Have you ever got a diploma for a walk? You might get one if you were ready for a special experience on one of the walks of famed artist Hamish Fulton. He lives in Canterburry, UK, and works around the world with his very special walking art experiences. “An object cannot compete with an experience”, says Fulton. True, I must say, it was a very special afternoon following the Art and the City’s, Hamish Fulton’s and the Haeusler Contemporary’s joint call for a walking art action. Also, a new experience was blogging while walking. Read and enjoy the result here.
Silently a group of around 38 people walk small step by small step, one meter apart, alongside and upstream the Limmat river in Zürich, Switzerland, as a part and an experiment oft the Art and the City public space exhibition which will run over all summer till 23 September 2012. Artist Hamish Fulton is not to be seen in our group but rather walks downstream with another group of 126 art lovers who are coming closer to us on opposite track.
The rules are clear: no talking, silent walking, equi-spaced at one meter. The groups are approaching each other, invisible for each other at first and for about an hour. Then they will be passing and looking at one another. And will separate again, both groups heading their direction.
Passersby on bycicles, with children, with dogs, on boats on the river on this sunny summer day, or people sitting on the shores of the Limmat, looking from their houses and balconies consider the strange, silent procession. Some ask: “what’s happened”, “what’s this about”, “do you enjoy it”, smiles on their faces, possibly not realising that they are part of an art experiment. We, the walkers, look back at them, realising that we are part of the scene, we are on stage, we are being exhibited, we are the objects and subjects of an art happening, it’s happening now and here, at this time, in this place.
Hamish Fulton must be smiling for himself, because he knew what was going to be created. He knew how much all our sense would interact with our surroundings. Senses getting more and more open. The movements of things passing by slowly, the river, trees, flowers, weed, houses on both sides of us, among them modern houses on the opposite shore, old Bernoulli houses on our side, business buildings behind them. The wind on our backs, the sun burn on the skin, the touch of grass weeds on the fingers. Shades of walkers, trees, buildings, fences and clouds, light reflected in the water. Noises of insects, of birds, of boys jumping courageously and with laughter into the river from bridges. Sounds close and distant, footsteps of us the walkers and passersby, from the railway viaduct, byke noises, bells ringing. Smells of perfume, of the water, of the blossoms, of dust. And the taste of the food and drinks carried along in the backpack, the blood from the little wound on the finger. All of this melting into one very special sensual experience.
Is nature art? Is walking art? Is a city art? Are a group of people art? None of these? All of these? All of these together? Not yet. Here comes the artist into game, the master who combines this all together into one. Hamish Fulton is the artist, we are the followers and the actors. Masterfully arranged into one special event to be remembered for a long time.
Forty five minutes are over and still the other group is out of sight. Then, just as one hour is over and the bell tolss, here they come. We can feel the attention, the little excitement which comes to the group, cameras are ready to photograph those passing by slowly. Riverrun past both groups and the groups past one another.
The downstreamers meet the upstreamers. Not two teams, two collections of individuals, everyone island single for themself. Or not? Is this combination of individuals more than just the individuals? Look at their dresses, at their strange small steps, at how they look at us, at me, photograph us and we them. And gone they are. Turning back, we can see their backs. We make our way as we walk. And looking back we see the others going the way we came from. The artist must be somewhere in the other group. We are later told that he was at the end of the other group.
Still around an hour to go. The mind has calmed down and yet curiosity has increased. So many things to be seen. Will have to come back and see more. What will we take away and home from this? Was it a waste of time? No, it was time expanded, lived and experienced very intensely. What else would have been more important to do during this time? Actually nothing that couldn’t have been done before or after. Hours later, thoughts go back to time and spaces experienced during and through the walk. Hamish Fulton did it. Again. This time to us. And to Zurich. Art and the City. City art, art experience. At it’s best.
See more images at ARTregards flickr.com