WORK 05 / THE SELF / WALKS

WALKS 01/12 Every evening, after a day of walking, I use pen and paper to trace my movements. Every morning I manually retrace the resulting sketches on a vector graphic program using a computer mouse. The digitization occurs on a 52 by 52 centimeters layout. The top, right, bottom and left of the layout are respectively the north, east, south and west of where the walks occurred. The result is a layout with small drawings representing different cities or different areas of a city, or different places in nature. The more scattered these drawings are, the more I have made use of private or public transportation. In this respect I drove or I am taken to a site in which a walk is taken without any connection to the place where I live. Generally the place where I live is the drawing in the middle of the layout and the more attentive viewers will be able to recognize that is repeats itself in the various month panels, showing the more basic kinds of patterns such as walking to the supermarket. The more round the drawings are, the more I have been walking in a natural setting (Fig. Screenshot of a month of walks from a summer spent in the mountains. The actual trajectories are rather rounded showing different ascension and descension of the mountains surrounding my farm. Several walks have also been repeated several times during the course of one month and small variations have been added).

WALKS 02/12 In an exhibition setting, the resulting trajectories are engraved on transparent glass allowing the viewer to superimposed these trajectories on the outside landscape. In 2017 I was able to test such an effect in an exhibition I produced on the top floor of my alpine barn. While the trajectories were only in the end printed on a transparent film which was later applied on some large square windows, the actual result was interesting in a way as these sort of abstract tattoos got superimposed on the actual mountain landscape. To some extent then these lines become somewhat similar to the ancient geoglyphs visible from the air in the Nazca desert of Peru. In this case however they do not come to represent any mediation with some extraterrestrial divinity but they are a simple trace or rather an engraving I am myself leaving on the landscape by constantly roaming around it. While at last the landscape itself remains pretty much untouched by my walks, it is my brain that gets very much engraved by them as if the walks are part of an essential mental map I trace to orient myself and survive. Also this landscape is somewhat my natural landscape, the very place I chose to show my project, due to the fact that I so much enjoy hiking. (Fig. Picture of the purposely mounted square windows in my alpine barn with the adhesives of a year worth of walks).

WALKS 03/12 By looking through the various month layouts, an attentive viewer will also detect similar patterns or sudden changing in patterns or gradual increase or decrease of these patterns based on seasons and other conditions which more or less facilitate walking. These conditions are above all set by the weather such as rain or snow hindering me to take any walk. Other conditions can be also determined by the very urban environment in which I happen to live such as the pollution in a city like Shanghai and the alternative streets I was able to find to avoid the traffic there when walking. Also my physical conditions can often forces me indoor such as knee pain or the 2020 pandemic which has forced me and my kids to keep it for months in the same Dutch village where we live. Other hindering conditions to my walking and the strong urge I have to move is the fact that I have to work in a office. As I became unemployed, the actual work that prevents me from walking is more likely to be related to the building of my museum (Fig. Screenshot of a video I filmed while walking in Sweden crossing a frozen lake and trying to do as much movement in an otherwise very unmotivating and obscure Scandinavian winter. Wearing heavy boots and walking many a kilometers I began experiencing knee problems and in later years switched to lighter shoes and moved back to continental Europe).

WALKS 04/12 The variety of sketches presented each month in each panel also shows my economic situation. In a few occasions I might have a job but not so much time to take long walks. As a university researcher for example I had little time to walk but got travel and commute much more from one place to another, taking every opportunity to make small walks in whatever place I reached. By so doing I generated panels with many small and scattered sketches. In most occasions however I have been rather poor and often walked several miles to places not having the money to purchase a bus ticket. In this respect I have acted in accordance with the transcendentalist principles underlined by Henry David Thoreau who said that it is faster to walk to a place than having to go to work to be able to afford the train ticket to go somewhere. With my oldest son then not only I taught him to take long walks while living in Sweden but also we walked together across entire metropolis like walking from Brooklin to Central Park or reaching the opposite end of a big city, like walking weekly from Cambridge to the cheap fruit market in Boston and back with the grocery despite the snow (Fig. An early screenshot showing me retracing a daily walk. As one A4 paper might not be sufficient to trace my walk, I either continue the tracing on the other side of the paper or attach another A4 to it or use a bigger paper).

