Silent Walk in the Arboretum

In this week’s class, we spent about an hour discussing different types of “walking” in class before heading outside to the Arboretum where we would do our own “walk” for about an hour and a half. However, this wasn’t any normal type of walk: it was a silent walk. Led by an intern at Guelph’s Arboretum, we trekked through the forest in complete silence, not making a sound even when we tripped repeatedly over stubborn tree roots.




In  a line, we followed our guide through the woods, open spaces and gardens. We walked by just beautiful scenery, including a couple buildings we were unfamiliar to and even a memorial garden. There was even a patch of unknown (well, to me) mushrooms thriving at one point in our trip. Our senses got to experience a wide spectrum of colour, shape and sound: I personally enjoyed the different hues of yellow and orange above us, how the sun glittered through the trees, and the strong, earthy smell of the leaves and dirt that just reminded me of autumn.

I especially appreciated the sound of the wind that filtered through the treetops (I initially thought it was a river) and, of course, the sounds that were produced as our boots burst through heaps of unattended, dry leaves on the ground. (Turn volume up!)

Dogs, moms, babies and joggers walked past, squeezing by on the well-trodden boardwalk, but for the major part of the trip we were alone–except for the classmates in front and behind of us. In the silence, I believe many of us were just sort of floating in our thoughts, which was certainly an interesting place to be.

After the hour and a half silent walk (or workout, whichever you’d like to call it), we sat down on the leafy grounds in a circle to discuss yet some more about what had just transpired. For myself, I was quite calm and peaceful after that walk, and definitely I’ll be trying it again sometime. Perhaps the walk had inspired some ideas for us about the future Kilometre Project, and changed our perspectives on the art of walking.

Terrance Houle and Trevor Freeman

Terrance Houle is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary media artist and a member of the Blood Tribe. Involved with Aboriginal communities all his life, he has traveled to reservations throughout Canada and the United States to participating in Powwow dancing and other native ceremonies. He has developed an extensive portfolio that ranges from painting and drawing to video/film, mixed media, performance and installation. Currently Terrance works and maintains his art practice in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Trevor Freeman: Born and raised in Calgary, BFA from University of Lethbridge Class of 2001 specialization in environmental sculpture. Freeman was roped back into the Art Game by emerging artist Terrance Houle after a 5 years hiatus at which time he was a servant of Calgary’s Aboriginal Community. Freeman is single and an Aquarius who enjoys long walks on the river edge with his puppy at sunset.

This public intervention involves the portage of a 16 ft canoe through the crowded downtown area of Vancouver, from English Bay to Coal Harbour. Dressing up in stereotypically “traditional” Aboriginal and Métis garb Houle and Freeman traverse the urban and populated terrain of Vancouver’s metropolitan centre. (


Jay White

Jay White draws from multi-day, process-based walking and camping activities to explore and imagine new relationships between human and other-than-human entities. He employs narrative and participatory strategies to translate these ephemeral experiences into material installations and video works, in the hopes of enlivening and animating objects and beings.

Coyote Walk uses smartphone technologies to allow participants to track and document the passage of a walker as he passes through urban areas.The walk is guided by rules that dictate the three-day project will end if the walker gets too close to other humans. This leads participants to follow the walker into remote or overlooked urban sites, and to engage with the nocturnal geography of the city. The first walk took place in Vancouver in November 2013, and the second walk will take place in March 2014, in collaboration with the Stanley Park Ecological Society. The rules of the walk require that the participants, who act as pseudo-scientific animal trackers, maintain a respectful distance from the performer-walker. (


