Saturday, 19 March 2016



Shadow Walker 2011 video installation, sound
duration: ca. 3 minutes
Dozens of artists have walked the walk in the name of art. One of the most famous is Richard Long, whose Walking to a Total Eclipse involved walking 366 miles in 8 days:

My talent as an artist is to walk across a moor or place a stone on the ground
My work is about movement and stillness
the walking and the stopping places

In 2009 the Hayward Gallery featured a different approach: its Walking in My Mind exhibition explored the inner working of several artists' imagination through dramatic, large-scale installation art. 

In September 2014 Frederic Gros, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris XII and author of The Art of Walking and Slowing Down was at Tate Modern  in conversation with the British conceptual artist  Richard Wentworth, who also chronicles daily life, challenging our taken-for-granted assumptions about the things that surround us.  'Look', he says, 'a plate is the only object where you get your own and the minute you have finished with it, it is someone else's'. In the book and the discussion there were lively excursions into the way Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Rousseau, Kant and Proust 'used' walking. 

Here Mark Wallinger’s  Shadow Walker (2011) 'uses' walking in yet another way, with a contrasting sense of openness, purpose unknown. He walks (we never see Wallinger but we know that he is there, because he says so), and his shadow  glides its way through the streets of London, sometimes lagging behind, at other times leaping out and stretching ahead, moving fluently over passing strangers and the kerb stones beneath them.  It ignores chewed gum, cigarette stubs, spilt liquids as if they were beyond contempt. 

It doesn't take long for us to see the shadows as having an autonomous existence, as ‘real’ as the artist’s actual body. I recall this happening in the first playground game I encountered. On a sunny day our object was to step or jump so nimbly that both feet landed firmly on someone else's shadow. Because shadows move so fast the possibility of disputes was endless but the stakes were high. If two feet had encroached on your shadow everything was spoiled: you became a bystander, out of the game, wanted by no one. A 'no-body'.

Fascination with shadows and the fear/delight at losing them has a long history. J M Barrie's  version of Peter Pan’s shadowy dilemma is central to his story: stolen from Peter, rolled up and put in a drawer as a bargaining counter, treated with soap and stitching in an effort to reunite it with its owner. J.M. Barrie writes that when Peter thought he was going to die he felt scared - and blithe - famously remarking  "To die will be an awfully big adventure'

Superego 2016
 In the South Gallery, the visitor is confronted by a new sculptural work, Superego, a scale model of the revolving sign outside the headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police. It's made of mirrors. Why is it called Superego? Because we understand superego as the all-seeing eye, omnipresent and omniscient, which acts to perfect, civilise, control, and suppress our behaviour. Here as it spins round and round it symbolises the ceaseless energy and vigilance of the police. 

A paradox is that a mirror offers the promise of self-reflection and the recognition of our unique identity. Here, however, the mirrors revolve implacably above our heads, remote and inaccessible. No part of us will smudge or blemish their purity.

1 comment: