Ka tū au ki runga ka tīmata au ki te hīkoi
I stood up and began to walk.
Walk//Hīkoi is first and foremost an invitation to be on and with the land as I farewell work buried on these slopes, and ‘me kōrero poroaki’, say goodbye to Sculpture on the Peninsula – it is no longer au revoir, but adieu.
Following the enthusiasm with which the public embraced Labour of Life [The Art of Work] (SotP 2019) - a performance and a participatory project - I want to create another opportunity for exhibition visitors to join in the making of an artwork that stimulates both mind and body.
Paying homage to Richard Long’s A Line Made by Walking (1967) Walk//Hīkoi is a performative work that invites others to join in the act of walking, of making a path that circumambulates the site where three taonga were buried in 2019. The invitation is to walk at one’s own speed, preferably to walk alone, and to complete at least seven circuits. For the purist, walking in silence, without human or technological distraction, is the ideal.
This is art with the environment, of minimal impact. Participants’ attention is drawn to the land beneath their feet, and the environment around them, they experience the weather, are active and involved yet free to let the mind wander as the circuit is repeated.
I will be walking throughout the three days of the exhibition, eight hours a day. Alone or in the company of others, in any weather. The ‘9-to-5’ day is the continuation of a theme I began to explore creatively in Labour of Life [The Art of Work] – artist as labourer and the importance of physical work that needs to be endured, for in the enduring there is reward. In order that there is a meaningful commitment to the ‘honest labour’ participants will need to walk approximately one kilometre, hopefully experiencing a little ‘passion’ as they proceed.
Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking.
Solnit, 2014, p.3
Seven circuits will be long enough for most to move through a range of sensations that might include novelty, questioning, discomfort, wondering, relief. And perhaps, during one of the ‘laps’, there might be a thought that would not have happened otherwise – a resolution, an idea, an ‘aha’ moment. And all the while we are circling the three taonga buried two years ago.
“...I suddenly understood that the fruit of an artist’s work need not be an object. It could be an action, something once done, but so unforgettably done, that it’s never done with - a satellite orbiting your consciousness, like the perfect crime or a beau geste.”
Walkers will be ‘guided’ by tōtara fence posts I have recovered from Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū Banks Peninsula; these remnants of rakau rangatira have been part of all my offerings at Sculpture on the Peninsula. They are taonga and I am fortunate to have literally rescued them from a firewood pile. Their history is our history. In passing each pou, offering ‘touch wood’ moments, the walker has something tangible to reflect upon as she or he travels.
Walk//Hīkoi is a further exploration on my part to make sense of my practice. The process of creating artworks in the current ‘global climate’ gives me pause to question my place, my role as an artist. As a ‘maker’ I am conflicted. We live in a society where the goal seems to be the Acquisition of Things. This has arguably become a religion. I live with this tension of wanting, needing to create yet not wanting to foist more on an over-‘stuff’-ed world.
Whilst I feel a strong desire to make, to sculpt, craft, paint, construct it is obvious to me that my practice now needs to be The Process. The ‘product’, if any, needs to be organic, visceral to those who were there, momentarily fleeting in its reality, quickly fading with the passage of time – an experience. Walk//Hīkoi is a work that is important to me because of its light touch, its minimal demands on the environment (though let’s be honest, the demands are not nil, as is nothing that we do, but that’s another conversation).
The more I explore the themes that underpin this work, its art history whakapapa, the more convinced I am that this work is of its time, offering not only a challenge to myself but to other creatives, to examine and interrogate their own practices.
Ko au te whenua, te whenua ko au
I am the land, and the land is me
As I stated two years ago, French ‘outsider artist’ Chomo’s to-the-point life philosophy (“If you don’t work you are stuffed. You may as well make your own coffin.” (1978, translated)) rings true for me and serves to highlight the disconnect we as humans now experience physically from that which is holistically beneficial – rigorous, taxing exercise, especially when connected to the land. Having lost this connection I believe we have become removed from the problems Papatūānuku is experiencing as a result of human ‘progress’.
Much of art viewing is as a spectator - hopefully stimulating mentally - it is however only a part-body experience. Walk//Hīkoi offers participants an opportunity to engage mentally, physically and emotionally. But the commitment to ‘join in’ means, possibly, that a risk needs to be taken – there is a vulnerability in ‘showing one’s colours’.
I have walked thousands of kilometres throughout my lifetime. Some of my best thinking happens when I am out and about on foot. That connection between body, mind, spirit and the environment. In all weathers. When the misty drizzle lands upon your skin and you are unable to define exactly where the air ends and you begin. Walking is a place for dreaming. For inventing. For resolving. Walk long enough and all answers will come.
For those who get this far and need an antidote to insomnia further project thinking and references can be found here.
He Hokinga Mahara: Hemi Potatau 1991
Wanderlust - a history of walking: Rebecca Solnit, 2014
Leo Steinberg: Achim Hochdörfer, 2011