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6. HUMANITIES, Arts
Walking West centres on a dérive by the author along Denver’s Colfax Ave, the “longest , wickedest street in America”, with this paper an account of that dérive and its resulting artwork. Walking West comprised walking the length of Colfax in a single continuous movement while drawing a line on the sidewalk, tracing the route with a GPS device, while a satellite photograph captured the entire length of the street in a single image during the performance. The project additionally involved an outdoor screening of a film documenting the performance on prairie lands near Denver, and a gallery exhibition of a large-scale print (33x2m) of the satellite photograph and a film of the event. The very act of walking has become marginalized in many American cities, yet by walking we can experience the city itself, at a human pace, as a space of discovery and encounter. The symbolic act of walking Colfax acted both as a lens to focus discussion on the role of the street in the cultural, social and political life of Denver, and as psychogeographic exposition of the urban ambiance, whilst acknowledging the interlocking multi-scalar hybrid nature of digitally mediated urban space, from embodied street-level action to the technological assemblages of surveillance satellites. Walking West is rooted in a Situationist understanding of the dérive as research method; a exposition of the city’s psychogeography. However, this was not a pure drift, as it set itself strict parameters that owe more to a tradition of durational performance art whilst maintaining an awareness of the psychogeographic contours of the street. The paper suggests this hybridity asserts the continued validity of the dérive as research method within artistic research, through reflecting on the practice of the walk, its art outcomes, and the future directions it suggests.
McGarrigle, C. (2020) “Walking West: a dérive along the “longest, wickedest street in America” ” In Proceedings of Drifting Bodies / Fluent Spaces, International Conference on Walking Arts, Guimarães, Portugal, 2020.