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Indoor Walking

Walking is an important part of our everyday and has become central to my practice. My research in Luton, like most places I make work in, began with walking through the town, taking photographs as I go along- it is my way of getting making sense of a place I don't yet know. Some of those photos I took while I walked around the town are on the home page of this site. This blog was originally intended to chart my meanderings and encounters in Luton. But just like our homes, during this Covid 19 period, walking can no longer be taken for granted (in fact walking was never taken for granted by many much before the outbreak but thats not my subject here) and that part of my project is no longer possible. My inbox is inundated with numerous lists filled with suggestions of projects to engage with online and I find myself overwhelmed and slightly apprehensive about the rate at which we are encouraged to embrace this crazy new normal of virtual existence. I question the rush to engage with 'digital place shaping' advocated by some.

And so it is that a link on one of my Walking Artists Network emails reminding me of Xavier de Maistre's Voyage Round My Room, grabs my attention. Xavier de Maistre was only 27 years old when in 1790 as a soldier in the Sardinian Kingdom's army, he found himself under house-arrest in Turin. It was here that he wrote the manuscript of the book, which his brother published a few years later. de Maistre explores his room 'like a modern teenager cataloguing their daily routine in a series of finely-tuned Instagram posts'*. The writer takes his reader on an internal journey as his mind wanders from the minutiae of the objects around him onto the world far removed and on a much grander scale. The book, which can be read as a parody of 18th century travel journals, also offers 'an early take on the modern vogue for "psychogeography" — as each tiny thing that he encounters sends de Maistre into rhapsodies, and mundane journeys become magnificent voyages'*:

But you must not let yourself think that instead of keeping my promise to describe my journey around my room, I am beating the bush to see how I can evade the difficulty. This would be a great mistake on your part. For our journey is really going: and, while my soul, falling back on her own resources, was in the last chapter threading the mazy paths of metaphysics, I had so placed myself in my arm-chair…

Maybe will all need a bit of that. Wherever possible we need to place ourselves in an armchair (or any chair for that matter) and look around us, stare out of the window (artists always did that, many of us still do) and from there we can begin new and exciting or at least meaningful if painful journeys....


* From an online review of Voyage Round My Room.

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