I just happened across this by accident but the BBC is showing a new five-part series in which explorer Paul Rose walks the 630 miles of the SW Coast Path – Britain's longest national walking trail. The first episode just went out and you can catch it on iPlayer here: Coastal Path.
After walking a couple of bits of the SW Coast Path last year (photo is from Lizard to Kynance Cove), and reading The Salt Path (highly recommended), I've become a bit obsessed by SWCP. Hopefully this show will do it justice.
They're using a technique developed by artist Adam Harvey that he called CV Dazzle in 2010 which is based on the pre-radar method of protecting ships from torpedos in WWI by painting them with abstract shapes. This Dazzle Camouflage confused submarines who were unable to accurately calculate the distance and heading of a ship and thus unable to hit it with a torpedo.
CV Dazzle makeup, standing for Computer Vision Dazzle, is intended to work in a similar way by either making the face invisible to recognition software or simply disguising the individual so they can't be tracked.
There's a lot of this sort of art around, but it's interesting, and relevant to our interests, to see the Dazzle Club using group walks as the way to get it out there. It turns the act of wearing the makeup into a protest and it's no coincidence their walks coincide with the London police starting to use live facial recognition systems in the capital.
Wearing the makeup as an individual probably doesn't work – the technology is improving every day and doesn't just depend on faces for identification – but combining it with a silent group walk, which features in the long history of protest, helps raise issues around its adoption without full consideration of the flaws and civil implications.
Dazzle Club walks take place in London on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Sign up to their newsletter for location information. And hopefully Emily & co will bring this up to the Midlands soon.
The latest issue of Craig Mod's Ridgeline, his excellent newsletter about walking to which you should all subscribe, appeared in my inbox with the above title and got me all excited because it would make the perfect manifesto for Walkspace. Walking as tool for creating something new, be it ideas or actualised work. Walking as a coherent and defined platform that enables an anticipated outcome but allows for serendipity and surprises.
Of course, letting my mind race ahead like that meant mild disappointment as Craig was giving the title to a talk at a tech conference where the audience build digital tools on digital platforms, but that's OK.
The talk is worth watching because it summarises a inspirational walk Craig did last year where he tried to find a good balance between being connected and being alone. He would be travelling with a camera and a phone but he would set strict rules on how he would use them. Some, like having to take a portrait of a stranger before 10am, forced him to have encounters he might not have. Others, like restricting him communication with the outside world to one SMS text message a day, enabled him to, as he says in the talk, "be present in the world while connecting with my community in meaningful ways."
Along the 1,000km walk over 43 days Craig would send a photo and a text message which would be relayed to anyone who had opted in to receive them. These recipients could reply but Craig would not see the replies until he got home where a large book containing his photos, messages and all the replies would be waiting for him.
As someone who uses walks to take photos (or uses photos to take walks) and has experimented in the past with platforms like Twitter or Instagram to document a journey, I often struggle to know what to do with the documentary detritus, or whether capturing the walk detracted from the walk itself. Cross City Walks is a perfect case in point – was it made or broken by the way I co-opted it as a tool/platform?
Casting the walk as a tool could be a useful way of mitigating this. A tool is, fundamentally, matter which has been shaped to facilitate an outcome, be it a hammer to bash in nails or a rocket to get you to the moon. If you know why you're undertaking a walk (and that can be a big "if"), how can your act of walking be shaped to facilitate that?
Subscribe to Craig Mod's newsletters and explore his extensive writing on his website.
I often think about the group slow walk Hamish Futon ran in Birmingham in 2012 for the Ikon and Fierce Festival where he got people to walk lines marked behind Curzon Street Station, some very short, some the length of the site, as slowly as necessary to complete the walk in the time allowed. Here's a short interview with him, filmed by Chris Keenan.
I was reminded of this when reading about Rubén Martín de Lucas's art project Minimal Republics where he marks off a 100m2 area of land, declares it to be a sovereign nation, and inhabits it for up to 24 hours. He documents them using aerial photography which looks very pleasing.
The work is about the absurdity of the concept of nations, which I approve of because nations are absurd concepts, but I'm intrigued by the idea of forcing yourself to stay within a specific boundary for up to a day, especially when that boundary is set up in an "uninteresting" area.
It's doubtless meditative with an element of endurance, but the idea of exploring that 100 square metres, of really getting to know every rock in the sand or mark on the tarmac, is really interesting to me.
I've often wanted to do an hour-long photography workshop where people can only explore a small patch of land that they wouldn't consider interesting at first – the corner of a car park, for example – forcing them to look beyond the obvious and start to see patterns and beauty in the details. I think the photos that would come out of such an exercise would be really interesting.
I wonder what it would be like to make one of de Lucas's pieces, to define a micro-country and occupy it for a day. Once the boredom passes, what would you see?