Richard Long

Richard Long has been in the vanguard of conceptual and land art in Britain since he created A Line Made by Walking in 1967, while still a student. This photograph of the path left by his feet in the grass, a fixed line of movement, established a precedent that art could be a journey. Through this medium of walking, time and distance became new subjects for his work. From that time he expanded his walks to wilderness regions all over the world. He mediates his experience of these places, from mountains through to deserts, shorelines, grasslands, rivers and snowscapes, according to archetypal geometric marks and shapes, made by his footsteps alone or gathered from the materials of the place. These walks and temporary works of passage are recorded with photographs, maps and text works, where measurements of time and distance, place names and phenomena are vocabulary for both original ideas and powerful, condensed narratives. (

linewalkingA Line Made by Walking, 1967

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking,” wrote Nietzsche. Richard Long’s great thought while walking was to make his walking into his art. In an illuminating catalogue essay for Heaven and Earth, Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, writes, “In A Line Made by Walking (1967), a work made at the age of 22, Long changed our notion of sculpture and gave new meaning to an activity as old as man himself. Nothing in the history of art quite prepared us for the originality of his action.”


Walking a Line in Peru, 1972

“One thing I like about my work is all the different ways it can be in the world,” he says. “A local could walk by and not notice it, or notice it and not know anything about me. Or someone could come upon a circle and know it was a circle of mine. I really like the notion of the visibility or invisibility of the work as well as the permanence and transience. The idea of ephemerality was never my main interest, though. It’s important to say that. Always my interest was to realize a particular idea. Obviously, some of my stone lines just disappear. They get overgrown or moved by sheep, or whatever. That’s great. That’s the natural way of the world. But the reason I made the work has really nothing to do with that. It is simply about making a line of stone in a particular place at a particular time.” -Richard Long


A Line in the Himalayas 1975, printed 2004 Richard Long born 1945 Presented by the artist (Building the Tate Collection) 2005
A Line in the Himalayas 1975, printed 2004 Richard Long born 1945 Presented by the artist (Building the Tate Collection) 2005

A Line in the Himalayas, 1975

The results of Long’s actions may be brought into the gallery and laid out on the floor, resulting in a sculptural work, or they are photographed in situ, resulting in a picture. A Line in the Himalayas is one of several photographs resulting from a walk Long undertook in the Nepalese Himalayas in 1975. It shows a rough rocky terrain and snow-covered jagged peaks – a harsh, barren landscape typical to places of high altitude. The sky is a deep, clear blue, tinting the snow and the white rocks. Beginning in the foreground and disappearing into the chaotic texture of dark mountain scree to the side of the image, a narrow raised line of white stones lies almost straight on the landscape. With no human or animal presence of any kind, it is hard to gauge the scale of the stones and rocky outcrops which appear to encompass a great distance: between the foreground and the mountains in the far distance there is no middle ground.

Silence Circle Big Bend Texas 1990 Richard Long born 1945 Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Edwin C. Cohen and General Atlantic Partners 1991
Silence Circle Big Bend Texas, 1990


Five Stones, 1974

Five Stones, made in Iceland in 1974, could also be seen as a drawing of sorts. Here the lines are formed not by Long directly but by the boulders he’s rolled down the side of the volcano. The lines here are less ordered than those he made in A Line Made by Walking. There is a randomness as the stones go with the flow as they journey down the mountainside; it looks in a way as though they were racing. In a way, perhaps, it’s appropriate that the interventions into the English landscape are ordered – polite, almost to the point of counting as gardening – whereas there is an uncontrolled wildness to the work made in the more rugged terrain of an Icelandic volcano. (


Carmen Papalia


“Papalia’s work, which takes the form of participatory public projects, explores the topic of access as it relates to public space, the Art institution, and visual culture—as the artist’s own access is defined by a visual impairment. Papalia invites the participant to explore the possibilities for learning and knowing that become available through the non-visual senses, and to trust in the revelatory practice that is non-visual interpretation. Through exercises in trust and blind orienteering, participants discover new geographic contours from which to develop a sense of place. They begin to consider looking as one of the many ways to engage with and interpret their surroundings.”


