In May I attended Open Engagement, “an initiative of Portland State University’s Art and Social Practice MFA concentration, directed and founded by Jen Delos Reyes and planned in conjunction with Harrell Fletcher and the Art and Social Practice students”. At a talk by the women who founded Pland I was introduced to an essay by Jan VanWoert Gathering People Like Thoughts; On Hosting As An Unorthodox Form Of Authorship in which VanWoert succinctly pools together various streams of ideas around authorship, hosting, and the will of a group (or “hungry ghosts of unorthodox spirit”) to share and author authentic experiences.
VanWoert describes the group as bring in the position to twist the very laws of being that might typically lead to alienation and unquenchable desire and that as a group it is possible to get a grip on them so as to no longer be under the spell of these laws “but rather in a position to twist them, in unorthodox ways, into unorthodox shapes. To do this sort of twisting in the pursuit of autonomy is precisely what defines the signifying practice of a modern host/author as unorthodox. It is in and through the performance of this twist that the authority of this kind of authorship is founded. It resides in the twist, in the joy, pain, anger, and laughter emanating for this twist: in the spirit of your twisting.”
Like the make up of the group, “the performance of the twist is a collective effort. No one can do this twist alone. To perform it, one must be aided by the supportive spirits of many a hungry ghost, twisted sister, or visitor arriving in your building, mind, and work from nearby and far away to help you find the themes to improvise on as well as the occasions, pretexts, and techniques to do so. Like subjectivity, then, the authority of the twist is by definition shared and therefore divided, if not dissipated, between many spirits. It only comes into effect when the twist modifies the way in which those spirits think together, think of themselves together, or experience a different manner of being together in the very act of thinking together.”
The Long Walk hosts you and hopes you and helps you perform that twist, a shared experience (made up of participation, conversation, endurance, and geography ) that “The Walkers” author and that, if all goes well, will leave an imprint in your memory about the group (it is socially engaged art) as well as about place (it is land art). And as usual, I’m curious as to how these two things interrelate and overlap. We will be kind of spawning I suppose, walking against the flow of water, traveling away from Puget Sound, against the tide of the Tolt Pipeline, and finally up to Snoqualmie Falls, a place the Snoqualmie Tribe regards as its birthplace. A place where it is believed that the spirits of various resources of the Snoqualmie River valley and the spirits of the prairie upstream meet, forming a sacred site for seeking spirit power. Maybe that spirit power is “us”.