“We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return, prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms.”– H. D. Thoreau
Artists Vito Acconci and Sophie Calle followed people (for Calle, until someone confronted her). At one time, Francis Alys walked into unfamiliar territory guarded by dogs and at another, pushed a block of ice around Mexico City until it melted. Paolo Nazereth walked from Sao Paolo, Brazil to New York, NY in a pair of flip-flops (he needed to see what was in between.)
Whether to execute a work or to just get out of the house, walking can provide great source material or at least allow a moment for quiet reflection on the place you’re in.
One foot goes forward, then the other. A pattern develops. Eventually, after doing this many times, the distance stretches and your body is some place else. When you’re out walking somewhere, there’s time to see the space around you and even stop and approach the things that interest you most. With the advent of Instagram, people can post a photo of that thing that no one else has ever noticed. When you’re out walking, it’s as if that little thing you noticed was just for you…until you share it with the universe.
I rode my bike over the Rio Salado on 24th Street and saw a white crane wading in the shallow water. While out on a morning run, I navigate the back streets of South Phoenix before anyone is awake, running down dirt embankments going the wrong way down a one-way street. While walking through the grove of trees next to St. Mary’s Basilica during late summer, I become inundated with the singing of cicadas who seem to only gather in that safe, cool(er) spot.
Walking, running, biking—they are the processes that put our bodies in direct contact with the world around us. For artists, it can make one aware of how systems fit together, materials blend, colors merge and contrast, how light hits an object, how people move around each other and how every unit functions like a giant collage of complex, moving objects. For anyone else, it can give one a moment to slow down and take stock of the landscape, urban or otherwise, and how it just feels good to be able to move oneself forward in it.
“the rich potential relations between thinking and the body…the way walking reshapes the world by mapping it, treading paths into it, encountering it” — R. Solnit
Ten years ago, you may not have seen anyone walking the streets of Downtown Phoenix on a summer evening. But now, 110º doesn’t seem to stop anyone. This past Friday, as the temperature reached 111º right around 6pm, a bevy of Phoenicians were stepping out of air conditioned cars, houses and buildings to begin instantly sweating on the hot sidewalks. It has become standard practice now to throw heat exhaustion to the wind in lieu of walking the streets to socialize, see art and experience something new.
What was once underrated and scoffed at as being foolish, boring and even dangerous is beginning to be common practice in Downtown. There are more places now to walk to but there has never been a lack of places to walk. Within every landscape are smaller and smaller bits that pull and drag you in if you let them. While out walking, a person can let that different, sensorial world back in to admit that there is something more here than generalizations formed from the view of a car window.
Interested in the creative mind meet-up suggested in When Brains Collide? The first meeting is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, and the discussion will start off with the most basic of creative problems: “In a Rut.”
Artists, writers, musicians, performers…come prepared to discuss the project you’re working on and how it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Or, maybe you’ve felt uninspired to get started on anything?
Every creative person has been there at one point or another and sometimes all you need is a little nudge forward. Be prepared to also provide suggestions, encouragement and an open mind to the different ways that people work.
We will try to keep the meeting to one hour. So bring your coffee snobbery and your rutted self for us to commiserate, encourage and move each other forward.
If you go
What: When Brains Collide Meet-up
Date: Saturday, June 29
Time: 12 noon
Where: Cartel Coffee, 1 N. 1st St. (corner of Washington and 1st St.)
Subject for the next meeting: “Things Don’t Work”, technological, media and computer problems in a work in progress.
If you didn’t hear, see or volunteer you surely went and experienced the Feast on the Street event in person. Now you can view the mini documentary, recorded for posterity by director/producer Wayne Rainey.
As Matt Moore says in the video’s opening seconds, “In April 2013, Clare Patey and I gathered a group of artists together to invite the City of Phoenix to dinner.”
The rest is history.
Feast on the Street was supported in part by ArtPlace, the National Endowment for the Arts, Roosevelt Row CDC and The Steele Foundation.
This is definitely it. This is the last of it. A few cool soft breezes at night with the windows open will taunt you in your memory a week from now. Soon we’ll be closing the blinds and hissing at the sunlight like trapped vampires. It goes by many names but I like to call it “underwear weather.” More traditionally, it’s called summer. And, as every good Phoenician knows, summer begins in May.
Years ago, it used to be that once May rolled around, all of the art spaces in downtown Phoenix that didn’t have functioning A/C or swamp coolers would shut down for the summertime and stay closed until re-emerging in October. Now, considering the vast amounts of Facebook event invitations I’ve been getting, this tactic is no longer the case. Either art spaces have suddenly come across a windfall of cash or people in town are more willing to brave sweating together in a small room for the sake of seeing art.
