Trace Walking

By 16th April 2022 May 11th, 2022 Creative Practice

As a person who considers drawing (yes, in the loosest sense lol) to be the root of her practice, I think about additive and subtractive methodologies. When you make marks, you either add a medium to a surface (e.g. drawing on a page) or take it away (e.g. rubbing out, etching).

Land artist Richard Long creates lines across the landscapes he’s walked. He adds his mark onto the landscape. But if we consider subtractive drawing, what if I physically ‘take away’ from the surface to encourage the landscape to make a physical mark on me instead? Me meditatively walking in black socks is an experiment in this. My theory (although it admittedly may be the wrong time of year for it) is that the land will deposit material (i.e. mud, seeds, fungal spores, bacterias) onto me, using the socks as a removable interface that I can retain. The life now living on the socks will be nurtured to grow and develop as part of a human:non-human co-creation, produced through an exchange of additive and subtractive line drawing (HNH01).

I like how this builds upon both the spiritual and artistic traditions of walking – walking in nature is a very geopoetical thing (GDGS01).

A small stretch of land in Hull General Cemetery is where I walked. I chose this site as it’s accessible to me, I love the space, and I love how it makes me feel in there. I chose this strip as it is well maintained, for there are parts of the cemetery where one can find used needles (not something a person in socks wants to step on!).

I walked the short track about 10 times (there and back) and made multiple recordings of my walk on my phone. I didn’t pay attention to my phone, just the bodily sensations that arise from walking (EE01). I chose to walk on the edge between the path and the overgrowth – as I find it’s always in these liminal spaces is where the most interesting things happen. On writing, I’m reminded of hedges, and the concept of a ‘hedge witch’… so named because they can ‘hedge jump’ or travel between worlds. Walking this (h)edge is to walk between worlds? (STEK01)

After doing some videos where the ‘viewer’ is walking with me, I propped my phone up along the route and allowed myself to be ‘observed’. Out of the different angles (I did one of full-body-view me walking, one of just my head, one of just my feet) the one that I feel is most successful is the one of just my feet – it brings attention to the socks, the interface of the whole thing, as a way to lightly walk upon the Earth. The light walking thing is also reinforced by the fact you can’t even hear me tread on the ground? It’s a little eerie – but I like that!

As to being observed… I think conceptually and aesthetically this is much more effective as it offers that layer of detachment from me – the meditative walk is now more of a personal, performative action. It also reinforces that idea of lightly travelling across the ground instead of stomping all over it. The viewer also gets a sense of my deliberateness when the camera is ‘rooted’, as opposed to the haphazard shakiness of hand-held, top-down cameras. In terms of the walking, I could keep my focus better not holding a phone!

I chose black socks simply it would provide a strong contrast visually for when I’m walking upon the ground, against the mud I picked up, and against the green should anything were to grow.. I chose ankle socks because the ankle sleeves (?) would have been surplus to need and potentially take away aesthetically, and practically from any growth.

After the walk, I carefully removed the socks on site to prevent anything I picked up from falling off, and placed each sock into unceremonious ziplock bags, and added a few drops of water. In theory, these bags should maintain warmth and moisture and so encourage growth.

And by pinning them up, they’ve become artworks!

I only did this the other day… but already upon reflection, I’m wondering if it would have been better to have worn the socks for a few days before walking along the track, so that my sweat offers emerging life vital minerals and salts? Let’s just see how it goes with fresh socks first!

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