goal was to involve another kind of viewer. Engaging this other audience, as it is with all art that seeks to resonate with a particular community, required her to negotiate a new set of rules and develop a different set of cultural strategies. In some pre-performance musings she remarked that “the activity has to somehow engage people instead of alienate them…it has to occur where people live and where performance has survived for many years—in people’s camps, homes and at the kitchen table.” Her task of “engag[ing] people instead of alienat[ing] them” was determined from the outset. Her strategy was to stage the performance in the local, engaging the community by performing a part of their history.

Cree syllabics for welcome
Cree syllabics for welcome

Cistemaw inyiniw’s story was handed down to L’Hirondelle in typical Native tradition, orally. In Native culture, stories are not simply stories. They are told and retold so that they resonate in the present, not as myths and legends, but as a vital part of history. They teach critical lessons and cultural values, like bravery and the necessity of communication. By mimicking Cistemaw inyiniw’s running, L’Hirondelle’s performance highlighted the distinctions and pointed to the ambiguities of what constitutes public, community, and audience. The Elder originally telling the story has a captive audience: they are members of the given community. However, in L’Hirondelle’s performance the audience is not so easily located. In some cases the term itself is challenged (when does a passer-by become part of an audience?), its definition moves out of focus and its location shifts.

Audience is commonly defined as the assembled spectators or listeners at an event. In L’Hirondelle’s action the viewers were not formally assembled; the performance was happenstance and informal. This questions the distinction between audience and public. Are the people in the community an audience simply because they witness the event? Or, do they have to somehow engage with the action to gain meaning from its occurrence? Can one be called an audience if they refuse to be involved and ultimately disregard the action? Possibly the public are those who choose (for whatever reason) not to be involved with the work. The audience could then be further distinguished as those who gain meaning from the event.

Visited by Joseph Naytowhow
Visited by Joseph Naytowhow

As L’Hirondelle ran through the community of Makwa Sahgaiehcan, a film crew captured her performance and the performances of three other people, Louise Halfe, Cheli Nighttraveller, and Joseph Naytowhow, who, on consultation with the artist, also interacted with the community. Each performer was given a disposable camera, a list of Cree syllabics, and chalk. They were encouraged to write messages in syllabics wherever they saw fit. The performers were also encouraged to ask the people they visited if they would still be willing to honor the age-old tradition of never turning a stranger from your door but, rather, inviting that person in and giving them food and drink. This is based on the Elders’ belief that you never know how far someone has traveled. If the person still abided by this tradition, “water” was inscribed in syllabics on the outside of the house. During her run, Cheryl stopped at two houses where she saw syllabics denoting “water” and visited with the people inside.

Cheli Nighttraveler
Cheli Nighttraveler

Each additional performer interacted with the community in a separate way. Joseph Naytowhow recited the story in typical Cree tradition by becoming the spirit of Cistemaw inyiniw. He offered tobacco to the people he visited and alerted them to Cheryl’s action. Louise Halfe chose to do a photo essay in addition to informing the community about the performance and recording their opinions of the action. Cheli Nighttraveller visited the home of an elderly man in the nearby community of Loon Lake and documented her visit with photographs.

During L’Hirondelle’s performance, three radio stations, Flying Dust Radio, MBC, and CJNS, broadcasted the story of Cistemaw inyiniw in Cree as told by Harry Blackbird. While Flying Dust Radio is broadcasted to the reserve, MBC and CJNS are stations that play mainly Top 40 hits. The idea of a Cree story interrupting the regular streams of Shania Twain and 50 Cent is subversive in itself.

Each component of the performance—L’Hirondelle’s running, the visits with the members of the community, and the radio broadcasts—extended public reception of the event. The visits with the community informed people of the performance, broadening her audience; the radio broadcasts ensured that the community had access to the original story; and L’Hirondelle’s action physically inscribed Cistemaw inyiniw’s story in the landscape of northern Saskatchewan.

