The Zimmer Project

 

A classic portrayal?
A classic portrayal?

 

An older person with a walking frame is considered the everyday, and following Kaprows idea with the intent to manipulate the everyday environment and to instigate a new relationship between the public to what the usually are adapted to or confronting them with an artistic perception.

My exercise was to walk through the shopping centre with a walking aid and gauge people’s reactions to a confrontation of the norm.

There were no major rules as the exercise was a large component in itself. I would walk from one end to the other and photograph the event and hopefully capture some people in the process.

The route that I undertook in Sussex Inlet on my Zimmer frame
The route that I undertook in Sussex Inlet on my Zimmer frame

During the week I decided to alter destination and move it away from the shopping centre to Sussex Inlet. The purpose of the change was to perform the exercise in an area that is colloquially known as “God’s waiting room”. One aspect of this coastal village that you notice is the increased presence of elderly citizens. Many slowly walk down the path, others use walking sticks and a minority make use of motorised scooters.

One interesting shot that I was able to capture was with a gentlemen on his scooter who

This gentleman stopped me to enquire about my curious disposition.  The young man in the background is watching on as his partner walks away.
This gentleman stopped me to enquire about my curious disposition.
The young man in the background is watching on as his partner walks away.

was gracious enough to let himself be photographed with me on my walking frame. With the elderly people that I encountered in Sussex Inlet I was largely ignored by them. However I was stopped by this elderly gentleman largely because he himself was using an aid. He felt that he could converse with me and almost felt a kindred spirit with myself. The irony of the photo is that there were two young people. The young man was watching the encounter unfold and trying to understand it, but his partner turned around as soon as she realised there was a photographer and kept walking.

Society has a concept: A person with a frame must be a senior citizen and I was about to challenge the norm and begin the exercise at the local supermarket.

I discovered through the ‘happening’ that the walking frame itself became part of my own physical frame, it was an attachment of my being.

 

This created some mixed emotions within the community. As I entered the store some people felt they needed to give me right of passage showing empathy and assuming that I must have some physical impairment. Others in the supermarket showed some discontent and uncomfortability with the concept of a young person using a device that was strictly perceived for the elderly and in their eyes I displayed no physical disability.

It should be noted at this point that I didn’t have any conceived actions or motions on how to interact with the walking frame. Yet, once I grasped the two handles I instantly hunched over, leant on the frame and walked slowly. This wasn’t something that I gave any thought to during the exercise, it was on reflection of the photographs that I discovered this action.

On the flip side I could have stood upright and walked at my normal pace through the main street of Sussex Inlet. I believe that subconsciously I wanted to be as respectful to people who actually do have physical ailments. The concept of offending people certainly wasn’t in my plan nor in my instructions.

I appreciate that there is a UK satirical organisation that has been formed by two disabled artists Katherine Araniello and Aaron Williamson. Their intent is to challenge able bodied people through their performance art. “They create video and performance art to cause confusion and provoke debate by subverting society’s perception and expectations of disabled people” (Avant-Garde, n.d.).

Following on from my walking exercise I would like to develop this further and use the work of Jane Cardiff.

Essentially her art work is alike an audio guide that you may take at a museum. The participant is given an audio device such as an iPod or CD player and they are then told to stand or sit in an area exactly where Janet has been herself.

Once the participant presses play they are presented with her voice which then guides them on an exact path that she undertook herself.

Further information on the technical aspect of her work can be found at the UOW CAOS201 blog by clicking here.

Developing my walk would consist of videotaping a predefined path from the top of the street and walking to the other end. Along the way I would occasionally move the camera to the left and then to the right. The participant would have a zimmer frame similar to the one that I used for my artwork. During the course of the videotape I would have actors look at the camera (not necessarily directly) with looks of question, sympathy, empathy, unease, disgust and uncertainty. The voiceover would instruct the participant to note these looks from the people. Much like Cardiffs “Ghost Machine” from 2005 which was shot at the Hebbel Theatre in Berlin. Although it would be an overlapping reality the concept would be to engage the participant in the emotions that I felt on the day. To a lesser extent to even touch on the emotions of an individual that actually uses these physical aids. A major part of the exercise would be that it is slow moving to mimic the speed of a person using the frame.

 

This was posted on Facebook to fish for comments and reactions.
This was posted on Facebook to fish for comments and reactions.

As an extension to assignment one I posted a few random photos of the walk on Facebook to gauge some reactions from people. The majority of the comments were as expected. Inquisition. Interestingly one comment from a person who didn’t know me believed that I was a documentary maker while another person commented on the fact that someone my age did not belong in a walking frame. Social media certainly has a large influence in much of socially engaged art and this is a clear example. The artwork has been taken from the streets of Sussex thrust into the social network realm and reached an even wider audience.

 

Facebook Comments

 

Overall I believe that this form of performance art challenged individuals who saw it. My performance inhabited the gap between art and life much like Kaprow’s work according to Craig Staff in 501 Great Artists, p 472 (2008).

This whole experience allowed me to gain a better understanding of what the term relational aesthetics is.

The central theme of my artistic experience and conception of my idea was to create a work that challenged the social norm of disability, age and extension of one’s self with the use of a zimmer frame. Bourriaud describes works of art which are produced within the community with a specific cultural and political goal to use that artwork.

Those who engage with this piece interact with the social associations of others and allow exchanges which are different within the structure. This walking art is an iregularity of organised everyday life and therefore is a different concept of communication which has been forced upon the participant.

For this art to have an effect it must rely on the social restrictions that apply to people who are disabled or elderly allowing the opportunity for social relations which creates a new space with a designed purpose.

My ideas have come from researching the following texts:

Avant-Garde, T. D., n.d. This   is Unbound. [Online]
Available at: http://thisisunbound.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_book_info&products_id=369

Bourriaud, N., 1998. Relational Aesthetics. Dijon:   Les Preese Du Reel.

Staff, C., 2008. 501 Great Artists. London: ABC   Books.

 

 

 

 

 

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