There are no doubts that a city is meant to be place for people. Nowadays, it has turned into our natural environment, out of the nature. The numbers show the incredible growth of urban areas: 31 million people in Tokyo, 30 million in New York, 21,5 million people in Mexico, etc. So, what is every individual among this immense concentration of people? What is his/her relationship with this overpopulated and complex environment?
Cities consolidate all possible powers and functions. The life routine is not under control of the city inhabitants anymore, but it is ruled by institutions and business companies. Traffic arteries make it easier to move throughout the city, but still they are incapable of coping with the peak-hour traffic congestion. Finally, pedestrian areas free from cars are totally reserved to leisure activities. Henry Ford once said that walking is not a beneficial activity, but times have changed. Global tourism targets are consumer society clichés called sightseeings. Cathedrals lack people with strong religious beliefs but let tourist inside offering guided excursions and audio tours. The growing insecurity makes city dwellers accept the introduction of public video surveillance system and street cameras in their lives. In this new environment, that seems to come from one of Georges Orwells novels, any city dweller should confront control systems and powerful incentives in order to find the place where it is possible to communicate with the life.
At the end of the XIX century French dandies were walking with their tortoise along the Parisian streets in order to demonstrate their disagreement with the capital society lifestyle. This anecdote shows that to walk through the city means to choose your itinerary that could be changed at any time influenced by some accidental circumstance or casual discovery. In other words, a walking traveller creates his/her own right tempo and to a certain extent put up resistance that turns into a new personal lifestyle.
In the last decades, different kinds of artists have chosen movement as a different way to see, to think, to create and make others see the city. The matter is walking doesn’t only imply the body movements but it also involves memory and mental activity. Moving through the urban geography is always accompanied by mental navigation: a walking artist interferes the urban medium.
WALKING CITY presents a complex of artworks performed by the artists who have chosen walking as way of observing cities. At the same time, this exhibition is meant for the residents who walk along these city streets.
While walking through a lot of different environments, people create their personal vision of the city, which is a fluent vision. This is the way of observation that we propose for the MAPAMUNDISTAS 2011 exhibitions and projections.
While Didier Courbot moves on foot around the cities he visits and registers any tiny sign of human interference, other artists who take part in this fifth edition of MAPAMUNDISTAS create stories about the city. Their visual narratives introduce a fiction element in the reality in order to move us away from the surrounding world and, in that way, to revive our perception and to question the established order. Thus, Francis Alÿs performs symbolic gestures in the big world capitals’ continuous movement. Yasmine Chatila positions her camera pointing through a stranger’s window in New York in order to create intimate portraits. Eduardo Serafim gathers images taken by public video surveillance cameras from the Internet. Then, he turns them into postal cards and sends them to the people he hasn’t ever met. Mikel Uribetxeberria introduces a wild animal inside the urban environment. Alain Delorme builds sculptures using “Made in China” products, that Chinese workers transport in pairs by bicycles around Shangai. Jaap Scheeren, also in Shangai, researches how it feels to be a stranger in a big city and then retells his experience in his photographic notes. Pamplona’s group Reciclantes, S.I. arranges two exhibitions in situ dedicated to the suitcase out of its context. One of them is installed in some of the balconies in Paseo de Ronda buildings, on the verge of private and public space. This work links to another artistic “walking” program called La muralla nómada (Nomad Walls), which take place around the walls of Pamplona. In September MAPAMUNDISTAS 2011 also invites visitors to watch some pieces of urban cinematography in which the city is explored from the point of view of the movement. Finally, there will be encounters with some invited artists.
All these artists created their works by walking along city streets. That means they took their time, they improvised, paid attention to small details, noticed the hidden, they moved away and got inside or they came to the opposite side. As a result, these works make the audience experience a strange feeling and at the same time this sensation makes them to be on the alert as “walking onlookers”. This is the only way we can move forward and make ourselves participants of the new environment with more freedom in it where little encounters and creations become possible.
Alexandra Baurès, curator