Aug 22nd, 2011 by Jordan Howland
The second in a series of reflections on The Long Walk, 2011.
D.K. Pan and NKO were commissioned by Susan Robb to create artwork for The Long Walk. D.K. and NKO have collaborated on numerous creative endeavors including co-founding the Free Sheep Foundation. For this project, they presented “The 66 Ways of Water Magic” which involved a limited edition of 66 hand-screen-printed, monotype t-shirts emblazoned with the text “Time Is Memory” (in water-based ink). The shirts were packaged along with a water bottle and hand-labeled. Each Long Walker was presented with the object as a gift, wherein the name on the package was not their own. The instructions were for the participants to bear the gifts and engage in a water ritual with the recipient in order to complete the offering process. To give the gift, one had to receive it first, creating a sequential order based on randomness. The water rituals throughout The Long Walk involved songs and dance, feet and hand washings, and shared moments both private and public. The objects existed as an artifact of the ritual, underlying the aggregated system of understanding which increased with shared activity.
“How shall I tell what I saw?”
The Long Walk started somewhere, sometime. I joined in on a mid-summer’s morning. It was early after a long night. We had spent the late hours gathering, packaging and labeling gifts for fellow walkers, of whom we knew only names, void of familiarity or identity. It was the potentiality of persons still. We drove to a beach glowing in the cool, soft sunrise light. A few known faces amid the strangers. A total of 50 in this mobile engagement; all with their own histories and motivations. Along the way, there were conversations, an accumulation of observations and stories of past journeys. We were on a pilgrimage, some knew, others wished for, we all received. With each phrase and step, a sentence began to build of a collective experience, which understood its meaning before it could be captured in articulation. The specificity of course allowed for a multiplicity of experience tethered by path. We were passing through in real time.
A collection of bodies present with a task contained in scope of location and hours. We were going from here to there. It was understood: we walk and share. There was purpose and exchange, and value in making the moments measured and golden.
We walked through the city, on paved trails dodging bicycles, near places known, but viewing the hidden facades, marked by esoteric glyphs of preserved presence. We walked along-side manicured rivers, manufactured wildernesses, and in the places in-between places. In traversing the interstitial planes, there was a sense of immediacy, in that we will (most likely) never visit these places again, and if so, they will have disappeared, replaced by another place removed from present context.
The immediacy also fostered a certain release, that each place existed because of our temporal passing. The sightings of eagles and hawks, pet pigs, equestrian formations, emus, banana slugs, and forests full of furry trees were gifts of the action we undertook. The time of uphill steps in the mid-day sun – hill, then another and another – accepted our effort and became generous in relief. It was as difficult and demanding as necessary. A community of expatriate minds bonded on shared activity. To speak of the intimacy of body, its groans and pains, with others barely familiar, led to a suspension of the normal, guided by the most normal way of being, to step with another of common destination.
There was always enough. Our pursuit of engagement guided by the poetic, expressed and observed by intent or accident. The tradition was remarked and acknowledged. References to the everyday and the thinkers, poets, writers, musicians, visual artists, students, teachers, walkers and rangers who contributed out of shared ritual. The water which walked with us listened to our perspiration and rewarded with precipitating mist. The mist settled on the outlined terrain and imagined landscapes of memory and etched them as a temporary tattoo.
- D.K. Pan
Photos © 2011, Long Walkers: Kolya Rice and Webster Polk.