The term “public art” doesn’t resonate with most Native people. After all, they do not make up a large percentage of the museum audience. They certainly aren’t viewed as constituting the public or even one of the more carefully defined “publics.” Rather, they are part of a community. Will the community of Makwa Sahgaiehcan remember L’Hirondelle’s performance as a great moment of contemporary Native public art? Probably not. However, it will resonate in the minds of those who witnessed it as an honorable act.”

David Taylor, Working the Line (2007)

“Beginning in 2007, started photographing along the U.S.-Mexico border between El Paso/Juarez and San Diego/Tijuana. My project is organized around an effort to document all of the monuments that mark the international boundary west of the Rio Grande. The rigorous undertaking to reach all of the 276 obelisks, most of which were installed between the years 1891 and 1895, has inevitably led to encounters with migrants, smugglers, the Border Patrol, minutemen and residents of the borderlands.

During the period of my work the United States Border Patrol has doubled in size and the federal government has constructed over 600 miles of pedestrian fencing and vehicle barrier. With apparatus that range from simple tire drags (that erase foot prints allowing fresh evidence of crossing to be more readily identified) to seismic sensors (that detect the passage of people on foot or in a vehicle) the border is under constant surveillance. To date the Border Patrol has attained “operational control” in many areas, however people and drugs continue to cross. Much of that traffic occurs in the most remote, rugged areas of the southwest deserts.

My travels along the border have been done both alone and in the company of agents. In total, the resulting pictures are intended to offer a view into locations and situations that we generally do not access and portray a highly complex physical, social and political topography during a period of dramatic change.” [credit]

Kate Green, Watershed Line (2021)

a cement post

Credit: https://www.kate-green.co.uk/walks

“WATERSHED LINE

From May to September 2021

Kate is Artist-in-Residence in the Elan Valley.

The 1892 Water Act allowed Birmingham Corporation to purchase the watershed of rivers Elan and Claerwen. These 70 square miles would provide water to fuel the city’s industrial growth.

The WATERSHED LINE, the perimeter of the land claimed, was, and still is, marked by concrete posts.

https://www.elanvalley.org.uk/about/elan-links

Today, 81% of the Elan Estate is an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Ironically, the economic value of its water has protected it from the use of pesticides and other chemicals, preserving habitats for now rare plants and animals. However, harnessing the natural cycle of these valleys was a feat of Victorian engineering that accelerated industrialization, contributing to the current global environmental crisis.

As a ‘post-industrial’ pilgrimage in a ‘wild’ landscape, my walk from POST TO POST is a conversation about the complexities of the human footprint.” [credit]

Heath Bunting and Kayle Brandon, BorderXing (2002)

“BorderXing, a 2002 commission for the Tate Gallery in London, in which Mr. Bunting, 37, and Ms. Brandon, 28, documented illegal treks they made across European borders.

“I’ve always wanted to be nomadic — to beg, borrow, find things,” Mr. Bunting said. He travels light, often with no change of clothes and only a few basics: a penknife, a diary, a passport.

The BorderXing Web site, available for individual use by request (at irational.org/cgi-bin/border/clients/ deny.pl) offers pictures, suggested routes and tips for evading the authorities. A vacation slide show of the couple’s journey is on view at the New Museum, as well as online, without registration, at duo.irational.org/borderxing–slide–show.

Despite the political provocation involved, the project retains the aura of a pilgrimage — to be close to the land, to throw off the weight of nationality and statehood, simply to put one foot in front of the other and go.

