Lecture notes for week 4 – Walking

1) See the presentation given in class: Week 4- Walking

2) Below are some notes related to the above presentation:


History of walking as aesthetic practice

“The act of crossing space stems from the necessity to move to find the food and information required for survival. But once these basic needs have been satisfied, walk­ing takes on a symbolic form that has ena­bled humans to dwell in the world. By modif­ying the sense of the space crossed, walking becomes (wo)man’s first aesthetic act, penetrat­ing the territories of chaos, constructing an order on which to develop the architecture of situated objects. Walking is an art from whose loins spring the menhir, sculpture, architecture, landscape. This simple action has given rise to the most important rela­tionships (wo)man has established with the land: the territory”

– Francesco Careri, Walkscapes




Psychogeography is:

“the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” – Guy Debord

“And in broad terms, psychogeography is, as the name suggests, the point at which psychology and geography collide, a means of exploring the behavioural impact of urban place”. – From Merlin Coverly, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography, in Psychogeography

“a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities… just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape” (wikipedia) Guy Dedord

Precedents in Dada and Surrealism

  • Calling forth and following deep unconscious drives
  • Believe in liberation of unconscious
  • Influence on surrealism is from the group of Pan-African poets and intellectuals who developed the concept of Negritude, for example the philosopher and theorists Aimé and Suzanne Césaire:

Surrealism, she argued, was not an ideology as such but a state of mind, a “permanent readiness for the Marvelous.”

Dérive: Central to the practice of psychogeography is the Dérive, or ‘drift’, which developed form an earlier idea of ‘urban wandering’, embodied in the concept of the ‘flâneur’, developed by the writer Charles Baudelaire

The flâneur: a bourgeois figure, generally male, whose idle wanderings afforded him the ability to observe, in a detached way, the rise of the metropolis

The concept of the derive was picked up by Guy Debord, who was a member/leader of the “Situationist Internationale” in Paris Guy Debord developed the idea further in a document titled “Theory of the Dérive” in 1958. This document serves as an instruction manual for psychogeographic procedures, executed through the act of dérive (“drift”):

“In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there… But the dérive includes both this letting go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities”  – Knabb, Ken, ed. (1995). Situationist International Anthology. Berkley: Bureau of Public Secrets.

The psycheogeographic dérive is anti functional, anti instrumental (anti-architectural), focused on the ‘ludic’ (playful) – focus on tangents, poesis, emergences, and a desire for constant exploration, of being “drawn by the attraction of the terrain and its encounters”. (Guy Deboard, Theory of the Dérive)

More notes of the Dérive:

  • It is regarded as both ‘anarchistic’ and ‘utopic’ praxis.
  • An imaginitive re-working overlaying desire onto the given city.
  • An activity of disorientation in which participants would walk in order to lose themselves in the city
  • Looks to familiar/banal surroundings as a site for passage in which we can experience the city in new and unfamiliar ways.
  • This is positioned as a creative agitation in response to the ‘society of the spectacle’, it calls forth creative, participatory engagement with urban fabric such that individuals become fully aware, fully engaged inhabitants of the city.

Associated Variants:



Pilgrimage (Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist)

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs. (Wikipedia)
“The pilgrimage to Rome, in fact, was very frequent. Rome in the Middle Ages was – together with the Holy Land and Santiago Compostela – one of the top three major pilgrimages because, besides being the papal seat, was the place where the apostle Peter was buried”.

See: http://bistrocharbonnier.altervista.org/il-dilemma-della-via-francigena-nel-salento/

“All roads lead to Rome.” http://www.italiannotebook.com/places/sutri/

For more text related to the idea of pilgrimage see the essay Pilgrimage and the desire for meaning:


Hikoi – protest march – Aotearoa, New Zealand

“A partial consequence of the 1975 Hikoi was the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal under the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975. The 1975 land march was able to highlight Maori grievances and raise awareness of the injustices suffered by Maori. Injustices of which were supposed to be null and void as a result of the government following its promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi. However, the government did not act accordingly and the land march exposed this with its gained media attention and huge support from both Pakeha and Maori. The tribunal was therefore formed to report on and make recommendations on claims brought to the tribunal by Maori. These claims are Maori grievances relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and government actions that are against its clauses. Originally the tribunal could not look into past grievances and therefore was largely ineffective in working with land issues. The 1975 land march was instrumental in alerting New Zealand society of the unlawful actions of the government with regards to Maori land, resulting in the creation of a permanent commission of inquiry”.

