Responding to the #WalkCreate Gallery – Stephanie Springgay

A series of Jo Delafons’s ‘walk boxes’ presented as an installation. Each is a mixed media abstract interpretation of a walk taken on the South Downs by the artist during Lockdown. Their delicate construction emphasises our fragile relationship with nature and our environment, The box form evokes the rigid confines and restrictions of lockdown in contrast to the precious freedom of the walk evoked inside. Each box can be turned over by hand.
Lockdown Walk Boxes

The following text is a transcript from Stephanie Springgay’s response to the #WalkCreate Gallery from the gallery online launch event on Wednesday 4th November 2021. A full recording of the event can be found here.

I am joining you from Tkaronto, the lands of the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Or otherwise known through the settler colonial word Toronto.

I want to congratulate Deirdre Heddon, Maggie O’Neill, Morag Rose, Clare Qualmann, Harry Wilson and Eleanor Capaldi for the incredibly rich and diverse range of projects they have curated and assembled in the digital galler[y]. I also want to acknowledge the many walkers and publics who contributed their walks to the project, particularly at a time of crises and trauma.

[In the #WalkCreate Gallery], we find many different methods for walking: from audio walks; scores; performances; community-based or participatory; to virtual; and I really enjoyed the indoor walks. Each contribution also invents capacious ways of documenting, mapping and recording embodied and affective practices of noticing attuning and responding to a walking world. When you click on each link, a walking world of wonder opens up; an invitation to walk with the contributor. A form of intimate relation.

Ravenscar at low tide reveals an extraordinary number of fossils, rocks and scaurs that tell stories about costal erosion. This image captures Claire performing an action with a boulder, Norwegian in Origin, which has been deposited here from the last ice age.
Claire Hind hugging a Rhomb Porphery Norwegian rock. Photo Credit Amalie Iona

Walking is a way of engaging with phenomena up close. However, as Mexican American artist and educator Jorge Lucero contends, up close–or what he names as nearness–is more than just physical proximity. It’s also how we attune to, or tend ethically and politically to, an experience or to some phenomena. So nearness then is about fostering care of becoming mindful of the kind of intentions we bring to a place, an event, an object, or to walking. And this renewed and ongoing interest in walking demands different ethical and political commitments that are brought to bear on questions of who gets to walk, where, how we walk, under whose terms, and what kinds of publics we can make. And these are the concerns at the heart of the WalkCreate galler[y].

Claire Hind’s image of her body draped over a boulder on an isolated rocky coast, suggests the ways in which the human and more-than-human geologic body become enfleshed with one another through movement. Jo Delafons’, Lockdown Walk Boxes evoke ethereal or atmospheric strata of walking, fragility and the environment. Andrew Howe’s Walking Territory, a handmade artist book made from plants gathered along his walks or from his garden, provide hand-drawn maps of walks taken no more than two kilometres from his home. And Walking invitations and art with neurodivergent young people by Rik Fisher uses games and prompts to explore youth’s relationships to walking in place. And this participatory contribution challenges overdetermined assumptions about walking and ableism.

A series of Jo Delafons’s ‘walk boxes’ presented as an installation. Each is a mixed media abstract interpretation of a walk taken on the South Downs by the artist during Lockdown. Their delicate construction emphasises our fragile relationship with nature and our environment, The box form evokes the rigid confines and restrictions of lockdown in contrast to the precious freedom of the walk evoked inside. Each box can be turned over by hand.
Jo Delafons’ Lockdown Walk Boxes

These are just four exquisite examples of the many walking contributions to the gallery. Together, these walking propositions stimulate new modes of production or what I often refer to as a germination or seeding. The galler[y] as Erin Manning would say, generate[s] techniques for sharing the work’s potential, beyond documentation and representation. When I was clicking through […] in preparation for my comments today, it really felt like I could go on a walk or I could enact similar kinds of walks. So they really invite this […] moment of exploration and moment of proposition. Walking is in excess of potential or that which exceeds the knowable and the capturable.

So in closing, I invite you in to th[is] walking galler[y] through a practise of nearness. It’s what WalkingLab refers to as a walking with that is attuned to the different ways that our bodies respond to movement, place and the affective.

So congratulations once again to all of the walkers in these gallery spaces. Thank you.

Stephanie Springgay is Director of the School of the Arts (SOTA), at McMaster University, Canada. She is a leading scholar of research-creation with a focus on walking, affect, queer theory, and contemporary art as pedagogy. Her SSHRC-funded research-creation projects include WalkingLab (www.walkinglab.org) and The Pedagogical Impulse (www.thepedagogicalimpulse.com). She has published widely on contemporary art, queer-feminist anti-racist pedagogies, and social practice arts. She is the co-author, with Sarah E. Truman of Walking and the more-than-human: WalkingLab (2018).