WALKS 05/12 Generally I easily remember my movements in well known environments and can reconstruct with my own head a cartography of the places I explore. Over the years I have also become quite skilled in reproducing manually the hand drawing I make of my movements. For the reproduction I use an old fashion computer mouse and select two points in space to either make a straight line or a curve. Often also I make use of a cutting tool to break the lines I make so as to delete a part of them. I also make use of a feature aligning the starting or ending point of a new line with the starting or ending point of an old line. Following are the parameters that I use to render by hand my walks. To do so I use LayOut, a now obsolete software freely distributed by Google up to 2009. Here the document is set to 52 by 52 centimeters, an the margins 1 centimeter. The stroke of the actual line I use to retrace my walks is set to 1 point and the fill feature is unchecked. After a panel of month of walks is completed, I export it to .pdf format in the highest quality and making sure to uncheck the layers button so as to superimpose the drawings of previous month files. (Fig. Picture of my usual morning set up to retrace the walks I have first traced on paper. I could easily just copy and paste certain patterns I drew in older month files but every month perfect them by drawing them from scratch).

WALKS 06/12 Walking has become for me a vital mean to slowly exploring the foreign landscapes where I have lived most of my life. In some regard then it can be said that I exported to other countries my alpine culture of an excursionist. As once said by Geronimo, the run-away native American, the legs were his best friends. For me also my legs are a valuable means to keep in motion and fresh in my head and my body especially as I do not have any steady income and cannot afford public or private transport nor a gym where to do such activities. Plainly put it I prefer walking. In walking perhaps I find myself opposing the stoic predicament addressed by Seneca of not wandering around so as not to get contaminated with the urban corruption. I have indeed crossed many a cities, whether in Stockholm, or Shanghai, or Boston, or Venice, or Utrecht yet in later years I have settled in a small town and have not been traveling much to other places in order to take care of my youngest children. With them however I walk daily several kilometers getting them used to a semi-nomadic and open air culture (Fig. Picture of a folded A3 paper in which I have been tracing the walks I took with my kids in and around our Dutch village. Here we usually walk through the city center and over the old and new dikes. I try to often alternate the kind of round tours we take also in accordance with the weather).

WALKS 07/12 I try to keep in motion at least half of the day aiming to be itinerant like my hero outsider artist and 19th century postman Ferdinand Cheval. The latter was walking over 30 kilometers every day. It was living already in tight economic restrictions that in 2020 I also began to experience the restrictions imposed by the government not to move around because of the coronavirus pandemic. In this respect I had experienced another form of unprecedented control of my movements. Living out in the open however, these politically imposed restrictions were rather limited and during the time of the pandemic I was anyway able to take long walks with my children. We weren't however able to go to nearby cities or anyway travel elsewhere and explore other places. In this respect during this period there is only a single drawing representing my movements in and around the same village (Fig. Screenshot showing me on one of my daily walks with my small children. Specifically this walk belong to a repertoire of walks I try to repeat regularly every month. From the south of Utrecht where my girlfriend works, I cross an old cemetery and via an abandoned railroad I reach a park in the very north of the city where I can feed and change my kids prior walking through the historic center back to their mother eventually making them sleep).

WALKS 08/12 Several artists I used to know like Mikael Lundberg and Jacek Smolicki but also many other media artists have used Global Positioning System devices to automatically trace their daily movements. I am doing so manually and so did the durational performance artist Tehching Hsieh in his one year long outdoor performance in the 1980s. The latter was using maps of Manhattan to trace his movements and annotate what he was doing at particular locations. In my case I do not provide any geographical indications. I do not provide any way to geolocate my walks and in turn be monitored by the surveillance apparatus. I do write an account explaining the resulting panel of walks but it is up to the viewer to relate it to the drawing. Simply my effort is to retrace my walks using my own mental orientation in space. In this respect the more I am familiar with a space and the more I am able to accurately retrace it. This is an easy matter in more natural setting but can be quite challenging in intricate cities like the historical center of Venice. The manual tracing of these older cities become more complicated and often I have to improvise my retracing until with time my sense of orientation improves (Fig. Rendering showing a possible view of the trajectory superimposed on the Iseo Lake in northern Italy where I first thought of building a showroom for my project).

