Hamish Fulton walk, October 20th, Penzance


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One faces Penzance. An arm’s length to the right, another faces Marazion. Fifty or more line up behind each. Straight lines. 

Both lines begin to move, so slowly that it takes an hour to pass each other. When those at the head  stand beside those at the tail, the lines halt. All disperse.

It is simple, yet difficult; as simple and difficult as it might be to draw a circle.

It is as impersonal. The art work does not require our experience to be one thing or another. As long as we are co-operative the art work will “work”.

But that depends on where you locate the artwork, or the significance of the day. Is it in the photography or the walk? In the past, Fulton has suggested: ‘What I build is an experience, not a sculpture’ (cited in Tufnell 2002:16). He has also said that walking does not need to be made into a work of art (1995:242).

What is the experience? A kind of meditation, certainly, but meditation takes many and simpler forms.

I write, to find out what the experience might have meant to me. Despite my doubts, I realise that it is about the landscape after all. It is about form, about light and shade, fixity and movement, the dynamic of geometric lines across a fluid expanse. It is about the effort of this imposition, its delicate brutality. It is walking, but it is like living a sculpture from the inside out:

We stand fast in our line, letting the scene drench us, hurling in out of a white sea

Ripples beneath our feet double the slender legs of a dog, pausing, hesitating, bewildered by our stillness

“It’s Cornwall: it’ll pass” and in that moment a rainbow over the rocks, then gradually the sun’s warmth, only to submerge in blue clouds before gilding the ripples again

The two lines begin to move, if you can call it movement. Breathing hard as we double-underline this beach in black.

The slow emergence of a step and counting. An in-breath; an out-breath. The swing of a foot onto wet sand. The back in front of me. A smile glimmers beside me, turned toward Marazion. Another slow step toward Penzance.

I feel like a dancer, or an automaton, or cold and tetchy, or like the sun on the sea, or watching.

A tripod scuttles around us: a spider across a painting.

Mobile phones flicker their mirrors and my fingers turn to stone.

St. Michael’s Mount is an enchanted castle at my back.

The rest is all fluidity, moving faster than we are.


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Fulton, H. 1995, ‘Into a Walk into Nature’ in Land and Environmental Art, J. Kastner and B. Wallis (Eds), London and NY: Phaidon, pp.242-3

Tufnell, B. 2002, ‘Introduction’ to Hamish Fulton: Walking Journey, B. Tufnell and A. Wilson (Eds), London:Tate Publishing, pp.16-17.

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