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.
Showing posts with label Noah Purifoy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Noah Purifoy. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


I am, or at least used to be, a bit of a scavenger when I walk.  I’m well aware of the eco tourist mantra “Leave only footprints, take only photographs” which the interwebs attribute to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe.  However, since his dates are 1786 – 1866 it seems unlikely he’d have given all that much thought to photography.  There is one, and only one, known photograph of him, from 1865.

I have no argument with the chief, or anyone else about this.  Obviously I’m not in favor of driving a truck into the Mojave desert and loading it up with native flora and fauna, but if you’re walking in some scrubby bit of territory, outside any kind of designated park or preserve, and you find a horse bone or a bit of inscrutable machinery lying in your path, well I don’t think it’s the crime of the century to pick it up and put in your backpack and take it home with you.

And when you’re walking in the city I think it’s perfectly ok to pick up just about any old thing that’s lying in the street – books, toys, a loud speaker.  You could claim you were picking up litter, beautifying the environment.

But then the question arises of what you actually do with all this disjecta when you get it home.  For years I’ve been accumulating stuff and putting it on shelves in a little room off the garage.

And I suppose there was always some idea in the back of my mind that I might become a junk sculptor like Noah Purifoy, or one of those curator-artists like Mark Dion, both of whom I admire greatly.

But the years go by and the sculpture doesn’t get made, and yes I suppose any accumulation involves a kind of curating but I don’t see the good folks from the Pitt Rivers museum knocking at my door, asking me to install a display of the Nicholson collection, and so recently I’ve been thinning the archive, perhaps better described as throwing away junk, which is, in general, a remarkably pleasurable experience. 

At the same time (and I’m not sure if this is part of the same impulse or its opposite) I’ve been photographing the stuff before I throw it away.   As you see.

But then just a few days back I was out walking and I saw a machete on the ground at the side of the street.  Obviously it had been left there by a worker who’d forgotten it when he was packing up, and yes it’s obviously wrong to steal a man’s tools, but equally the man couldn’t have valued the machete all much or he wouldn’t have left it behind.  And so despite my resolution not to pick up more stuff I really did want that machete.  And the only reason I didn’t take it was because I’d have had to walk down the street with it in my hand, and I thought that by the time I got home somebody would have seen me and called the cops to report a dangerous armed lunatic in the neighbourhood.  So I left it where it was and I had to make do with a photograph. 

But I kept thinking about it and the next day I went for a walk down the same street and the machete had gone.  I hope it went to somebody who needed it more than I did, not hard since I didn’t really need it at all.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Let me begin by quoting Homer Simpson (or at Tim Long who wrote the lyrics) and his song “I Love to Walk”  - ironic, huh?

Oh, I love to perambulate,
It's standing still I really hate.
So let me please reiterate:
I love to—

I’ll eventually explain the relevance of that remark.

I’m always interested in the odd way that people walk in art galleries – soberly, quietly, with reverence, a little hesitantly, showing off the fact that they’re serious about this whole art business.  And I’m no different.  My walking in art galleries is as inauthentic as anybody else’s.  But the consequence is that after about an hour of this kind of non-standard walking your feet are sore, your legs and back are aching, and you’re in need of a sit down in the museum cafe.  If you’d done an hour’s walking in the real world you’d be fine, but a short walk on the hard floors of a gallery just gets to you.

One “art space” I know where things are very different is the Noah Purifoy Foundation in Joshua Tree, a ten acre open air desert sculpture park (so much more fun than that sounds) where you tread the sand of the Mojave desert.  Walking around there is somehow very much easier.

Lately however, there’s been a Noah Purifoy show at the LACMA (that’s the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – a name they rarely use cos I suspect they think it sounds a bit square).  This exhibition partly involved bringing some of the outdoors in.   Certain of Purifoy’s outdoor works had been transported to the museum gallery from the desert. 

Frankly I was a bit worried about this, I thought the move to the interior of a formal art gallery might diminish Purifoy’s work.  And certainly I think the works they’ve got at LACMA look as though they’ve been seriously cleaned up, a thing that Purifoy himself never did to them.  

On balance I think the exhibition just about got away with it.  I think the sculptures look very much better out in the wilds, in their natural habitat, but they still look pretty good in a museum too. 

LACMA wasn’t crowded on the day I was there, and of course I looked closely at at Noah Purifoy’s art, but inevitably I also observed the few other people in the gallery, seeing at how they walked.  And I was looking at this one guy – surprisingly well-developed calves (maybe walkers’ calves), and with a Band-Aid on one shin. 

And blow me down – I suddenly realized it was Dan Castellanata – the guy who voices Homer Simpson.  I was far too cool to go over and talk talk to him, but I was quite uncool enough to sneak a picture of him as I was photographing some of Purifoy’s work.