Above text taken from this site: http://maorihikoi.weebly.com/1975-hikoi.html


Civil Rights – Selma

“In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. led several attempts to march from Selma to Montgomery as part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement. The protesters encountered violent opposition from authorities and segregationists. But with federal backing, the demonstrators successfully made the four-day walk, a 50-mile stretch. That year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which gave African-Americans the right to vote”.

Text taken from: http://interactives.ap.org/interactives/2015/selma/


Australian Aboriginal Songlines

Within the animist belief system of Indigenous Australians, a songline, also called dreaming track, is one of the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky) which mark the route followed by localised ‘creator-beings’ during the Dreaming.

Songlines are effectively oral maps of the landscape, enabling the transmission of oral navigational skills in cultures that do not have a written language. In many cases, songlines on the earth are mirrored by songlines in the sky, enabling the sky to be used as a navigational tool, both by using it as a compass, and by using it as a mnemonic (from Ray P. Norris and Bill Yidumduma Harney, Songlines and Navigation in Wardaman and other Aboriginal Cultures.

For a map related to the above see:


Which shows a “Dreaming map based on work by Kim Akerman in the 1980s showing multiple sites and songlines that would restrict mineral exploration in and around the northern end of the Canning Stock Route, adapted with input from Daniel Aime Vachon and Putuparri Tom Lawford”.



If contemporary capitalist culture demands productivity, which is dependent on speed and efficiency, then the slow pace of walking becomes a form of resistance, suggesting an ‘ethics of slowness’.

On notion of “Capitalism’s call to efficiency”, see Pamela Lee’s book titled Chronophobia: on time in the art of the 60’s, 2004


Michel de Certeau

“walkers entwined paths give shape to spaces. They weave places together. In that respect, pedestrian movements form one of these real systems whose existence in fact makes up the city. – Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the City”, in The Practice of Everyday Life, 1984


Walking’s relationship to mapping

In the works discussed, mapping becomes a very evident form of documentation of a ‘locale’ or situation.

Walking allows for a slowing down, which then enables the walker to perceive things that could not otherwise be seen if you were zooming past in a car. These details often become the material for observations and documentation by artists such as Charlie Sofo.


Charlie Sofo

Uses the strategy of collecting from his range of walks, with his attention drawn towards the low key and the incidental, such as used condom wrappers, disused ipod headphones, old bricks used to secure the wheels of trailers parked on the street, while also noticing things that we take for granted such as the way solar panels are positioned on roofs or the marks left by human encounter, passage and inhabitation (like the oil stain on the side of a building inhabited for 40 years), or tracks worn from passage (‘desire lines’)

This kind of observation is not detached (like in the figure of the flâneur), but involves participation: “walking here becomes a mode of local thinking and engagement with the dynamics of public space” (Liang Luscomb, Walking is not a medium, it’s an attitude)


Francis Alys

The Green Line (sometimes doing something poetic can be political and sometimes doing something political can be poetic), 2004

Based on the armistice border, dividing Israel from Palestine. Moshe Dayan determined this by drawing a green line on a map in 1948. That abstract line then becomes a ‘script’ which Francis Alys uses to perform within the actual site.


Sarah Rodigari

“The rules set up for the walking project, turns walking into a means of survival so that performance and life becomes indistinguishable” (Liang Luscomb)

See her fascinating project, Strategies for leaving and arriving home, which involved her relocating her life from Melbourne to Sydney, by walking between the two cities.



Some more Writers/Theorists

Henry David Thoreau, Walking

Saskia Beudel, A Country in Mind

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust


Contemporary Artists

Janett Cardiff ­ – Garden of Forking Paths

Francis Alys

Teching Hsieh

Tadashi Kawamata

Andre Cadre

Richard Long

Simon Pope

Tom Nicholson

Brogan Bunt

Stephanie Springay

Freya Matthews – Journey to the source of the Merri

Sarah Roodigari

Christoph Fink

Charlie Sofo


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