Points of departure
Taking points of inspiration from artistic research methods, STS, Queer Theory and the debate on decolonial aesthesis, and from inspirational thinkers like Rebecca Solnit, Walter Mignolo and Anna Tsing, the Walking Seminar is part homage, part experiment, part decolonial enactment. Above all, this is a project about the craft of walking, and about the politics and poetics of walking in the Anthropocene. As we encounter beloved landscapes, and as we experience the changes in these landscapes, it is also about saying goodbye.
In April 2014 Christian Ernsten and Nick Shepherd, both at the time based at the University of Cape Town, visited South Africa’s Cederberg area, well known for its rock art, with Colombian archaeologist Cristóbal Gnecco and Swedish historian of ideas Mikela Lundahl. During this get-together, the Walking Seminar’s three lines of inquiry were articulated:
1) exploring the intersection between conventional scholarship and forms of artistic research and practice;
2) using walking as a methodology to engage landscapes and histories;
3) rethinking time, materiality, and memory.
In 2017, when photographer Dirk-Jan Vissser had joined the project, Nick Shepherd further explored these earlier conceptual points of departure in two essays, namely Embodied research in emergent Anthropocene landscapes and Escaping from the “white cube” of the seminar room. A short mission statement of the project would be:
As we journey deeper into the Anthropocene we are challenged to find new formats for scholarly and creative work. “No more business as usual”, if business as usual reproduces the conventional divisions between theory and practice, mind and body, reason and emotion, and thought and imagination. Standard academic formats encourage a distant and dispassionate relationship between subject and object in the “white cube” of the seminar room. We argue that as thinkers and practitioners we need to be more engaged, more implicated and more at risk in what we do.
Photos above: Sarah de Gouveia, 2014.