Since its unveiling last year, The Museum of Walking, a collaborative project between Angela Ellsworth and Steven Yazzie, has functioned as an institute that values the act of walking in its various manifestations. "Radius," an exhibition on display at Museum of Walking's headquarters on ASU's Tempe campus until May 15, 2015, seeks to explore what lies within a "walkable" distance through recording and responding to the experience of walking. Each of the emerging artists in this exhibition provide a unique form of record, but "Radius" is more about the collective power of walking.
A central force behind this exhibition, and MoW itself, is the work of Rebecca Solnit. Presented in the exhibition space is a quote from Solnit's Wanderlust: A History of Walking. "People have a kind of mental radius of how far they are willing to go on foot that seems to be shrinking. . ." Using this limited radius, which civic planners commonly define as a 15-minute walk, these artists set out on 15-minute walks from MoW's Tempe location in any direction. With walking as both process and medium, the artists have displayed the remnants of this performative action. Each artist has produced a work on paper, functioning as a map of sorts, corresponding with a found object in the space.
Each work on paper is based on a template, a score for a performance. Museum of Walking is typed in the center with untapped space surrounding it, speaking to the inherent potentiality of walking. From a single point of origin, the possibilities are seemingly infinite. There's no defined point B until the artist determines it and, in some cases, we see only a trace with no clear destination.
The potential of walking is illustrated further in the lack of ownership over specific works. The participating artists are listed in the space, but the viewer doesn't know who did what. It really doesn't matter. This sense of collectivity is what the act of walking and this institutional space are about. Walking is about being engaged with the landscape -- what we're walking on, what (or whom) we're surrounded by, and where we're going (whether we know or not). These personal responses to walking, in turn, tell us something about ourselves and invite us to ask introspective questions about the act of walking and our relationship to it.
The objects on display throughout the space call for a more thorough investigation of the exhibition. Like the works on paper, these shelved objects function as maps. A mini bottle of Malibu becomes a line on a map and paperwork from the post office stands in as a point B. These objects, at face value, reduce the map to a single thing. However, the back and forth that happens between object and map creates a dynamic cartography that provides a non-romanticized perspective on walking, one that honors and preserves the everyday in all its mundane glory.
Let's face it. We inhabit this beautiful desert landscape that's often deemed unwalkable unless we're within our respective radii. During summer, that radius might shrink to spaces that are air-conditioned. On my 15-minute walk to work I pass vast fields of gravel, parking structures, and vacant lots. The most compelling object I recall finding is a broken taillight. It's not "romantic," but that's what's so special about walking. Sometimes it might be incredibly profound, while other times it's just a movement from here to there. Walking isn't about the cinematic idea of songbirds following along with a tune. It's utilitarian, but it has the potential to be spiritual and poetic.
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SHOW ME HOW
The exhibit at MoW Tempe is only the first part of the exhibition. "Radius 2" will be a participatory event at MoW's Livery Studio Space location in Scottsdale on the evening of April 23. Opening up the process used by the artists to the public, participants will go on 15-minute walks and document their experience in some form. "We want visitors to leave the Livery and take these questions to a new starting point, their homes perhaps, and consider how walking fits into their lives," says artist Courtney Richter. The artists in "Radius" seek meaning in the act of walking and invite the audience to do the same.
"Radius" will be on view at The Museum of Walking's ASU Tempe location until May 15, 2015. "Radius 2" will take place on Thursday, April 23, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Livery Studio Space. For more information visit, The Museum of Walking's website.