… BorderXing is concerned with the physical, visceral aspects of travel…” [credit] [full article as PDF]

Heath Bunting and Kayle Brandon, D’Fence Cuts (2001)

“Heath Bunting emerged from the 1980s art scene committed to building open, democratic communications systems and social contexts. Throughout his career, he has explored multiple media including graffiti and performance art and has staged numerous interventionist projects, as well as being a pioneer in the field of Internet Art. Bunting began collaborating with artist Kyle Brandon in 2001.” [credit]

These artists devised a circular tour (see map), and by night stealthily cut some fences as part of their Borderxing project. BorderXing serves as a pratical guide to crossing major international borders, legally or illegally. It was a type of physical hacking of space, cutting anything that impeded their walk – D’Fence Cuts. Below is an excerpt from their tour de fence catalog:

“tour de fence is the answer to your real needs. while the internet promised to level out all barriers, tour de fence enables you to surmount the fences out there that people erect to obstruct your way every day. from wire netting to ru­ stic fence, from steel door to close security system, tour de fence offers you the necessary know-how for unhampered movement. tour de fence is the direct way.

learn offroad mobility within high security architecture. cross over stretches of land in the right direction. penetrate the underground area of your city. tour de fence puts an end to the relocation of your movements into virtual space. use the tour de fence! become a tour de fence amateur team. pass this handbook on to others. propagate tour de fence.

by doing so you will become part of the international tour de fence community. as a reader, a free-climber or by sending one of the 24 tour de fence postcard in this book.

participate now! tour de fence’s vision is to do what we want.

tour de fence acknowledges fence as metaphor for private property. fence as a supposedly temporary, often mobile barrier performing functions of inclusion and exclusion, entrapment and guided freedom, decoration, safety, user boun­ dary, protection from hazard, flow control, visual screening and user separation.

fence is a permeable filter system defining permitted use and users. light, wind, insects, water, plants and sound pass unhindered while high order life forms such as·humans, fish, cattle and cars are engaged:

development of fence.

up to now the vertical has generally been private while the horizontal public. increasingly, vertical fences are being rotated to the horizontal and enlarged over large areas of land, as all use and users are embraced in total control.

tour de fence recognises the transformation of framed freedom into restricted open-range roaming; the re-alignment of unknown possibilities into known re­ peatables. users are permitted to skate across flattened surface of fence, but not to pass through – the fence is everywhere.” (credit)

Deriva Mussol, Night Walks (2013)

people walking at night

Deriva Mussol, Night Walks (2013)

“It was back in 2013, when ACVic, the local arts center of Vic, hos- ted the project Deriva Mussol (its literal translation would be “owl drift”), led by artists Jordi Lafon and Eva Marichalar with the collaboration of the Aula de Teatre (a theater group) of the University of Vic [Barcelona, Spain]. They wanted to collectively create a theatrical proposal that would take place in the streets of Vic. Besides this desire, the only thing they knew is that they wan- ted to open the process of creation to everyone, so that everyone who wanted could participate in it. In order to do so, they invited people to go deriving at night with them through the streets of Vic to wherever the walking would take them. Even though a feeling of awkwardness may awaken to some people when hearing or reading the word “derive” (I would not say it is a really “common” word), in fact, the instructions were so simple that they could be reduced to two key- words: night, walk. Nothing else. The invitation was communicated by ACVic. Everyone was invited. By doing this, they had set up a common ground for secret encounters to happen. At least once per week, different peoples, of different ages, coming from many backgrounds and with different interests walked together without any other expectation than simply this: walking together.

There was nothing that could go wrong. The possibility of doing something wrongly did not exist. Even the common civil laws and social rules of political correctness where almost forgotten thanks to the fact of walking by night guided by curiosity, spontaneity and a playful attitude. Streets were empty; no one was watching. They did 12 derives. Some people went just once and it was okay. Some people participated in all of them and it was also okay. In any case, as Marichalar wrote, a stable group of 10 people was progressively constituted (2013, p. 29). Each deriving session was complemented by another session, called “Parlem” (“let’s talk”) dedicated to talking about the experience.

people talking around a table

Deriva Mussol, Night Walks (2013)

All the members of the group met around a table and shared whatever they wanted to with the others; photos, videos, drawings, maps, thoughts,whatever. After the 12 sessions they had an idea for a theatrical proposal that took finally place and that was presented to the public as a street art performance. From my point of view, the fact that this performance was useful to communicate and share the project with more people is something secondary, if we compare it to the importance that it had for the group of walkers and talkers as a self-representation. In other words, it was a representation of, precisely, themselves as a group; a kind of family.” [credit]

May Murad and Rachel Ashton, Walking Without Walls (2017-18)

Digital Dialogue on Peace, Friendship and Boundaries

Painters May Murad (Gaza) and Rachel Ashton (Huntly) digitally collaborated throughout 2017 to plan two 2018 Slow Marathons in the places they come from.