Artist’s Statement:

You are closing your eyes. You have just entered the vast and vibrant dimension that is non-visual space. You put your hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you, and you lend your support to anyone who might want to join in this experience. You notice the pace of your breathing, you notice some sweat on your palms. As your focus shifts away from what is visual, the acoustic environment crashes around you. It consumes you like a tidal wave. With each event your sense of spatial scale shifts, and shifts again. A tight corridor, a field, of color. A wave of traffic. Your footsteps. You focus on the sound. You feel secure in knowing that you can rely on the person in front of you, and you begin to relax. You ease into your gait. You notice the pace of your breathing. You begin to trust in this practice.

<p><a href=”″>The Blind Field Shuttle Walking Tour by Carmen Papalia</a> from <a href=””>CUE Art Foundation</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a>.</p>


—Reflection upon experiencing the Blind Field Shuttle, 2013

 “I design experiences that allow those involved to expand their perceptual mobility and claim access to public and institutional spaces. Often requiring trust and closeness, these engagements disorient the participant while introducing new modes of orientation that allow for perceptual and sensorial discovery. Each walking tour, workshop, collaborative performance, public intervention, museum project and art object that I produce is a temporary system of access—a gesture that contributes to a productive understanding of accessibility. As an open-sourcing of my own access, my work makes visible the opportunities for learning and knowing that become available through the non-visual senses. It is a chance to unlearn looking and to take ones first few steps into a non-visual world.”

Text excerpts from the CUE Art Foundation

Short documentary film by Mickey Fisher on a social practice art project at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, CA. Artist Carmen Papalia began using a white cane when his vision became impaired nearly ten years ago. For one day, he replaces his cane with a marching band.

Francis Alys

Francis Alÿs is a Mexico-based artist who’s work encompasses a variety of media, often performances that are documented by video, photography, writing, painting, and animation. His work is described as poetic and political, as he often examines the social, cultural, and political conditions of the land.

The Green Line (Jerusalem, 2004)





Another politically charged walk is “The Green Line“, where Francis Alÿs walks the Armistice border in Jerusalem carrying a leaking can of green paint that trails a line behind him as he walks. The title of the work, and the green line itself, are references to the historic Green Line that was agreed upon in 1949 as the boundary between Israeli and Palestinian land at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. After the war had resulted in a clear win for Israel, the Israeli state was established and a green line was literally drawn out on a map to demarcate its borders with Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon during the Armistice Agreements.

Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing (Mexico City 1997)



His walks are often location based and can be simply about the city. In a well known piece titled “Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing“, Alÿs pushes a large block of ice around Mexico City for over 9 hours until it melts away. The piece transforms into a way of getting to know the city from a different perspective.

Samples II (London, 2004)

Similarly, inn “Samples II”, Alÿs walks around London, England with a drum stick in his hand, playing the sounds of metal fences beside him.

These two walks also reference another theme of his work. Francis Alÿs has a series of works that explore the kinds of games that children play where they live. In another video, he documents the same action for the fencing around Fitzroy Square specifically.

Children’s Games (Worldwide, 1999-present)

His series, “Children’s Games” contains video documentation of the games children play all around the world including Mexico, Afghanistan, France, Belgium, Venezuela, and Morocco. The games are usually ones involving a group of children outside with, playing with bought toys or found items such as kites, marbles, water bottles, sticks, coins, old bike tires, and even broken pieces of mirror.



Francis Alÿs references this interest in children’s games in different bodies of work. A theme that often comes up in his work is the task of doing, undoing, and not doing.

Reel/Unreel (Kabul, Afghanistan 2011)

An example of this “doing and undoing” is Francis Alÿs’ video Reel/Unreel, where “the action takes place along the bare cityscape of Kabul, Afghanistan. The cameras follow a reel of film as it unrolls through the old part of town—pushed by two children, uphill and downhill, like a hoop, inspiring an improvised narrative”

“On the 5th of September 2001, the Taliban confiscated thousands of reels of film for the Afghan Film Archive and burned them on the outskirts of kabul. People say the fire lasted 15 days. But the Taliban didn’t know they were mostly given film print copies which can be replaced and not the original negatives, which cannot.”

