Petra Johnson

Composing the Ordinary: A Walking/Dialogical Arts Practice as Enquiry into the Role of Affects across Life Worlds and Cultures

‘walk with me’ is an interactive work set in different cities. It consists of one to one walks from a small convenience store or kiosk to an iconic building or a landscape that defines the city. To begin with, ‘walk with me’ takes a line (the route between the anchor points, see ill. ‚Taidong Walk‘) for a walk. Currently, equidistant routes in Beijing, Cologne, Shanghai, Xiamen and Taidong (Taiwan) have been established.

As Solnit writes, ‚walking for pleasure between two points returns the space between into a garden, a ‚public garden without walls‘. (Solnit, R. 2002, Wanderlust, Verso Books,167). Once the route has been determined, ‘walk with me’ seeks to make visible the composition of the ordinary. By applying a tight structure with set rules (as in a game), ‘walk with me’ provides a territory that is potentially free from ideology. ‘walk with me’ invites local inhabitants of the city to participate in a one to one walk with the artist. Though the route is pre-determined, each companion defines it afresh in their response to instigating prompts handed out at intervals. These prompts create an aesthetic milieu in which artist and companion co-create together.

Suspended from everyday activities we share memories, we observe small acts of everyday life, we note the mood of a moment, we sense the constancy of moving bodies walking in unison, we hear the rhythmic sound of soles tapping the ground.

Any walk with a stranger is outside the established order and contains a state of possibility. There are fifteen points on route where my companion and I write down our impressions. These intervals of thinking, of standing still, of putting meaning into words are a ‚human writing‘. During the walk, our identity of being strangers to each other transforms to one of becoming familiar with each other and in doing so we incarnate commensality. By the time we have reached the opposite point (the walk can go in either direction) we have created a community of two through conversing and sharing a rhythm. ‘walk with me’ asks: ‘What possible forms can arise out of this experiencing together?’

‘walk with me’ has been supported by the Cultural Office, Cologne and the Mayor of Cologne; the Goethe Institute, Beijing and ‚homeshop‘, Beijing; NRW Kulturstiftung, Germany; the Shanghai Biennial 2012/3; the Zhongshan Park Project, Xiamen, China; Taitung Cultural Department and Taidong Art Museum, Taiwan.

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