Walking as Knowing as Making

2005

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Walking as Knowing as Making was a year-long series of symposia, discussions, and walks that took place at the Univer- sity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Originated within the School of Art and Design, the project formed from discussions between Nicholas Brown and Kevin Hamilton.

We first planned the project as a way of provoking needed discourse where we could find none. With interest in walking on the rise in academia, the arts, and activism, no area seemed to benefit from work within any other. Disparate, incomplete conversations provided glimpses into walking’s potential as an source of knowledge and means of production, but each ran the risk of uncritically valorizing some aspect of this commonplace practice.

As so many asked during our project, what is walking after all but a series of falls and recoveries of a body, propelling a person through space? Anything beyond that, any meaningful or productive function, is ascribed by a particular person or group, within a particular discourse. Walking’s rich potential lies in the differences between these ascriptions. We sought to better understand why artists, activists, poets, geographers and ecologists want walking to be more than movement of a body through space and time.

To this end, we arranged a series of opportunities to ask ourselves and others the question, “Why walking?” We did this through staging a sequence of deliberately interrogatory contexts, where both our assumptions about walking and our means for conducting such a discussion were called into question. In 2004 and 2005, we assembled small groups of “experts” for whom walking played a significant role, invited them to Central Illinois for four-day retreats.
Each retreat contained public and private components, talks and walks. We sought to challenge our guests through placing their work in proximity to that of others from wildly different practices. We sought to challenge ourselves and our local community of participants by holding the events in a roaming format, choosing different locations for each presentation or discussion, and conducting some of the events as walks. 

For a full list of events, speakers, actions and documentation, see the original event website.

See this link for our later reflections on the project.