A virtual exhibit for Drifting Bodies / Fluent Spaces – Made of Walking (VII), Guimarães, Portugal
This virtual exhibit is a visual distillation of a walking project that I have been engaged in since 2018. I record many of my walks through text and photography on my Pedestrian blog. Rather than a form of documentation, this is more a collection of experiences. It is evidence of my footsteps across time and space, evidence of moments of connection and perception.
The walks are both urban and rural, and never far from water even though the rivers, oceans, lakes do not always appear in my photos. The images tell a visual story of walks in many locations in North America and some in Europe, as I wind my way through the four directions and the four elements.
In the same way that a life is an accumulation of small and often repetitive acts, a walk is an accumulation of footsteps through a place. It seems simple and insignificant, but the accumulation becomes something great over time. My walking practice is many things: a way of connecting; an aesthetic experience; a conscious expansion of breath; a form of retreat/going-forth; a kind of research into the place I am in as well as into my own mind; an exploration; a path.
In moving through a place on foot in a relatively slow, rhythmic way, my perceptions are awakened and I experience the place in all its sensory and energetic richness. I walk in silence, with no music, no podcasts, no phone calls. Even with a walking companion, there are often long periods of silence. In the silence of a walk, I am more able to feel the ineffable quality of place. As I weave myself through a place in this way, the place weaves through me. I become more present than normal – more aware of my sensory experiences, of my own being-in-the-world, of the world around me. It is an exercise in resting in awareness by walking.
Sandra Cowan is the Fine Arts librarian at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Her current research project is about walking as a research methodology for creative work. She is also an artist working in photography, clay, and language, and an avid pedestrian.