While venues like Lawn Gnome, The Trunk Space, Frontal Lobe and Crescent Ballroom seem to have plans scheduled deep into the beast that is high summer in Phoenix, I see this time of year as having an additional advantage.
All good work needs time and focus to develop. With a self-imposed sun and heat quarantine, the summertime in Phoenix is the perfect time to think, read, write, develop, plan and scheme all of the ideas there was no time to focus on while friends were luring you out the door for beers on a patio or a hike in the mountains. The winter weather here can be blissful but is really not conducive to hours of concentration. I find myself staring longingly out the window and cursing our American workaholic existence.
When staring out the window means being blinded by a high noon reflection of the sun or witnessing a sweaty individual finding a sliver of shade to wait for the bus, the prospect of hiding indoors seems much more inviting. Living in such a unique environment, we must take advantage of the odd variances of this place.
Starting right now, you have five months to work on your grand plan. Instead of going stir crazy and disgusted with the sight of four walls, an entirely new project could be born. Most of the time, people don’t discover the benefits of focus and development. It can be ugly. Starting off is always a struggle of the conscious as it battles to defeat the beginnings of any idea. But this time, with fewer distractions, instead of saying no to the idea, you can say yes.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that philosophy is useless in the practical world without action that could take the form of writing or spoken words. Simply by stepping forth with the ideas in your head and putting them in to reality, we change the make-up of our world and begin participating in life.
So, although you might be sitting in your dark cave space, blinds closed, fan on, a/c set at 82 degrees so you don’t break the bank, and limiting contact with the “outside” world, you may ultimately be taking a greater part in it.
Once September or October approaches, emerge from your cool dark place and share your results with the city. If all works out, we should see some pretty amazing and weird work and maybe even some projects that expand on the conceptual groundwork that was created the previous year. Summer is the time to hibernate, develop and grow. Take this time to walk around in your underwear and see what’s possible.
Frontal Lobe, Go Joe show, May 24
Lawn Gnome Publishing, Sole: No Wising Up, No Settling Down Tour, June 18,
The Trunk Space, event calendar for June
Crescent Ballroom: Sea Wolf, June 17, Melvins, July 12
Music and art—they seem to go so well together. It just sort of rolls off the tongue: musicandart, artandmusic.
For some of us in grade school, they were even taught at the same time and maybe even by the same teacher. If you were good at one, there was a good chance you might have been good at the other.
Then maybe you go to college, or maybe you don’t, but either way a person ends up traveling down a path that is predominantly music OR art. Somewhere in this process, a person might keep ties to both and some people even manage to integrate it seamlessly with the work they do, but most lean to one side or the other.
The artist stares longingly at the violinist, remembering what it used to feel like to labor over a solo. The violinist attends art openings to vicariously sense the feeling of creating a new body of work.
How did we become so separate?
I will admit that I am one of those people. I used to play flute and bass guitar and believed that I could really be amazing at both music and art but at some point, I felt I had to choose to make one or the other better or risk being mediocre at both. The word “dilettante” kept jumping to mind.
Maybe this explains a phenomena I have troubling understanding in our sunny city: the Grand Canyon of a divide between the art and music communities. I discovered this after meeting my partner who came from a music background into multi-media artwork. It seemed like a natural progression. I assumed we would have a lot of friends in common. But, it turned out that we knew virtually none of the same people. How could this be?
Artists and musicians share a lot of the same struggles: attempting to make a living while doing the thing you’re good at; fitting in time to practice while managing the making a living part and all of life’s other sundries; determining whether to go the more commercial or more independent route; and fielding all of the inquiries from family members/friends/acquaintances about what you really do. It seems we’d have a lot to talk about with each other.
It also seems as though we’d have a lot to collaborate on. While we’re working at putting together new multi-media pieces and staging impromptu events in vacant lots, members of both communities could step outside of their familiar zones and try something that lands in the middle. In the process of brainstorming, we might even realize that our creative processes are very much the same. John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg collaborated often in the 1950s to 1970s, generating multi-faceted pieces that would have been very different had they been coming from a solo perspective.
Mingling of these worlds surely occurs from time to time but, as both communities struggle for audiences, respectability and a place in the cultural landscape of Phoenix, we could benefit from joining forces more often. Each group brings its own audience that is likely unknown to the other’s. By intertwining mediums and people, we broaden the artistic landscape for both. Downtown Chamber Series has managed this successfully with their performances that take place at various art spaces downtown. They can promote the show and their own concert—promising their audience a dynamic experience that they may not have sought out alone. Before long, both audiences could potentially double while also adding something new to our experience of culture here.
Closing the gap between these two worlds doesn’t have to mean jumping to the other side. It could simply mean acknowledging that we’re both really after the same things. We’re not so different, after all.