Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Just for the sheer heck of it, I decided to Google “Lady Gaga walking.”  I mean Lady Gaga’s OK with me.  I don’t suppose I’m ever likely go to one of her concerts or buy her music, but her existence seems to add to the general gaiety of the planet, and that's to be respected and embraced.

And the thing is, even if you’ve never seen a concert or heard a note of her music, you’re still aware of her, and at the very least you’ve surely seen pictures of her in some laughable outfit or other.  And as often as not she’s wearing these outfits while walking in the street, not always walking very far admittedly, going from her car to a party or club or whatever, but other times she seems to be just out and about, and somehow the street setting and the just plain folks we often see walking in the background, make the image even more startling.

In one way, walking in the street looking like this seems quite a brave thing to do, but in another way it’s actually very self-protective.  The “real” Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) is clearly not on display here. 

And maybe, in a way, this applies even when she’s without clothes. As Catherine Millet, the author of The Sexual Life of Catherine M,  once said to me, “My body is not me.”  I believe she said this had something to do with Gnosticism.  Here she is walking, kind of:

And so even when Lady Gaga is walking naked, doing that ludicrous promotion for the  Marina Abramovic Kickstarter campaign - "The Abramovic Method helps participants to develop skills for observing long durational performances through a series of exercises and environments designed to increase awareness of their physical and mental experience in the moment."  Well again, it still looks like the “real” person is somewhere  else.

I’ve written elsewhere about the piece “The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk” from
1988, in which Abramovic and her then boyfriend Ulay decided to mark the end of their relationship with an art performance, setting off from different ends of the Great Wall of China and walking for 90 days until they met up in Shaanxi province.  There they embraced and went their separate ways forever.

Now, I am not a performance artist, but I do know a little about break ups, and I think that if I’d been Ulay I’d have stayed right where I was – he was actually at the western end of the Wall on the edge of the Gobi Desert, a pleasant enough spot I imagine – and I’d have hung around there until La Abramovic arrived, presumably 180 days later.  “Hey kid, you’re the art superstar who uses endurance as an essential part of her artistic praxis!”
Anyway, for the further heck of it I Googled “Abramovic walking” and up popped this image:

The Abramovic (actually Abramovich) in question is Roman of that ilk, the “Russian businessman” and owner of Chelsea Football Club. The caption reads “After the final whistle in Chelsea’s turgid 1-1 home draw with Rosenberg of Norway in the Champions League Group B opener in 2007, Abramovich was seen marching into the dressing room.”  
I’ll bet that was a performance, if not necessarily art.

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