My good friend Jess joined me for the walk from Mawgan Porth to Newquay today. Jess too is from North Devon. Jess too is studying her 3rd year in Devised Theatre at Falmouth. And Jess too is indulging in a project exploring walking for these three months. So Jess and I have quite a lot in common at the moment. Before I began my walk, we walked together for about 3 hours every morning for 10 days, for me this was a sort of warm up for my project, and for Jess it became a big part of her project. We would agree a place on the map (no more than 15 minutes’ drive away) that neither of us knew too well, meet there at 8am and then start to walk, they were meaningless walks, they had no intended destination, only to explore a part of the map we did not know, and to walk. These walks became a routine, and the highlight of my day. Through walking we would discuss almost everything from trivial moans to deep theory and philosophy. It was here that I was first able to explore in practice the idea of mapping a thought or a memory onto a place. When I would go home and think about things we had discussed my mind would transport me to the exact location on the walk that we discussed that particular thing. This is a phenomenon that I am sure I am not alone in experiencing; in fact I’d go as far as arguing that it’s such a common thing for our brains to do that we do not really notice it unless specifically drawing attention to it as I am now. For me it’s something about beating down your steps, pacing through a memory, travelling along your thoughts, gaining distance, understanding and speed, feet to ground are as pen is to page when walking. We actively write all over the landscape using our feet, both literally in the form of footsteps and ground markings, but also in our minds in the form of linking specific memories or thoughts to places or objects in places.
In my project, I am attempting to rewrite my memories as it were, to move their location, or to copy and paste them into a new location, and allow them to exist in that location for others to view and write for themselves. Perhaps a good example of this is a short video I made of a large sort of installation in Mawgan Porth, in which I remapped my memories of the millennium on the beach by writing “Happy Millennium” in the sand in huge letters for all to see (http://tomvinall.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/blog-post.html). For anyone who saw this written in the sand, their thoughts are bound to have jumped to their own memories of the millennium. This in my mind, there is just the slightest chance that the next time they remember their trip to Mawgan Porth they will remember the Millennium, or visa versa and the next time they remember the millennium they will think of the beach at Mawgan Porth. This large scale creation effectively remapped my memory and in doing so, just possibly, maybe, hopefully, might have remapped somebody else’s memory there too.
So anyway, Jess came to walk with me! She came up with a really interesting idea to solve the whole “park car then get bus” issue, and to allow herself to walk for longer. She would park at Newquay and set off towards Mawgan Porth. I would leave Mawgan Porth at the same time (9am) and we would just meet somewhere along the path. This reminded me straight away of a piece by performance artist Marina Abromovic and her long term collaborator and lover Ulay, in which they walked from opposite ends of the great wall of China and met in the middle. However for them, the meeting held a great significance, as it would mark the end of their relationship in both art and love. Walking towards Jess yesterday morning was a really interesting experience; interesting because I was constantly wondering where I would meet her, I’d always be looking to the horizon or to the brow of the hill looking for her figure in the distance. It was interesting too because of the anticipation of this “meeting”, this moment along the walk which undoubtedly would hold more significance than any other. Are we supposed to do some great act to mark its significance? Wave from afar? Hug? Cry? Sing? It is such a significant moment that it feels it needs to be marked, but how? Is that our responsibility? After a while the moment arrived, as I came up the side of a sharp cliff, I saw the silhouette I had been searching for skipping along over the top of the cliff. I waved. I took a photo. I realised the actual moment was yet to come, this was but the prologue, how would I mark it, what must I do. As we got closer I once again raised my arm to wave, and as I did I felt an all too familiar feeling under my foot, and quite slowly, quite silently, I fell. To me this was hilarious and my laughing was almost uncontrollable, however to Jess it was slightly more concerning as from her viewpoint I fell out of sight, and for all she knew she could have just witnessed my demise at the hands of a sheer drop!! And there it was. The moment was marked. This significant meeting was mapped in memory and place by a chance accident, a fall, a slip in the mud, a mistake. I have for a while now been a strong believer in looking to a place and a landscape for the answer if you yourself cannot find a solution when it comes to art or thought, and on this occasion the landscape most certainly delivered.
We slowly explored and played our way all along the coast to Newquay as we had done so often on our previous walks together. Jess would always comment on the amazing things you could discover by taking a path you did not know, or straying from the path freely. About a mile from Newquay we decided to descend down a steep set of stairs and were greeted by the most amazing playground of caves and tunnels in the rocks below. We spend almost an hour on this natural climbing frame at moments together, then alone and then finding each other again. Walking gives you a freedom to see the world as a climbing frame – it’s great.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Apologies for the length of this, and my ridiculously frequent use of commas. I just seemed to like them tonight! I wonder what that says about how I’m feeling? Disjointed? Out of breath? I think its more something like my mind not being able to settle on just one thought at a time. But it sure does feel good to have put into words some of my conceptual thoughts about the project and what I am doing – as usual sparked by the presence of Jess Burford. I hope at least some of it makes sense. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have, or responses, even if it’s just a line or two. Just comment by clicking the link below where it says “no comments” or “1 comment” etc.
Thanks for reading! Tom.