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Lucas, R., 2016.

Taking a line for a walk: Walking as an aesthetic practice

Output Type:Book
Pagination:pp. 169-184

Walking has long been regarded as offering the potential for aesthetic practice. In this chapter I seek to understand the uses made of walking by twentieth century artists and art movements, with particular reference to the city. Siting the investigation in the city reflects my own interests which are rooted in my architectural training. It also serves as the context for my own creative practice, particularly a project entitled Getting Lost in Tokyo, the subject of a solo exhibition in 2005 and at the core of my research on inscriptive practices. My inquiry begins, however, with the engagement of theorist Walter Benjamin with the nineteenth century Parisian poet, Charles Baudelaire. Around the figure of the flâneur, which has become familiar from their writings, there has grown a vast secondary literature, exploring various aspects of our interaction with the urban environment (Tester 1994). Benjamin's work is reflected in the interests of art and self-professed anti-art groups such as Dada, Surrealism, and the Situationist International. For these visual artists, poets and performers, the city provided a site for investigation both relevant to their condition and breaking with earlier forms of patronage. Besides considering their work, I explore some of the ways in which walking has furnished a metaphor for creative practice itself. In the aphorism that gives this chapter its title, Paul Klee conceptualized the line as a trace resulting from a continuous gesture (Klee 1961, 105). The 'walk' of the brush or pen over a surface generates the line. The action of inscribing a line has the potential to be so deeply ingrained that it can inform our thinking across many disciplines and practices.