2018 is the centenary year of the end of WW1. It is also the year when Britain occupied the Palestinian territory of Gaza, – its turbulent history has since been shaped by this event. The Gaza strip is of exact marathon length (26 miles/42k) with walls at each end. We can not visit, and they can not come out. How can we extend and keep up friendships when we can never visit each other? Can socially engage if we never physically meet the other?

The digitally driven exchange project Walking without Walls partnership explored how we can collaborate artistically and socially despite restrictive political situations. The two artists shared through image and video, skype and whatsapp, sketches and text their respective landscapes in their very different geo-political settings. While Rachel negotiated her way with landowners and farmers, May dealt with the complexities of living in an occupied territory. Drawing on the plant journals of WW1 pacifist Rosa Luxemburg – created whilst imprisoned – the artists recorded and shared plants with curing powers in their different climates, while looking for new paths, friendship and ways of healing along the way.

Walking Without Walls formed two marathon length walks. One in Gaza and the other along the river Isla from Dufftown via Keith to Huntly. It featured exhibitions in both places, a catalogue of healing plants and a Pathmakers’ Gathering on political walking. See photos from the day here.

The artists’ path-making explorations into their own land were accompanied by a year-long exchange through various digital applications. In a time of rising nationalism and restrictive legislations that hinder crossings of national borders, the two artists have been exploring opportunities and limits of new technologies in fostering transnational long-distance collaboration. Paintings, drawings and other documentation resulting from their visual exchange was displayed at Tate Exchange on 25th May. ” [credit]

Stuart McAdam, Lines Lost (2013-14)

“A project tracing the routes of branch lines that were cut following the Beeching Report in 1963

Stuart McAdam came to Huntly in Summer 2013 from Glasgow.

Stuart’s Lines Lost project was triggered by the infamous railway cuts which saw train tracks closed as a result of Dr Richard Beeching’s recommendations 50 years ago. Through a series of performative walks with all kinds of people along the former Portsoy to Huntly route, McAdam’s aim was to bring into focus the historic and contemporary concerns surrounding our transport legacy.

Through walking the former track again and again, people have seen him reawaken the route that has been subsumed into the landscape – like remains of ghostly traces of the line that once linked communities. Linking natural with industrial and social history of the past 50 years he interrogated the historical, cultural and contemporary resonances through a series of documented walks.

The North of Scotland was one of the areas most affected by the Beeching cuts with local stopping train routes such as Aberdeen – Inverurie, Aberdeen – Keith – Elgin, Huntly to Banff and Portsoy, Banff – Tillynaught, Fraserburgh – St Combs, Elgin – Lossiemouth, Aberdeen – Ballater and Fraserburgh, Maud – Peterhead and Aviemore – Elgin via Inverness, cut. Many of those that crossed the county have never been replaced by other forms of public transport making journeys difficult and adding hours to travel time for those not having access to private cars – passengers have to travel south to Aberdeen or north to Elgin to get connections often having long waits between buses.  McAdam repeatedly walked the route from Huntly to Portsoy, experiencing it through different eyes every time.

“Physical and transparent remnants of most of the lines still exist within the landscape and I hope to reawaken them in the public consciousness”, said McAdam, who has explored journeys, boundaries and slow travel in a range of artworks.

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Beeching report is also fitting time to consider the impact that the cuts had on the relative development and decline of the many towns and villages that lay along the historic routes, routes that were often life lines for outlying communities.”

McAdam was at the Edinburgh Art Festival the 1st of August. For more information go to the event page.

Stuart also participated in the Room to Roam Festival” [credit]