When Faith Moves Mountains (Lima, Peru 2002)


In “When Faith Moves Mountains“, Francis Alÿs congregates 500 volunteers to shovel a large dune on the outskirts of Lima, Peru to be moved 10 cm from its original location. Over the course of a day, the volunteers move the surface of the dune over, accomplishing an overall un-recognizable event. The principle for the action was “maximum effort, minimal result”, but the social aspect of requiring many people provides a great sense of achievement.

Re-enactments (2001)


On November 4, 2000, Francis Alÿs illegally purchased a gun from a shop in downtown Mexico City. He then left the shop, loaded gun in hand, and walked through the streets of the city. Twelve and a half minutes later, Alÿs was pursued by the police – he was quickly apprehended, pinned against the police car, searched, and taken away for his arrest. This event constituted the first part of Alÿs’s Re-enactments (2001) – a work in which the artist sought to execute a performance and then carefully recreate it based on the documentation of the performance.

The script was simple: he was to buy the gun and move through the streets until something occurred to interrupt him. Alÿs’s initial performance, from his first grasp of the gun until his arrest, was filmed by his collaborator, artist Rafael Ortega, and this footage became the basis for the performance’s reproduction. Alÿs and Ortega replicated the initial performance the same day, a project only possible because Alÿs managed to evade punishment for his crime. Alÿs was able to both negotiate his release from police custody – ostensibly through bribery, a common practice in negotiating with the police in Mexico City – and persuade the officers to participate in the staging of the second performance. In the re-enactment of the performance, the policemen acted out their roles in the scene of Alÿs’s arrest. This time, however, Alÿs used a fake gun and Ortega took a significantly different approach to filming the performance. In the two-channel video, the footage of Alÿs’s performances are juxtaposed; labeled “Real” and “Re-enactment,” they play simultaneously, comparing the footage of the initial performance and its recreation. (



Magnetic Shoes, 1994
Alÿs spent several days walking around Havana with magnetic shoes for the 1994 Biennial, collecting metallic refuse along the way, and in doing so, he actively brought the city into focus.

Class in a Greenhouse

Who wouldn’t want to have class in a tropical paradise? On October 18 our Outdoor School class had the opportunity to have a class discussion in the Bovey Greenhouse on campus. When we arrived we were given the chance to explore the greenhouse and admire all the different types of plants growing within.


After admiring the greenhouse and taking some pictures we gathered together to discuss our reading from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Although we were worried that we might get watered by the sprinkler system at anytime (thankfully we weren’t); it was a really neat experience to be able to discuss the various types of relationships that humans can have with nature while surrounded by plants. In our discussion one of the aspects of the reading that we focused on was how humans can have a positive relationship with nature. For example, when people respectfully harvest sweetgrass it actually causes the sweetgrass to grow better than when it is left on its own!


We wrapped up our time in the greenhouse by mentioning the various outdoor related clubs that we had joined on campus. I think we all really enjoyed getting to have class in a greenhouse; I know I did.

Mushroom Foray Day

Adding on to Diane’s post, here are some extra photos from the perspective of someone who has never participated in a mushroom foray! On October 15, our Outdoor School class spent the morning foraging for mushrooms in the UofG Arboretum. For most of us, it was the first time we went into a forest to search and collect fungi of various species. Although some of us had midterms, foraging for mushrooms and other fungi was a good way to relax and stay calm before the examinations. When we arrived at the Arboretum, we got our baskets and headed into the forest to see if we could find different specimens to bring back to show everyone.

Many of the fungi we found were mushrooms, but there were others such as, slime moulds, polypores, and jelly fungi. There was even a stinkhorn that gave off a horrendous smell that many of us would never forget as well as some poisonous species.

It was amazing to see the many different species of fungi that were collected during the foray. It really showed me how diverse the Arboretum ecosystem is and I honestly didn’t expect to find so many mushrooms all in one area. The puffball mushrooms were especially surprising as I’ve never seen a mushroom that huge and it also kind of resembles a human skull, which is something I will definitely remember. Overall, the foray was an excellent learning experience that raised my awareness and appreciation of species in the fungi kingdom!