The Art of Walking

When programming the festival, I knew I wanted to push the usual definition of the term “guided tour”. I wanted the programme to reflect the diversity of people I had encountered during the past year, only a few of whom would think of themselves as tour guides. My personal moment of epiphany was during Kira O’Reilly’s Silent Tour from last year’s Fierce festival. Guided walks didn’t have to be about learning new facts, or even involve talking to people. They didn’t even always need a guide.

I wanted the walks in the festival to be genuinely diverse; to include local histories, but to look beyond – the festival is all about exploring. I began to look at the world of the walking artist and discovered many artists who incorporated some aspect of walking and the landscape into their work, but who would shy away from the term “landscape artist”. The timing of the festival has enjoyed some happy coincidences which have helped convince me that I was heading in the right direction. One of these was the IKON gallery’s exhibition of the art of Hamish Fulton (on now until 29th April).

[ F ] Hamish Fulton - Coast to Coast Walks (1976)

Hamish Fulton sees his lengthy marches across the world as being his art form. He doesn’t alter the landscape in anyway way, or leave anything behind. The art is the walk itself. What he exhibits in the gallery isn’t the actual event, nor even a thorough documentation of his voyage. We are presented with information about the date and location of his walks, and short factual statements (such as “no paths”) in a huge, bold typographic layout that reminds me of the road signs he must regularly encounter on his journeys. Those signs have to convey their meaning quickly and efficiently.

Looking around the exhibition I had the feeling you get when rain lashes against the window from the safety of your warm living room. Hamish’s walks are often epic lengths and sometimes crossover into mountain climbing – gentle strolls these are not. One work from August 2000 shouts what Fulton’s world was reduced to that day: “BRAIN HEART LUNGS”, with the tiny annotation: “climb to the summit of Cho Oyu… without supplementary oxygen”. Spending more time with the huge wall pieces reveals subtleties – words are often to a specific letter-count and have a measured rhythm. Poetry from a man conserving his energy.

Hamish leads a city centre walk on Sun 8 April in connection with Fierce Festival

Hamish talks about his work on Sat 7 April at IKON- places for both events are free but booking from IKON is essential.

Hamish Fulton – IKON Gallery until 29th April

The IKON are also teaming up with Northfield EcoCentre for a River Rea exploration on Sat 17 March

Hannah Hull
also will be giving a talk on walking artists during the festival.


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