TIIME and SPACE. Richard Long. Arnolfini, Bristol until 15th November 2015

by Sue Hubbard

It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.

— Nietzsche

Arnolfini_Long_003Since early Christianity pilgrimages have been made to the Holy Land, to Rome, to Lourdes and Canterbury, by walking on foot. Buddhists, understanding that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, walk in mindfulness. The writer, Bruce Chatwin, wrote in his celebrated book, The Songlines, that “… a Bushman child will be carried a distance of 4,900 miles before he begins to walk on his own. Since, during this rhythmic phase, he will be forever naming the contents of his territory, it is impossible he will not become a poet”. According to Aboriginal legend, the totemic ancestors – among them the great kangaroo and dream-snake – were first sung into existence, as was every feature of the natural world, as ancient Bushmen walked across the Australian continent.

The British artist Richard Long also walks. Other artists paint, sculpt or make installations but Long walks and as he does so he notices and records the minutiae of the landscape. Sometimes he stops to create interventions using the raw materials – stones and driftwood – found along the way as a means of articulating ideas about time and space. Through the act of walking connections are made to rivers and mountains, deserts and clouds, sky and ground. He touches the earth lightly, rarely re-tracing his steps. His interventions are tactful: a realignment of stones, a path trodden across scree, a track left in grass or water poured slowly onto rock. He has been walking for more than 40 years. His process is simple. He takes time, pays attention and records what he notices and hears, sometimes as text, sometimes in photographs so we, too, can share something of the experience. And although we might all engage with the natural world this way, the point is, we don't. He makes looking and seeing into art.

Read more »

Locomotif: A short survey of trains, music & experiments

by Gautam Pemmaraju

I have always loved locomotives passionately. For me they are living creatures and I love them as others love women or horses.

—Arthur Honegger

Kraftwerk-trans-europe-expressThe influential electronic music artists Kraftwerk, saw their 1977 concept album Trans-Europe Express as a symbol of a unified Europe, a “sonic poem” enabling a moving away from the troubled legacy of the war, and particularly, of Nazi Germany. The dark spectre of the Third Reich and their militaristic high speed road construction was often linked to the band’s fourth studio album Autobahn, although the band saw it, in part, as a “European rejoinder to American ‘keep on trucking’” songs. The French journalist and friend to the band, Paul Alessandrini, had apparently suggested the idea of the train as a thematic base (See the wikipedia entry): “With the kind of music you do, which is kind of like an electronic blues, railway stations and trains are very important in your universe, you should do a song about the Trans-Europe Express”. Described as embodying “a new sense of European identity”, the album was destined to become a seminal work of the band, not just in fusing a qausi-utopian political idea with their sonic aura, at once popular, idiosyncratic and profoundly influential, but also in ‘reclaiming the train’, which chugs across “borders that had been fought over”. In response to Kraftwerk’s espousal of European integration, band member Karl Batos says here,

We were much more interested in it at that time than being Germans because we had been confronted by this German identity so much in the States, with everyone greeting us with the 'heil Hitler' salutes. They were just making fun and jokes and not being very serious but we'd had enough of this idea.

The chugging beat, “ripe with unlikely hooks, and hypnotic, minimalist arrangements” is in ways an ideological amplification of the idea of Autobahn, referencing the transport networks of Germany, and seeking in its “propulsive proto electro groove…a high speed velocity transit away from the horrors of Nazism and World War II”. There was, however, as Pascal Bussy writes in Kraftwerk: Man, Machine, Music (1993), a formidable nationalism underlying their somewhat nebulous politics. Kraftwerk believed, as Hütter is quoted saying to the American journalist Lester Bangs in 1975, that they were unlike other contemporary German bands which tended to be Anglo-American; they wanted instead to be known as German since the “the German mentality, which is more advanced, will always be part of our behaviour”.

Read more »