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Walking Art &

Up until now, walking was body-dominated, associated with its primitive beginnings— the human ability to move about on two legs. However, now, people are considering what walking means in virtual worlds. In the environment of increasingly advanced technology, how do digital media, electronic data, and system created by artist form the way of people's walking?Take “technology guided walks” as an example. There are several artists who have made walking art using different digital media, such as, radio, mobile phone, wearable machines and so on, to create virtual and hybrid experiences about walking.



These artworks listed in this section show how technology extends our body's perceptual system, blurs our identity and forms the concept of muti-space which is able to be perceived. In their artworks, electronic devices have become our prosthetics, and posthuman ideas have been proposed. Walking is not only seen as a tool, but a process and the artwork itself, consequently new issues in society and possibilities for space are constantly being raised and questioned. It can be said that walking activates the entire social space even more.

Willem de Ridder , The walk nr 1, nr 2, nr 3, 1981

In 1981, De Appel premiered the Radio Art Resonance artwork “The Walk” by Fluxus artist Willem de Ridder. Participants departed from De Appel and started a journey with instructions from Willem de Ridder on a cassette tape and via Dutch radio.


Excerpt from De Ridder: Retrospective. Amsterdam: Holland Festival/Groninger Museum, 1983, n.p.

Radio creates a chance for telecommunication, and in De Ridder's work, it became an intermediary between the artist and the walkers, guiding people’s walking. As the comic shows in De Ridder: Retrospective. Amsterdam, the cassette becomes a connection between people. The real world becomes a stage and a place for adventure to happen. Audiences become listeners and participants, erasing the boundary between audiences and actors. It involves role switching, ambiguity between opposing environments such as of the stage and viewing space, the virtual and the real experiences. The world is no longer a single world, but comprised of multiple worlds.


Jill Magid, Evidence Locker. Trust (video still edited by the Forensic Imaging Unit). Digital video. 18 min. 2004

In 2004, surveillance cameras guide Jill Magid to walk in the city. On her website, Magid said she cooperated with the police from Citywatch, to use their citywide video surveillance. In the video “Trust”, she closed her eyes and was guided by the police remotely via their surveillance system and by following their voices through the streets. It was also filmed by surveillance cameras. She intentionally allowed the police to guide her walking using the cameras which challenged their sole function as crime-prevention/detection tools for enforcement agencies. Magid breaks the original city view by building a new relationship with the surveillance system and the police. 

Evidence Locker. Trust (video still edited by the Forensic Imaging Unit). Digital video. 1

Simon Laroche and Etienne Grenier ,This is no game, 2008,

This is no game which was created by Simon Laroche and Etienne Grenier in 2008 is a performance project where the public is invited to take control over the actions of two performers using a joystick. Serving as the avatars of the players who are literally blind, the two performers wander through the city and interact with passersby. Images of their movements and surrounding environment are processed and broadcast through video cameras which are set on each of the performers’ heads. Even though they are free in their movements, their actions are enslaved to the players. When your walking becomes a part of the game, does that mean you are walking in reality or walking in the virtual world? When walking is no longer driven by yourself, how does this change our interaction with the environment? Artists create a speculative perspective to think about how the virtual world is increasingly becoming woven into our urban and social landscapes.

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Lawrence Malstaf, Compass, 2005,

Compass, from 2005, created by Lawrence Malstaf, is a wearable machine artwork which can guide audiences to walk in an exhibition space. Audiences need to sign a liability wavier before putting on the imposing annular machine. Then, they are invited to start walking. When approaching certain areas, the machine forcefully rotates their waist to redirect them to turn left and right, interfering with their original direction. Spatial concepts are brought into question through the contradiction between invisible constructed virtual spaces and the visible physical space. Between them, the only connection is walking. Walking expands the perception and exploration of space under the control of machines, while also illuminating psychogeography in a new way.


In Knowles’s work, he mounted a windvane on his helmet which can rotate based on the direction of the wind. Then he allows himself to be directed by the wind through his device, being guided by an invisible power. In his interaction with the wind, he voluntarily relinquishes his dominance. This way of walking Knowles uses in his work, has changed the normal rhythm and flow of human walking in the city. He not only challenges the human instinct to exert control when faced with the forces of nature, but he also defines more of the space based on each wind-driven movement.


Juan Eduardo Flores, Walking Poem, 2023

In Flores’s Walking Poem, we can also find the attraction and poetry from randomness. He finds a way to express this poetic walking through randomness. In the beginning, he is interested in the phenomenon of words floating out of soluble paper when it is immersed in water. Then he creates a walking device to hold water and this soluble paper with walking instructions written on it. The words of instruction float out of the paper when he is walking and being guided by his whole device and performing his instruction. It ends up with the rearrangement of floating words on a new normal paper which is the result of his walking. The traces left by walking are always invisible, but Flores transformed it into poetry through such movement. The system becomes a way to indexically record the movements of the walk. In his walking device, it is as a container of the guide which also has a two cameras with forth and back directions and a level. This brings more experience layers to his walking. Balance, environment, walking, and guided words are like different scores which compose the movement of walking, forming a poetic landscape in the city.

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Xin Chen, 移公愚山 The Walking Man, 2022

The artwork 移公愚山 was created by Xin Chen in 2022 as his graduation show in China. The title refers to a famous Chinese fable which tells the story of a man named Yu Gong who moves a mountain. However, the artwork title differs slightly from the original fable's title, allowing it to be read as "a moving man fools the mountain". Chen is interested in traditional land surveying techniques which have become an outdated approach to surveying with the development of satellite technology and the digital revolution. Chen ties a self-designed device to his leg which can record the altitude, latitude and longitude, and the time information when he walks in the mountains. This device serves as his prosthetic. Then he transfers that data into virtual space to recreate geological features such as a mountain. Through his work, audiences can see how he completes the topological modeling of a mountain using his body. Each step of Chen creates a point in a new virtual space. And the creation of the virtual space is driven by his curiosity of and exploration in the real world.

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Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk, 2012

Janet Cardiff created a lot of walking-related artworks. In 2012, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller made an artwork which also explored multi-spaces. As it is presented on their website, The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk was designed for the old train station in Kassel, Germany as part of dOCUMENTA. Alter Bahnhof Video Walk is a prerecorded video. Audiences can borrow an iPod and walk through the station guided by the video made by artists. Because the audiences are the same location as where the footage was shot, they can feel the presence of those events from the video deeply. When they try to frame them as if they were the camera operator, a strange blurring of realities occurs.


Baoyang Chen, Do Androids Dream of Electric Cows?, 2017

Alluding to the similarly named science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, VR artwork named Do Androids Dream of Electric Cows? was created by Baoyang Chen in 2017. He created a physical maze using single-sided glass mirrors and also created a VR space. Viewers wear the VR to walk through the maze in the physical space while unlike the physical maze, the setting within the VR space is open. As a result, while the viewer participant is moves through the virtual world, they become limited in their possibility of movement in the physical world. By creating a contradiction between the virtual and the real worlds, the concept of space during this process is dismantled and recombined over and over again. In this way, the audience constantly has to discard their original psychological map and reshape a new one. Additionally, as the viewer participant clumsily stumbles through the maze, the traces of their encounters with the physical barriers of the maze begins to form a new landscape. Therefore, their actions and movement become a part of the work and a part of the landscape as well, which in turn begins to blur the line between the viewer and the participants. 


© 2017-2024 Yuwen Huang 

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