I’ve been thinking lately about the performative possibilities of walks, especially in the form of tours, as a way to heighten awareness of the seemingly mundane and uncover the true nature of space and place. Artist Richard Long provides an interesting starting point for this. Several of Richard Long’s works are based around his response to environments that he has walked in. Often times, his sculptures are made from found materials taken directly from those environments or by deliberately changing the landscape. A Line Made by Walking is one of his formative pieces beginning to answer questions of impermanence, motion, and relativity that much of his work is concerned with. In a field near his daily commute, he walked forwards and backwards along a line until it became visible adding a performative element to his land art and veering from his usual sculptural works. Richard Long went on to make a series of many, many more walks, which were always made according to some structure such as a geometrical plan, mileage, number of days or something else. He wasn’t responding to historical aspect of place and the structures for the walks he created were arbitrary, creating empty rituals. He would return to the gallery and exhibit photographs, maps, and sculptural works based on these walks, which makes me wonder who was the intended audience and if the performance was end goal or documentation. I’m leaving this link of some criticism of his work because for me it brings up questions of productivity and purpose. Should an artist’s career be dedicated to constantly pushing boundaries or can one hyper-focus on variations of a familiar theme? Is there something to be gained from habitual repetition? The article still brings me back to questions of who these works are intended for as the experience would be much different if he created a line by walking with a group of people. The individuality of the pursuit is a very intriguing aspect.
If you’re in Detroit, you can see his work Stone Line, which is currently exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the Contemporary wing.