A Philosophy of Walking

A few ideas from the first chapters of A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros

“Because the city-dweller tends spontaneously to interpret such activity [walking] in terms of deprivation, whereas the walker considers it a liberation to be disentangled from the web of exchange, no longer reduced to a junction in the network of redistributing information, images and goods; to see that these things have only the reality and importance you give them.”

Walking liberates you from time and space.

“…by walking you are not going to meet yourself.  By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history.”



Campus Walk Test

As Far As I Could Get (10 seconds)

As Far As I Could Get is a series of photographs made by John Divola in 1996/97.  He pushed a self-timer button on his camera and ran as fast as he could to get away from it.  The exposure time was 10 seconds.   This project offers a different take on the role of walking/ running within an artistic practice and also speaks to the limits of time when it comes to realization of a complete idea.  You can only get as far as you can get.  It reminds me of a Steven Wright quote: “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”

john divola- as far as i can get3.jpgjohn divola- as-far-as-i-could-get-web.jpgjohn divola- as far as i can get2

“Grass is Greener” Syndrome

The “Grass is Greener” Syndrome is a very fitting way to describe the constant nagging feeling that there is always something better somewhere else.  Rather than feeling safe and secure in the current space, a person experiencing the syndrome feels that there is more and better in every other space and place around, the anxiety of making the wrong choice to stay put, fears of compromise and commitment turning to oppressive sacrifice.  When experiencing this, the perception is that another space, another place will provide everything wanted, needed, valued, and all the issues that currently plague will fade away.

What’s interesting to me in light of site-specific performance is the transformative power of fantasy and perception.  The space itself doesn’t change .  Perception can be rooted in perfectionism and idealizations that will never be met.   The projection of fantasy image onto a space becomes more prevalent than reality.  Never being able to live up to the standards set, the space always disheartens and disappoints.  How do you view something you already think you know with fresh eyes, letting it be exactly what it is?

As a note “Grass is Greener” Syndrome is a close relative of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out),  which is a newer term added to the dictionary in 2013.  It’s defined as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’.  More specifically, it refers to people who obsessively check social media so they don’t feel out of the loop.  “It drives you to keep running around the digital hamster wheel to feel okay with yourself.”

One way to combat both “Grass is Greener” and FOMO?  Gratitude.

Sources: Psych Central, Time, Coppes

Photo credit and other ways to overcome both: The Balanced Life

Special Relativity, History, and Detroit

I’m marking this in the to read fully later category: Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which concludes that space and time are relative (i.e., they depend on the motion of the observer who measures them) and light is more fundamental than either.  To take this a step further, studies have shown that people don’t evaluate the past and future in the same way.  Everything that is behind a person (time/object) is perceived as further away than what’s in front of that person even if the distance is measured to be exactly the same.

The link between space and time is fascinating especially when I think about many of the conversations that I’ve had about the city of Detroit so far this summer.  What does the past tell us about the present?  What if this past is so far away that many of the people who once inhabited the space no longer do; claiming the space and its history for a new generation.  Most people want to talk about the past: the history of a specific building, the back entrance of the stadium their grandpa always used, the events that took place there, and especially the Riots of ’67 (also called 12th Street Riots).  There’s no doubt that the 12th Street Riots marked the tipping point in race relations in Detroit and shaped many of views of the city during its steady decline.  In August, a film based on the story of the riots by Kathryn Bigelow called “Detroit” will make its premiere.  I wonder what the goal of the film is and can’t wait to find out.  Like many, I’m curious about the public image that this will bring about a city that is still in the midst of recovering.





I’ve started scouting locations for my next project, which uses Detroit’s landscape to inspire and provide structural basis for site-specific performance.  During some of my theoretical research I came across a quote by Michel de Certeau, a French scholar who combined history, psychoanalysis, philosophy, and the social sciences.

“space is a practiced place.  Thus the street geometrically defined by urban planning is transformed into a space by walkers.  In the same way, an act of reading is the space produced by the practice of a particular place: a written text, i.e.: a place constituted by a system of signs. ” – Michel de Certeau

A place holds potential for activation by others but remains neutral until it is acted upon. At least, that’s what I’m gathering. It reminds me of what I find so exciting about a blank stage: anything can happen if you make it so. The walking space can be transformed into the jumping space. The waiting space can be transformed into the love space and so on forever.