The Atlas Collection

In developing my idea for this Walking Project, I was partly interested in Richard Long’s representation of his walk into something more abstract. For the class exercise, I explored his idea of textworks, so for this project, I wanted to explore the physical representation of the walk into a sculptural object. An artist who has always been a major inspiration for me is Francis Alys. In relation to this project, his video work The Collector (1991-2006) was of great interest to me.

In 1991 to 1992, Alys constructed a series of metal animals and experiments, with the most notable being a metal dog on wheels, made of magnetised steel. Challenging the idea of the inert character of art objects, Alys pulled this magnetised dog behind him as he walked through the streets of Mexico City. The sculpture or public monument was no longer static, but grew and changed as Alys walked through the urban metropolis, where the dog sifted and pulled debris from the street onto its magnetic surface. Alys also recorded these walks, which weave their own narratives. These walks can be seen here:





Two major outcomes emerged from this work that influenced his art practice from this point onwards. The Collector established the discipline of walking for Alys as an artistic action, where it combined observing, walking, thinking, questioning, negotiating, doing and narrating into a single practice (Medina 2001, p.12). Through this process, the magnetic dog became a site recording the trace of an extensive social practice steeped in urban mythology. The static art object was replaced by a practice where the sculpture became a shifting receptacle of personal and collective metaphors of the city-dweller’s actions and fictions, through a process where Alys was simultaneously attempting to inscribe himself into a place where he was essentially a foreigner (Medina 2001, p.10).

I considered his approach, but I didn’t want to present the walk in a video format. I was attracted to the idea of collecting through walking, and the idea of magnetic attraction of matter into an evolving sculpture that becomes embedded with narratives as I walk through the city streets. This gave me the idea for the project to attach a material such as heavy duty magnetic tape to my shoes as I walk around the city streets, collecting matter and forming something that embodies the walk and has the narratives entrenched within it.

In considering where to walk and how to present it, I was interested by the idea of Gerhard Richter’s Atlas, where he assembles a mass of photographs and drawings that influence his ideas and support the critical context of his work. These have been published into books, which you can see below:



from Gerhard Richter, Atlas, 1989


As to where to walk, I was influenced by the ideas in class of mapping in a non-literal way, so I plan to do a series of walks along the streets of some of the major suburbs in Wollongong. With pieces of adhesive/magnetic material attached to my shoes, they will pick up debris from the ground where I walk. I will then present these as an atlas of the areas I’ve walked. I don’t quite know how these will turn out, but I need to gather some materials, walk and experiment. I’m hoping they will turn out to be quite minimalist representations of the walks.




Medina, C 2001, ‘Action/Fiction’, in Francis Alys, Musee Picasso, Antibes, France.

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