Saturday, July 20, 2013

Walking with Fish in Memphis

"Many practitioners of ecological art use walking as a strategy to either engage audiences or to research a site. It is an attractive methodology because it is simple, economical and heuristically inclusive. Richard Long, a British walking artist, whose practice began in 1967 with an iconic work, “A line made by walking,” in which he traced and retraced his steps until he had worn a line in the grass field, close to London, is often cited by other artists as an inspiration to their practice, that often includes references to sound. Long has referenced the importance of listening and hearing during his walks. On his website, part of his statement refers to, “The music of stones.” - excerpt from the third chapter of my dissertation 2013

When I was 11, I walked for hours in the woods near my home, not far from the Hudson River, every afternoon, after school, with my dog, in all seasons. I was trying to learn to walk soundlessly on dead leaves, as I imagined Hiawatha might. Sound has a taste, a smell, a tactile quality on the skin. Each season the leaves had a different sound when I failed to be soundless. Crackly in the Fall, soft in winter, tiny in Spring, warm in Summer.

When I was 18, every morning en route to Parsons School of Design, in four inch heels, I walked from Grand Central Station to my first class, practicing what I learned in Joseph Pilates Studio, moving thru the crowds swiftly, smoothly but balanced, aware of each detail of my environment and synchronizing every part of my body without any extraneous movement, breathing deeply and rhythmically. I didn't know that was a performance.

When I was twenty-two, directing my own street theatre group, the American Ritual Theatre, I watched my dancers move slowly, deliberately through Eucalyptus trees on a far ridge East of San Diego that was still undeveloped country, passing between the pale trunks like fluid vertical ghosts between pylons. That was a performance without an audience. Another time, dressed all in silver and wearing silver body paint, we walked slowly thru the streets of the city of San Diego.

From 1990-2000, I walked the paths of the Trigger Point Garden in the Ghost Nets restoration, learning the sounds of each microhabitat as it gathered entropy and adapted to itself.

When I walked the same paths yesterday morning, with my sister, we remembered what the site looked like when I began: a plant here and there on barren slopes while we passed beneath boughs of spruce and dogwood and heard the distant sound of the tide. In the sound of the tide, I imagined fish swimming.

In my mind, as my pages dissertation add up, I walk the Wolf River, from the Ghost River to the Mississippi river, hearing the unfamiliar sounds I recall from May in Memphis and marking in my mind, "here," "here," and "here." Here, would be trigger points to intervene and reconnect the broken pieces of habitat. There, I would hear fish swimming upstream.

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