by Sue Hubbard
It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.
Since 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.
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by Sue Hubbard
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”, Edgar Degas wrote. In many ways predicating the role of art within modernism where the sensibility of the viewer’s reading of an art object is every bit as important as the object itself.
Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957-2012, currently at the Hayward Gallery in London, is the sort of exhibition that gets up the nose of tabloid journalists. You can virtually hear them snorting that this isn’t art, just as they once expressed their philistine opposition to the purchase of Carl Andre’s ‘pile of bricks’, Equivalent VIII, 1966. After all why spend good money paying to go to a gallery to look at nothing when you could stay at home and watch paint dry? It was in 1957 at the Galerie Colette Allendy in Paris, that Yves Klein opened an exhibition in which he presented an apparently empty room. You can see how it might have annoyed, for he claimed that the entirely white walls were infused with a “pictorial sensibility in the raw state”, maintaining that the space was actually saturated with a force field so tangible that many were unable to enter the gallery ‘as if an invisible wall prevented them.’ Was this a sleight of hand, a clever publicity ploy or a visual treatise on the existential ideas of being and nothingness? Jean Paul Sartre eat your heart out; an empty room, it seems, can speak a thousand words.
Klein was further to explore invisibility in a number of ways by collaborating with artists and architects and applying for a patent for his ‘air roof’. A mixture of subversive showmanship and utopianism he believed that a ‘constant awareness of space’would allow humanity the chance to live in a state of grace outside the framework of repressive social conventions. It was no accident that he’d been a devout Catholic and was later to receive a black belt in judo at the Kodokan Institute in Tokyo. Genuinely fascinated by mystical ideas, by notions of the infinite, the indefinable and the absolute, he even became a Rosicrucian. For what he understood was that what is of most value often cannot be seen – faith and hope, for example – to be rather Christian about it. For Klein belief was as necessary to the practice of art as it was to religion; for art, like religion and love, requires a leap of faith.
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