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Pacing the Pedestrian Performance of Place (2013-Ongoing)

Pacing the/a Pedestrian Performance of Place:
The Poiesis of Off-the-Grid Walking cARTography

            Performing the/a Pedestrian Performance of Place
is a series of walking ‘performances,’ which seeks to find-by-footfalls what constitutes or qualifies as an (ecological) performative act within the remote, rural, off-the-grid island community of Lasqueti, British Columbia, Canada.  How might the parameters of performance differ in this context than from an urban set of interactions labeled the same; where site-specificity takes on a whole new breadth of meaning when and where there are no theatres to step outside from, demanding performance to look at place as an all-encompassing theatron?  

This ongoing project asks: where and how do the edges of performance, ecology, space, place, pace, art, life blur and/or are made distinct in this geographically-contained and remote context?  Can walking be considered an embodied and performative verbing of temporality? How does a proverbial ‘walk in the woods’ (which in this specific case, is a graveled ‘walk down Main Road’) inform perceptions as/through/with the temporal factors of local seasonal change, as ‘one’ travels the length the 24 km (15 mile) island by foot …and how are our perspectives of place communicated by people of different ages?  And…truly, ultimately…is a walk, or can a walk, be considered a performance?  Or must it be delineated as such, called as much, to be considered such; and how requisite do the distinctions of ‘walking in’ or ‘walking as’ performance relate to a general sense of accessible, unfolding performativity (the praxis and poiesis) of the everyday?
            Walk locally, perform globally.
            The notion of ‘global’ performance that was the genesis of this project. I have become fascinated by the intricacies and considerations of what the bounds of a collective ecology might be and how might we approach them through performance.  And so, based on an entirely off-the-grid island, off the west coast of Canada, in the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem -- in an attempt to relate performance to my rural setting -- and believing that performance is not exclusive and should be, or rather is, accessible to all (at all times) -- I initiated this project:  a series of embodied monthly cartographic walks.  Begun as a mother/daughter duet and then broadened, encompassing other members of the community, the project involves walking the length of the island stopping at half-hour intervals, at which time the specificity this place is documented by each person in a series of three photographs and three lines of poetry which are then assembled into a video…all aspects of this process create and embody a cartographic and collective performance.
            The notion of cartography: the creation of maps, based on grid patterns, is an intentionally played upon concept, in this off-the-grid context. Focusing on the ‘art’ embedded in the word cartography, while aligning with its etymology to ‘write on a piece of paper’, this project would approach place through poetry.  Heidegger believes that “poetry that thinks is in truth the topology of Being.  This topology tells Being the whereabouts of its actual presence” (Poetry, Language, Thought, 12).  This project equally, seeks to reveal a site-specific, site-sensuous and site-sensitive ‘topography’ of being and Being, of place; if not maybe, more accurately a sole-specific, sensuous, and definitely sole-sensitive one.
Walking and writing alongside community members, all non-identified performers, I wondered whether the use of language, namely the written and objective-laden English language, would be employed in a way that overcame dualist binaries between ‘self’ and ‘environment’ or would it further entrench them?  David Abram remarks that:


Our task, rather, is that of taking up the written word, with all of its potency, and patiently, carefully, writing language back into the land. Our craft is that of releasing the budded, earthly intelligence of our words, freeing them to respond to the speech of the things themselves – to the green uttering forth of leaves from the spring branches. It is the practice of spinning stories that have the rhythm and lilt of the local soundscape…Planting words, like seeds, under rocks and fallen logs – letting language take root, once again, in the earthen silence of shadow and bone and leaf (Spell of the Sensuous, 274).


          ‘Landmarks’ were and are newly formed through the process, by the abstraction, yet indelibly concrete sounding of a timed buzzer, halting steps every half hour: creating a structure, yielding an intensity of focus on the here and now, of the immediacy of this space and place.  The timed stops insert themselves in the space-place continuum, defining a fleeting and temporal gaze.

            Pacing the/a Pedestrian Performance of Place on Lasqueti Island has succeeded in creating a temporal legacy of place, ever shifting with season and direction – from the alternating North or South route beginnings, from every observed bud through blossom, from the choice of clothes we wear reflecting season and temperament, from the writing and walking process of generating what has become a ‘deep map:’ a recording and the representation “the grain and patina of place through juxtapositions and interpenetrations” (Pearson and Shanks, Theatre/Archaeology, 64-65).
            For me, the project was most definitely a series of performances – albeit, an extended and refreshing take on the traditional constructs of humanist-centered performance –through process raising questions, including an examination of our notions of what qualifies an audience. I was seen by ravens, by pinesiskins, by lambs, by frogs.  My appearance was registered, evidently altered their movements, stopped or started their calls, triggered adjustments in proximity and mutual decisions on how to proceed.  We audienced each other, together.  It was equally performative, in that sense of being an unfolding process of reciprocal identification and identity with and within our world – and an embodiment of temporality -- staged through the act of poetic performance place-making….
Shared here in these video montages…..