In The City is a 6-month programme of performance and talks about the future of our city, held at The Parlour Showrooms from July – December 2013. Each month during the series Theatre Bristol will provide an insight into each event through a showcase article for tb.net, gathered by ITC curators; The Showrooms Projects.
The third event in the series: Walking in the city (12th – 15th September) , asks “how walking and talking can change our experience of the city” through artist-led walks and talks. It is an international gathering of walking artists, enthusiasts and academics co-curated with PLaCE research centre. This micro walking festival offers an extraordinary programme of performance and talks inviting audiences to make time and space for imaginative wanderings, meditative practice and serious play.
For tb.net, Hannah Sullivan and Martha King, co-producers of the series with The Showroom Projects, and Mel Shearsmith, co-curator of Walking in the city with PLaCE, reflect on the act of walking and talking, and the programme that’s coming up.
Hannah Sullivan: I have been extremely excited about co-producing Walking in the city as it is an art practice that is close to my heart, to consider walking as performance is to consider the world as a continuous place of opportunity; I find this uplifting. The only thing I need to do to encounter something of interest is to leave my house and wander.
I have often found that the best place to have a conversation is whilst walking. There is something about the natural movement of the body that aids to a natural flow of conversation. When I visit my mum we walk along the canals close to her house. Here, looking at the barges, the dog walkers, the weather, she tells me how she’s feeling and I tell her how I’m feeling, the words drift into the open air, forming whilst looking down the path. I used walking as a chance to meet people when I lived abroad for a short time, I would say ‘let’s just walk’ and some would drift and bump into things they knew, or that reminded them of something, or some would have a place ‘they must show me’, a place that ‘everyone who visited this city should see!’ The walk initiates conversation, and the conversation initiates the walk.
Within this weekend’s programme each artist will take you out into the streets of Bristol, and you will encounter something of interest, just by giving walking and talking some space and time. But this isn’t all; each artist will give you a frame, a task, a motive that switches something on! And like new friends in a new city you will meet them through what they choose to show you. And like an old walk with an old companion you will have the space to form ideas and really say how you feel.
One walk I am particularly interested in is Simone Kenyon’s silent walk on Saturday at 11.30am. Silence, allows the city to speak, we can listen to the great symphony that is remade everyday, it can become a pilgrimage or a protest and we can sink into those realms of walking that go beyond the need to just get from one place to the other.
Mel Shearsmith: I’m interested in how walking, and the strategies artists use can de-familiarise our experience of place and open our eyes, ears and bodies to move beyond the habitual and to see it from another perspective. I love how the simple act of walking can create the space to notice or give attention to what has previously been unseen or unheard and sense it, as if for the first time.
For PLaCE, co-curating this event with Parlour Showrooms is a wonderful opportunity to invite artists who work across disciplines. Every walk will offer some illumination into our experience and perceptions of the city (both the familiar and the unknown city) and offer ways in which this might be fundamentally or subtly shifted.
We’re very excited to be hosting the breadth and depth of artists work for this event. I’m especially looking forward to the Mapping Borders Symposium, which includes a host of wonderful speakers, artists, academics and key interventionists in the ‘walking-world’. I think this will be an incredibly rich day brimming with ideas, stories, strategies and discussion.
Another experience I’m particularly excited about is Phil Smith’s Drift. I imagine (as I have never walked with him) that the Drift will be a playful intervention into the cities streets and that we, the audience, will become his trickster co-conspirators.
Whilst I am familiar, from walking and dancing with Simon Whitehead on several of his LOCATOR workshops in West Wales, I think we will all get the opportunity to share a very different nocturnal, urban happening in LOUP(2).
I look forward to walking and talking with you!
Martha King: Walking, not to get to somewhere else, but to get to now. I spend a lot of time thinking about the future, planning for tomorrow and worrying about where I’m heading. I often walk to work, but am often looking at a screen whilst walking, connecting to elsewhere and not really aware of my surroundings. The experience of walking just to walk, rather than get anywhere in particular, is a very different thing. Something I don’t indulge in often enough and that others have appropriated as an art form in itself.
Since discovering just how many people do treat the act of walking as an art practice I have sought out artist-led walks or walking provocations. This impulse has led me on audio walks that have turned the everyday into an opera, silent walks that have made me feel closer to a group of strangers than ever before, slow walks that have made me notice new details along familiar routes and walks that have opened up such in depth conversations that I have hardly noticed I’ve been walking the same streets for hours following only one rule: ‘to take every left turn’.
Programming a weekend of walking events has been an ambition of mine since attending walkie-talkie, organised by the Walking Artist Network, based at Chelsea theatre in London. Co-curating Walking in the City with PLaCE has been a wonderful way of discovering new artists and has prompted a lot of sharing between us about past walking experiences. We hope that over these four days The Parlour can act as a place for sharing stories, for re-remembering old walks, beginning conversations and going on new walks; both together and alone, both in conversation and in silence.
I am really looking forward to seeing how Sue, Sarah and Iain will begin to create a ‘deep-map’ of Bristol. I love the term and feel I have a grasp of what it means, but sense it may be quite different to experience its evolution. They will be using the walls of The Parlour to create a ‘map’ that includes the past and present, political and poetic side by side; combining history and folklore with our experiences of contemporary Bristol. I am intrigued to discover what a collective map, drawn from the walking and talking of the weekend, overlaid with actual maps might end up looking and feeling like? I wonder how this process might spark off conversation, what local facts/fictions and even stories unconnected to Bristol might end up being shared.
In The City 3: Walking in the city runs from Thursday 12th – Sunday 15th September. You can find a full schedule of events and ticket information here.