Application for the 2019 Walter Benjamin Walking Art Grant Contemporary Art Center Nau Côclea. 17465 Camallera. Catalonia. Spain
DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT: Inspired by two landmark works from the writings of Walter Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and the Arcades Project, I propose the creation of a new work whose content will be produced over the course of the annual walk between Banyuls and Portbou. It is to be entitled, le passage mécanique/der Durchgang mechanisch/el pasaje mecánico.
Essential to the creation of this work is the participation of the individuals who undertake this collective walk of passage together. Before the start of the walk, all who join will be charged with choosing moments of significance defined by characteristics of their own selection. When a moment of significance occurs, the request will be that they capture it with a mobile video recording device. After the walk, they are asked to upload their selected and captured moments of digitally reproduced memory to a shared digital repository.
From an accumulation of the products of this simple action a digital archive will be made. From this archive a new work based on the walk, the individuals, and operations of chance will be formed. A computer program written by the artist will blend and merge the respective moments in unknown and unpredictable ways by utilizing random factors to choose between which audio/video clips will be combined, and also the considerations through which they will be combined. The work will be generated in real time. It will not be a fixed form like a recording or a rendered video. The program will create each frame of the video and each second of the audio in the moment it is to occur, and will release it after the moment it has been presented.
Similar to the Arcades Project, the engagement with the work provides a space designed for something for which a dream interpretation is perhaps the model. The captured fragments of participants are like the fragments of the Project, intended to be referenced and cross
referenced, mixed and considered anew infinitely as the programs finds new juxtapositions, conceptual frameworks and modes of presentation. Never repeating, never looping, the work becomes an endless consideration of the whole through the fragments, a critical history available in the moment, unfixed, alive, and present whenever it is activated.
Building upon my research in contemporary walking practices, including those of walking pilgrimages and dérive as a form of artistic praxis, this work combines a multitude of ideas and references. It becomes a new form of walking-based art. One that exists through the digital ephemera collected by those who walked. One which both embodies the act of conscious walking through direct involvement of the participants on a pilgrimage journey, and the production of a de-authored final piece where the artist creates only the context and the vessel.
While we walk along the path from Banyuls to Portbou we will be tracing the footsteps of a refugee’s journey. A journey that echoes that of more and more individuals as the journey of contemporary refugees expands beyond those who are threatened by military or political violence, but also from climate change. The desperation, anxiety, and at times the despair and misery of the refugee will be present as this walk brings to the fore the historical context of this journey. This walk is a political act, one that remembers the past and applies it to the present, one that highlights historical divisions between ideologies and nations. Through the convolutions of the final piece we will be bringing together, and in ways removing, the boundaries and borders. All ideologies are consumed by the piece. All history is included through the lens of the contemporary participant.
Also, while we walk, we will cross not only physical borders between countries, but through this work we are creating and crossing borders of consideration. The divide between artist and participant is dissolved. This divide which is politically charged in and of itself, in order to maintain a hierarchy of rank and a division of ideas of expertise. As each participant lets themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there, they will decide when a moment lived, a subject perceived, a gesture enacted, a history remembered, a sound heard, or a scene discovered crosses a border. When a moment passes from insignificant to significant, they mark this passage by making the decision to record it for the project. The work itself dissolves borders between artist and participant, in ways similar to how the Arcades Project dissolves the imposition of structure traditionally given by a writer. The work becomes a convolution of ideas and images, a multitude of possible structures embedded in form and perception, disconnected from country or individual, but anchored to spirit, time, and place.
The presentation of the finished work itself hovers between and dissolves the borders of understanding and confusion, between structure and chaos. By design, the generated video brings the clips together in ways that both reveal and render obscure content and meaning. Pulling the viewer in to reacquaint themselves with the familiar while discovering unimagined relationships and unknown memories.
All of this is made possible through the application of digital reproduction. As in the age of mechanical reproduction, we have the ability to reproduce an infinite simulacrum of the original with a fidelity never before possible. While Benjamin positioned the mechanical age as one where the value of art and the impact of its technological reproduction would open new areas of influence on capitalism and society, the digital age has hyper intensified this through not only revolutionizing the means of reproduction, but also the means of distribution. This work challenges the capitalist and fascist ideas that seem to be prevalent in many parts of modern society. By utilizing the tools of reproduction to make something that is not fixed, it becomes much harder to commodify. By using content that is not controlled, it becomes much harder for it to be utilized as a tool of persuasion. Through digital reproduction and a dependence upon, and trust in, both chance and the collective, we will produce an unknown, unexpected and magnificent outcome. We will produce a convolution of experience and perception as recorded by participants as they participate in special pilgrimage in honor of one of the leading thinkers of the modern world, Walter Benjamin.
DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION ALONG PATH The impact of this work upon those who walk the path has the potential to be both minimal and magnificent. As it is up to the participant in terms of how much they choose to hold this project in their mind and participate, there is the option to completely ignore it at one end of the spectrum. At the other end participants may keep it at the forefront of their considerations throughout the walk as they become hyper focused and aware of each of the moments along the way, considering and examine them for a threshold of significance. Implementation of the content collection portion of this project does not slow down or overly distract the group as the clips are requested to be between 5 and 15 seconds long.