Walking Art and Relational Geographies
International Encounters Girona-Olot-Vic, Catalonia Spain July 5-9 2022
The international meeting “Walking Art and Relational Geographies” aims to set a dialogue between theory and practice in which walking becomes an instrument of territorial connection, a mapping tool and a format of creative expression. A meeting point for debate, experience and reflection, ” Walking Art and Relational Geographies” will focus mainly on the analysis of the increasingly mediated relationship between people and geographies.
The Encounters are conceived together as simultaneous a Conference and an artistic event; in the format of an itinerant meeting between the cities of Girona, Olot and Vic, with a symbolically explicit transversal component.
The spaces in between in Girona
Five years ago, I attended the Made of Walking Encounters in La Romieu in 2017. In 2019, I began to organise many walks along city motorways where the format is short: I walk with an audience for one and a half to two hours only. This year I wanted to participate with the same short-format, motorway walk as it was a good opportunity to share this work.
The 2022 Encounters were taking place in three cities in Catalunya: Girona, Olot and Vic. In preparation, I surfed the web and looked at maps, discovering that in Girona a part of the border of the city exactly overlays the ‘Autopista del Mediterráneo’. My plan became clear – I knew where we would walk.
Like a computer programm
The motorway is like a walking computer programme, a line to follow. It’s not a question of going on the motorway itself, but of following it closely. Sometimes I walk where there is a public right of way, and sometimes I have to go beyond that, because there is an obstacle or a private area. The motorway, however, is always present; if I stray for a while, I will always rejoin it further on.
The constraints make me go ‘outside the box’. I have to explore abandoned territories and discover spaces in between. In the process, I confront other places, ones which have been forgotten by the city, and left in the urban background. These spaces expand the imagination. I am not in everyday, rational locales, but able to open up to another, hidden city. Other stories are possible.
Furthermore, there is no path, no set destination. Walking along the motorway offers an alternative way of sensing space and time. Bit by bit, I construct the way with my body. I slip into the gaps, the interstices.
I arrived in Girona two days before the Encounters. I had to prepare the path, to be ready for the walkshop.
My first visit to the motorway was by foot from the train station. I followed the river and arrived exactly at the crossing between it and the motorway, close to the Nespresso factory. There I started to work. It is by walking that I find solutions, ways to get closer. I always want to have the motorway in sight.
The first time is always difficult as I don’t know what I am looking for – sometimes I have to climb fences or forge a new path. I must find ways through. And I also have to avoid the dangers, both for me and for the cars. There are often u-turns, there are hesitations, but it is very exciting to follow a line, and there are always a lot of surprises. I find new openings and landscapes, and many different atmospheres. Like an editor, I discover the frames of a film. I don’t always know what to do, but I am constantly thinking about the people who will walk with me.
In the beginning, I’m worried and a little scared. Is the path interesting enough? Is it dangerous? I have to bear those questions in mind. Then, suddenly, it is starting to open up, starting to take shape. I’m perceiving some juxtapositions, I’m feeling some sensations, and there is rhythm in the landscape.
On the second day I’m more precise in my preparation; it reminds me of the way I am during the final stages of film editing. I go to the motorway by bus, then to the closest stop. I find a hole in a fence to get through to the right-of-way which turns out to be a perfect starting point. This time I am less hesitant, I now feel confident with it. I refine some parts, and the editing is becoming fluid now. Yes, there are occasional interruptions, but there is flow as well. At the end of the path, there is a bus stop for the return journey.
It’s the 6th of July, very early in the morning, and we are six people. We meet at the bus stop close to the train station and go to the beginning of the path. I don’t explain much, though I propose that we avoid ordinary conversation so that we can get involved in the spaces around us. I propose that we take some pictures and make sound recordings. I add that anyone is welcome to take the lead and go in front.
We progress together, one by one, reinventing the path, and we become a group. Sometimes there are difficult stages, but we take care of each other.
We share some words about the places and our feelings; in fact, the path becomes an interface where we are re-editing and making additions.
The rationality of our movements means that we make new discoveries and find some previously forgotten corners. This is not a path with a destination, rather it is a shared experience and an act that simply exists for itself.
Translation assistance: Tamsin Grainger