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Portage Trails and Language, Walking and Communication

Intellectuals love to walk in the woods. They reach a clearing and their minds clear, becoming receptive to the ideas that sprout on trees. The clearing I wait for signals the proximity of the next lake. Tall trees in my peripheral vision give way to an expanse of the most transparent lake water I’ve ever seen. The portage ends, I cast off my pack, I sit again.

A circle made by walking

To walk is an imprint and an excavation. With each step we take, we impress ourselves into the earth, the concrete, the pliant grass. We make a small impression in the shape of our foot, in the depth of our particular weight. The pressure urging along the preservation of small treasures or secrets buried just under the surface. A small ghost of us laid to rest.

Walking as Praxis

I started walking as an artist in 2005 as a way to experience a kind of freedom, to feel my body as an agent of transport and discovery in the world. This “world” involved not only a research-oriented approach to site-specificity but the communitas found with other walkers, with groups on the move together, and the potential of learning from each other through storytelling and other knowledge-sharing practices.

Desire in Walking and Language

I love desire lines. These rebellious trails—worn paths across the land made by repeated, prolonged, and collective action—signify, for me, modes of subversion and refusal.

How to Draw a Dog

Continuity between steps is everything, it seems. This was Trisha Brown’s theorem, tested out on New York’s urban brickscape: that the flows we establish by walking on and within things are a frequently occluded but almost ecstatic form of engagement with the world.

Sewing Spaces / Needlework in Meek's Cutoff

Like footprints, stitching takes the form of broken lines. As agents of transition, broken or dashed lines mark movement and express change. They feel provisional, active. In design, dashed boxes are placeholders, wayfinding devices, and soft boundaries between graphic elements. As vehicles of the in-between, dashed lines measure distances, outline one thing behind another, and map uncharted territory and plans for new roads.

Utopics in our time, or, How to walk in Di$neyland

The day that Brian Connell, Fred Lonidier, Martha Rosler, and Allan Sekula went to Disneyland was only a few months after Augusto Pinochet’s CIA-fueled coup d’etat in Chile on September 11, 1973—not long after Pinochet’s junta banned one of their inspirations for visiting and photographing the park in the first place: the socialist text Para Leer El Pato Donald (How to Read Donald Duck) (1971) by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart.

24 February 2015

We go to the Guyana Zoo and Botanical Gardens and the animals are kept in small cages. The otter swims diagonally back and forth in its pool; the puma, ocelot, and tiger prowl ten steps forward, then ten steps back, giving the funkiest stink-eye to rival the odor coming from their cages; the monkeys are so vexed and tired of being spectacle they toss food at us and shake their cages in hopes that this time the bars will concede.

Two Poems

One problem with being a poet—perhaps the least of a poet’s problems—is that a poet can always be “working on something.”

No Boots Required

Early afternoon, Glastonbury: London-based artist Chiara Ambrosio and I have left the cottage where we had slept, fortified by a breakfast of cherry tomatoes roasted in a ramekin and spread on toast. We made our way through the English fog and ascended the mysterious Tor—a cone-shaped hill rising from the landscape crowned with a mysterious tower dedicated to St. Michael (who, being an Archangel, has a legendary love of high perches). I peered out from the arched doorway over the Somerset rooftops, and asked Chiara to snap a photo.

Walking: Foot as Conduit

Is there a force coming up out of the earth that we absorb through our feet while walking? This question has been vapor, been a ghost, been there invisible throughout my walking life. We’d walked, following Richard Jefferies, the 19th-century nature-mystic who came here before, to White Horse Hill and standing above on a green hill that at that moment had been turned into an island, an ephemeral grey sea washing in around its base. Into the green turf carpeting White Horse Hill is cut the Uffington Horse. One hundred meters long, we walked slowly, mindfully from tail-tip to head, dropping between its ears, to stand in its table-like eye where for the first time real words condensed onto my tongue and I said them aloud. What Richard Jefferies knew he absorbed directly from the earth through the bottom of his feet as he walked.

Sargon's Invasion

The Assyrians, whose empire dominated the Middle East from the 9th through 7th centuries BCE, meticulously documented the history of their state. The Assyrian kings built vast palaces walled with relief sculptures, illustrating the events of their reigns upon great slabs of gypsum. These images were largely devoted to warfare, and depicted bloody incidents of conquest, siege, revenge and mutilation, all appropriate occupations of monarchs who claimed to serve as the viceroy of god on earth.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

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