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.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


One of the smaller regrets in my life is that when I was unemployed in Sheffield in the 1980s I turned down the chance to become an apprentice dry stone waller.  How very different life might have been.   Maybe – and I realize this is very, very unlikely – I could have ended up as land artist in the mold of Andy Goldsworthy.

There’s a new documentary about him, titled Leaning Into the Wind, and in the trailer he says, “There are two ways of looking at the world.  You can walk down the path, or you can walk through the hedge.”

Does anybody still use that phrase “dragged through a hedge backwards”?  My mother used to say it about me when I was looking particularly disheveled, but as I used to point out, if you’re pulled through a hedge backwards you’re going to look rather better than if you’re pulled through it forwards.

Andy Goldsworthy has something in common with walking artists like Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, but as far as I can tell he doesn’t really use walking as part of his practice.  However, since he’s usually working outdoors, making site specific sculptures, then I suppose he must do a certain amount of walking to get to and from the sites.  The piece below at Storm King, titled Storm King Wall is a length of dry stone walling that runs to 2,278 feet, so a certain amount of walking is required just to get from one end of it to the other.

Actually it’s not even that simple – the wall disappears, as it were, into water and emerges on the other side, so unless you can walk on water a detour is involved.

I’ve also walked around a Goldsworthy in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, this one, called Hanging Trees:  

I know I also saw his Garden of Stones at The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York but as far as I can remember, at the time I went there you weren’t allowed to walk in it.  

The image below on the museum website suggests you can walk there now, though obviously not very far.

As far as I can see, there's an absence both of paths and hedges.

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