The power of walking together
“Bodies tune down together:
moments of intense intimacy through synchronization;
a slowed down depiction of the co-presence of the elements
one finds in the exterior of urban life.” *
The story began in 2013, when David Bergé and I met in Leuven. From time to time our paths would cross again and with every new encounter, I would follow him in his “Walk Pieces” that he started in 2008. There was never an image. My experience and possible reenactment of the movement and steps would solely rely on his words and my imagination. Each walk would happen in a different city: Berlin, Ostend, Vienna, Istanbul, Aalst, Tokyo, Brussels, Tbilisi, Thessaloniki and Seoul. Even though I visited some of the cities and had a sense of familiarity when I would hear a name, I would still be surprised with new, unfamiliar places. David remembered his footsteps and I followed them.
The “Walk Pieces” are situated within an urban setting. There is a long preparation behind each walk. They are scripted for a small number of participants and are based on a set of simple rules specifically made for the city within which they are performed. The routes are planned and a time frame is given. All the walks are silent. No photographing allowed. There is a certain level of trust needed when agreeing or inscribing for a participative performance as this one. One has to allow another person (the artist) to direct the course of the movement and the pace of the walk. One has to be able to follow. Perhaps this kind of walking is to some extent liberating, freeing – knowing there is an end, but not knowing where one will end up. Only then, by letting go, there is a chance to be rewarded, collectively, with unimaginable moments or coincidences that could never be scripted.
The everyday gesture of walking is David’s language and it translates into an experienced image. The imposed silence on participants of such a temporal gathering, augments all their other senses. They see the city not only with their own eyes, but feel it, smell it and hear it. Bergé describes this augmentation of all the senses as a transformation of the body into a (photographic) lens.
The image of a city is trapped within a body the same way as it would be in a photograph. This corporeal image is made in the specific time and place through which the body moves and always in relation to others. It represents a moment that is immediately situated within the past.
The cities change, redevelop, go through crisis, get demolished… The inevitable change in their form will influence the routes that were described within the scripts. New openings and new obstacles will appear along the way. The simple gesture of walking together is not only a set of encounters staged as art, but a political act.
The exhibition “A Walk in High Resolution” is an attempt to walk the city when entering the space. Once the threshold of the space is crossed the experience of the walk changes. At the same time it is a testimonial of the walk and the real-time walk. The set-up is what in David’s “Walk Pieces” is the given route directed by a guide, often David himself. We are walking inside-out, toward-away and together-alone. Here, mutually exclusive positions are pared together to create a singular experience.
A contradiction is achieved on yet another level – the walk becomes ephemeral through materialisation. Objects, most deriving from previous walks, are introduced throughout the space: certificates signed by participants in four “Walk Pieces” in the city of Thessaloniki, Bergé’s handwritten text on fragile rice paper, pieces of unpolished Naxos marble that were transformed into tables and fixed into the corners of the space, books and a permanently installed maintenance hole cover in the garden of the space which was found discarded in the streets of Seoul.
The exhibition “A Walk in High Resolution” is a visual and spatial travel book that revisits Bergé’s silent “Walk Pieces”, cross-sectioned with our personal geographies.
Once again we are walking together.
* David Bergé, A Walk in High Resolution (Prinsenbeek: Jap Sam Books, 2020)