A Walk: Hamish Fulton

On this warm and sunny afternoon NSCAD University had the pleasure of  companying  Hamish Fulton on a ‘walk’.

Assembled at the Port Campus’ south-west entrance at precisely 1:30 pm, over 150 NSCAD students and faculty listened as Mr. Fulton gave a brieft description of his work and the ‘event’ that was about to take place.

A very accomplished artist, Hamish Fulton recently had a retrospective in Britain’s Tate museum. From Japan to Whyoming, from the coast of Spain to the summit of Mt. Everest, Hamish Fulton has walked the world. Portrugal, Italy, Lapplands: you name it Hamish has walked, breathed, lived and slept on journey’s by foot that have lasted weeks. He describes his photographs as ‘work’. He  told us that all of his images are captured by walking, “If I do not walk, I do not make work….” He told us that he has turned down several requests for assistance on other projects because they did not involve a walk.

He was genuinely excited to lead us and be with us as  we experienced his process for ourselves. As “a student back in the last century” Hamish told us what stands out in his mind during his education was demonstrations by other artists. Art is not accomplished soley by talking about it, you need to see it to understand its full potential. In his days as a student the event that he remembers best is when Yoko Ono visited their university as a young artist. Her and her assistant completely dressed in black silently climbed into a black body bag and zipped it shut to the audience. Although you could see them moving around you had no idea what they were doing. At the end of the performance they got out, fully clothed and walked off stage without saying a word. 

The instructions for our walk were simple: no talking, no daydreaming, no straying from the path, and no arriving at the destination any earlier or later than planned. Our location was the perimeter of the Public Gardens. Each side was to take 15 min to reach the next corner – the duration of the entire walk was to last exactly one hour.

With Hamish as our leader, we walked from the port campus up to the public gardens and assembled at the corner of Sackville and South Park.

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We then proceeded out of the gates and forming a solid mass baby stepped our way down the sidewalk of South Park to Spring Garden Road. ETD: 2:25 pm

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I can say this was the strangest walk I have ever taken, but also the most interesting. At first it was very eerie, not only for us as the ‘objects’ but also for the viewers who saw our skinny jeaned – colorful shoe- funky haired mob silently and slowly inching our way down the sidewalk in the busy downtown area, outside of  the garden. Rule #1 was rarely broken, even when approached by curious on-lookers. After turning the first corner at 2:40 the walk became a process and rule #2 was broken every two minutes. The slow and study shuffle, which felt awkward at first, became a routine. Although you were aware of your classmates walking at the same pace beside, behind and in front of you, the silence allowed you to forget them and to listen and focus on what was happening on the furthest tree branch, on the bench halfway through the park and the solitary leaf that dropped to the ground three feet away. The next 45 minutes passed very quickly and before we knew it, we had taken one hour to walk around the Public Gardens with Hamish Fulton.

My attention was consistently on the movement and sounds that came from above me. Here are a few shots that were inspired by this focus.

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