by Jen Graves
on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 1:26 PM
Images courtesy Susan Robb
THE LONG (NOW SHORT) WALK A view from Susan Robb's local land-art walk.
Congratulations to Stranger Genius winner Susan Robb, the Seattle visual artist who has won a Creative Capital grant this year. (A birdie told me that there were several Seattle artists among the finalists, which is cool. Robb and Degenerate Art Ensemble—also yay—ended up the Seattle winners.)
Robb is going to use the money to walk the entire Pacific Crest Trail, a significantly longer walk than the 40-mile Long Walk that she and Stokley Towles inaugurated in the summer of 2010 (which my feet and I arduously participated in along with 50 other people). She calls the project Wild Times.
From her proposal:
Like art, wild spaces—those environments untrammelled by humans as well as those derelict, graffiti-scrawled urban lots, and meta-sites being reclaimed by nature, are important not because they "do" something or have "value." Quite the opposite. Wild spaces free us from the tyranny of fixed meaning. And inherent in that freedom is the possibility for authenticity, transformation, and connection to each other that no technology, product, art commodity, or service can truly provide.
This isn't an endurance exercise in which an individual body is tested for strength. It's about trekking into issues of "utopia, migration, and wildness" while trekking literally. (It's not Marina Abramovic, it's Jeremy Deller, say.) Talks and performances will happen along the way, in venues like libraries and town halls, but also potentially a "laundromat, motel room, or hiking supply store." Base camps—in galleries and museums but also "private homes, elementary schools, and perhaps even prisons"—will await Robb and "fellow thru-hikers," for restocking and from which Robb will send transmissions. What she'll be looking to find and to create are "unscripted zones." (The idea reminds me of Isaac Layman's Land Grab.)
Robb's proposal doesn't say how she plans to identify fellow walkers, but maybe you'll be able to join. The Long Walk has had a waiting list every year. Check out its active blog.
Walking and migration have gotten plenty of love as art forms in themselves in the last few years, picking up where Richard Long began, back in a Bristol meadow in 1967. I especially love Francis Alÿs's journey (not entirely by walking, of course) from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego, California—without ever crossing the U.S. border. Here's the postcard from the 1997 trip, which he called The Loop.
The caption reads: "In order to go from Tijuana to San Diego without crossing the Mexico/United States border, I followed a perpendicular route away from the fence and circumnavigated the globe, heading 67 degrees South East, North East and South East again until I reached my departure point. The project remained free and clear of all critical implications beyond the physical displacement of the artist."
The artist produced this free, unlimited-edition postcard in 2011, and I picked one up in Queens and put it on my refrigerator. The sentence I can't stop returning to is, of course, "The project remained free and clear of all critical implications beyond the physical displacement of the artist."