Lines Made by Walking: Producing Spaces

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My keynote speech is scheduled for May 19th at 6 pm. 7th Inter-format Symposium Along Lines, at Nida Art Colony, Lithuania.

Abstract: Space doesn’t just exist; it has been produced from a primary matter, nature, argues Henri Lefebvre. It is the result of activity – political products and strategic spaces – that implies economics and technique but goes beyond them. There is not one social space but many.

As GPS technology came of age in the mid 1990s, artists turned to walking as a “symbolic form”, a way to pursue architectural concerns or to explore spatial perception. By the early twenty-first century, the convergence of global networks, online databases and new tools for location-based mapping coincided with the renewal of interest in walking as an art form. Imagining the city (and the world) as a set of crisscrossing paths, practitioners of locative media embedded stories and sounds in the landscape. Instead of “colonizing space” as mapmakers are wont to do, by eliminating the traces of the practices that produced their maps, they developed techniques of spatial annotation to retrieve lost layers of meaning.

“Remaking the world” is often done in smoke-filled cafes. A more effective tactic might be called “applied pedestrianism”: the use of walking, the lines it makes and the experiences it offers, to produce new spaces.

Karen O’Rourke’s work explores the relationship between art and networks, archives and territories. Her networking projects include City Portraits (1989-92), Paris Réseau / Paris Network (1993-2000), archiving as art (1997-2000), A Map Larger Than the Territory (2002-2004), Eavesdroplets (2006), Partially Buried University (2008-2010) and, since 2013, The Gift (After Lewis Hyde and Marcel Mauss). Artist and professor at Jean Monnet University in Saint-Etienne, she is the author of Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers (MIT Press, 2013).

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