WALKS 09/12 In addition to being a transcendentalist practice and a means to survive in times of economic difficulties, walking is something I have somewhat inherited by my mountain ancestors. In remote times they migrated across the alps moving in the 13th century from Bavaria to inhabit the alps of the Venice Republic. In their service for the republic later they became shepherds taking the flock down to the Italian plateaus during the winter and then back in the mountains during the summer. As the Republic with Napoleon fell and the region was colonized by the Austrians my ancestors made a living smuggling tobacco across the alps and always on foot so as to better escape the border guards. As the alpine region of my ancestors was included in the Italian state, the World War I made them refugees. In World War II my father's father was among the few survivals of the Russian offensive against the Nazi army invading their land. During the winter of 1943 he then had to walk through south west Russia into Ukraine (Fig. Screenshot showing me taking my girlfriend in more secretive and non touristic paths of an Italian city. In my life I was able to discover many unbeaten paths just by roaming around. I prefers such organic and historical and landscape walks to any straight and modern and trafficked walks. In a way, given my explorative inclination I make it a good guide).

WALKS 10/12 My walking is a most peripatetic as well as cynic practice. It enables me to observe the reality around me and in turn feed the various works of this project. While walking in a city I may look for public places to film and trash to pick up on the sidewalk. I can also get inspired with new ideas to draw and in a more open and/or natural setting like a park or a countryside I may observe the shapes of clouds. When alone also walking becomes my studio; walking I am able to set my brain to work and get more in depth with my thoughts. Either way also when walking with one of my kids or a friend I am able to have my best conversations. In one occasion I took a 100 kilometers walk across and around both the European and the Asian side of Istanbul. I was with my former Polish friend Jacek Smolicki then and during this walk we recorded our 36 hours long conversation. We wished to transcribe it in its entirety but the recording did not turn out so clear and we abandoned the idea. While with friends like Jacek I marching for days in a row was never an issue, I often have a strong feeling to walk but do not want to drag people along with my pace as if we were marching and I was some kind of Cesar pushing its soldiers forward (Fig. Rendering showing how the glass panels with the engraves of my walks would superimpose on the actual alpine landscape where I have built my museum).

WALKS 11/12 Every evening I retrace my walks on paper mentally going through the actual places I have crossed. Possibly due to my alpine heritage, I might have a particular predisposition to do such mental rehearsal. I have noticed that I can apply this technique also going mentally backward through the places visited during a walk. This particular mental faculty might be related to my natural instinct to get oriented in a new place, creating a virtual 3D map I store in my head in order to survive within it. What it is most interfering with this process is however the actual GPS technology and the directions provided by smartphones via for example Google Maps. While my maps are more similar to those that cartographers made prior the 18th century, before the use of actual techniques to perfectly retrace the earth, all the new mapping system and the way certain directions are imposed on people mostly confuses the actual organic mapping my brain is largely processing. In this respect my practice break with the itineraries imposed by the new mapping systems, often also addressing people certain ways for commercial reasons or reasons of social control (Fig. Screenshot showing me taking a solitary walk in Berlin. While departing from conventional tourist itineraries I have always attempted to explore the more peripheral territories often without consulting any guide and walking as much as 45 km a day).

WALKS 12/12 In an ideal exhibition, the resulting 432 square glass in which all the walks I have undertaken every month are engraved, should be placed in a 21 by 21 matrix. This matrix would result in a giant window resembling that of a modern building of for example a corporation. The matrix would leave 9 glass blank as 21 by 21 equals 44. Staircases in the “apse” of this ideal exhibition not only lead to different corridors but also enables visitors to look closely at the engraved walks. Moreover the three ramps of staircases elevate the visitors in an increasingly sublime landscape which the height unveils. To a great extent all the locations I have sought to build or prototype this exhibitions were all considered to accommodate this particular work. While all the other works are in fact presented indoor, the glass matrix seeks to merge the viewers with a sublime natural surrounding like that facing a setting sun in a sea or over some mountains. Most ideally the building was thought to be placed on an Icelandic or Irish cliff with the matrix facing east such as on a coast ridge (Fig. Rendering of the ideal exhibition where the engraved glass with the walks I have made are highlighted red. Through the resulting square matrix of glasses the staircases can be seen. Notice how the actual building should be ideally located on a precipice to emphasize this sublime experience of ascension).