Deer Jump Reservation, August 2019
The third walk in the Artist Walks (3) series invited participating artists to share aspects of their own practices and ways in which their creative practice influence how they perceive, experience, and understand the world around them.
At regular intervals along this woodland walk, participants were asked to share prompts they had prepared in advance. The prompts were used to frame subsequent periods of contemplation and discussion.
Interdisciplinary Walk Prompt (examples)
Who am I, and what am I doing?
When exploring a new location or looking for a new perspective on a familiar location, I find it useful and inspiring to ask myself “who am I and what am I doing?” and to allow the answer to that question to change as my exploration evolves.1
- Am I a tourist, wandering with varying degrees of attention and disinterest, led by a visual, narrative, or human guidance system?
- Am I a walker, moving through space with the goal simply of raising my heart rate and stretching my legs?
- Am I a wayfarer, traveling a set path from one location to another, tracking signs and signals of direction, but truly focused only on getting to my end goal?
- Am I a butterfly, flitting from one spot to the next, pausing for a moment to catch my breath, consume a little snack, or simply stand in awe of my own beauty in this landscape?
- Am I a flâneur, allowing the environment to take me where it will at its natural ebb and flow, but with the freedom to decide, when and where I might want to step out to observe, witness or just linger and loiter?
- Am I a drifter, drawn from one fascinating thing to another within the terrain?
- Am I a wolf, listening for the slightest rustle in the nearby underbrush, tracking the smells of other animals that have travelled this way, at times loping, at times standing as still as I can to take in all my surroundings?
- Am I a cartographer, mapping the landscape as a move through it, making note of remarkable landmarks, topographical changes, and architectural expressions?
- Am I a nomad, allowing the stories of the landscape to lead me along paths of meaning, attentive to the journey through the land and the memories that the landscape retains of others who have traversed it?
- Am I a lizard, skittering across the ground from one sunny spot to another, from one protected cover to another, leaving the dusty traces of my movement in the sands behind me?
- Am I a stream, flowing along the paths of least resistance, taking what might seem to be a longer meandering route, picking things up and depositing them just a little further down the path as I pass by?
- Am I a rambler, moving leisurely across the landscape from one site of consumption to another, engaging in pleasurable social acts of display and exchange with little concern for anything?
- Am I a crow, cautious and cunning, developing ingenious ways to get at the things I want if they don’t happen to simply be left out in the open by the side of the road?
- Am I a fieldworker, observing and noting everything I see, everyone I encounter, developing hypotheses and interrogating the meaning created around me?
- Am I a maple helicopter seed pod, spinning, spinning, spinning on the wind, dizzy with potential until I collapse on the ground, my maiden voyage also my last?
- Am I a stone, sitting still in one place until some external force knocks me or carries me to another one?
In butoh practice, the flesh becomes
“Butoh dares to transform the initial reality of the body into a disparate reality of living matter.”2 The body realizes its unity with its surroundings, with the universe of matter and energy, and its flesh begins to resonate and dance in material, visceral, sensorial imaginaries rather than the more habitual, human, social one.
Begin the dehumanization process by decentering your center of gravity. Find another center of gravity. Move with that other center of gravity.
- Where does the earth pull on the bag of water? Where does the bag of water pull on the earth? How does the bag of water move its weight across the surface of the earth?
- Where does the earth pull on the plant? Where does the plant pull on the earth? How does the plant resist the earth’s pull, drawn as it is more strongly upwards to the sun?
- Where does the earth pull on the lizard? Where does the lizard pull on the earth? How does the lizard’s oscillating mid-section counteract its inertial mass?
- Where does the earth pull on the stone? Where does the stone pull on the earth? How does the stone dance in the tension of mutual pulling?
Most of us don’t notice light, don’t realize its effect on mood, form, meaning, landscape, temperature, biological and chemical processes, or even our experience of time. And yet, all of us are deeply affected by it. 3
- Where does the light come from? Where does it go? Is it direct light, indirect light or reflections from a shiny surface? Is it sharp or diffuse? Does it seem to have a color to it? Does it change the color of the objects it touches?
- Is it still or moving? Is it moving because the light source is moving or because the objects in its path are moving? At what speed is it moving? Does it move smoothly, in jagged fits and starts, or liquid ripples? When it moves, what kind of quality does it seem to take on?
- What happens at the edges of light and dark? Are the shadows consistent or varied in color and darkness? How does the shift from light to dark change how you perceive the surface of the objects straddling that shift?
- What else can you notice about the light? How does focusing on the light change the way you see, feel, hear, smell, touch? How does it change your perception of time passing?
1) The various “Am I a…” included in this series of prompts were adapted from or inspired by the following sources:
– Mike Pearson, Site-Specific Performance, p 19-20
– SU-EN, Body and the World
– Benterrak, et al, Reading the Country, p 23-29 & 184-188
2) SU-EN, Body and the World, p 69
3) echos a sentiment attributable to lighting designer Jennifer Tipton