Friday, 01 May 2020
LESSON 03 / RITUAL as Archive (Walking and Observation)

“Breathe with unconditional breath the unconditioned air.
– Wendell Berry, How to Be a Poet 

__ learn about ways walking has been part of a collective history (Solnit, Civil Rights)
__ take a walk, collect (take photos) images of anything that strikes you (suspend judgement)
__ continue to develop skills and confidence with your personal archive, learn to take what comes to you, observe it, reflect on it and edit

__ CreatingYourArchive_SESSION3
__ Thomas Nozkowski on a Hike
__ Vito Acconci, Following Piece


this week, you go for a walk in your neighborhood (observing social distancing of course) set out with a way to document (phone camera is fine, as you’ll be uploading some of the photos). don’t get too hung up on a perfectly composed image, taking photos can be a way of notetaking, which becomes your archive. resist being too precious about what or how you capture, just what strikes you now. years or days from now, your archive might begin to set up some patterns to the way you look and think.

post 3-5 images in the classroom and tell us a bit about your walk and what caught you, visually. all work must be submitted by monday @ 12noon (nyc time) and all students must check back and comment on at least one other student’s work by 2p (nyc time). 

__ New Yorker on Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust
__ the Flaneur
__ Walking/Marching in Civil Right History
__ Thinking Fast and Slow

Ways of organizing and processing our reading inputs


  • Melissa Dunn: Here are a few more in thinking about Thomas Nozkowski. I feel...
  • Melissa Dunn: I have to admit that all weekend I kept forgetting to take...
  • cary: There are some great images here. Such an interesting mix and some...
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1 May 2020 2:20pm

First observation happened before I had left my seat on the back porch and before Jodi’s video was finished. My eye was caught by an unintended, accidental color combination outside the studio. I’m not a big fan of purples generally but I love using it in the garden. (See the photos of a border that was intentionally planted to have an evolving and undulating flow of deep purple through silver to white.) The unexpected was noticing the salmon orange and the purpley blue of the catmint. I pulled the pot closer so I could see them side by side. I’ve left it there for the time being. How each pops against the other is deeply satisfying.

1 May 2020 3:11pm

This book just came in the mail. Opened it to a random page. It could not be more apt to our purposes.
Jodi – the Paper app is called Paper by WeTransfer. There is an optional upgrade to a Pro version (subscription for 11.99 a year) that adds tools and functions that I think are worth the dollar a month.

Alexandria Roland
Alexandria Roland
3 May 2020 9:11pm

I’ve always loved walking around my neighborhoods, primarily because I am curious, but I also enjoy getting to potentially meet new neighbors and to take in the area I call “home.” I have been living in the East Hill neighborhood of East Nashville for almost a year, and plan on continuing my lease for the next year. As with most neighborhoods in Nashville, there are handfuls of new-builds sprinkled in with older established homes, and I enjoy seeing how each one mingles with the other. I took quite a few pics of personalized touches on homes and in yards, but I was also attracted by both construction and deconstruction in the neighborhood. A lot of great colors to see as well, especially because it was about to rain. I thought the blue porta potty in the bed of irises was pretty funny, and most of the photos I’ve attached have pops of bright colors mixed in with rich greens.

emma davis
4 May 2020 10:06am

I’ve been out on a rather Lockdown chilly Monday walk. Nowhere remotely pastoral: the streets near my studio. There is the famous Kensal Green cemetery next door which always makes me cry with graves of 20 year olds surrounded by tired deflated balloons and photos. This time it was residential streets, half occupied by building workers, stranded scaffolding, and laundry drying outside windows. This is an unlovely unloveable area that used to be called the piggeries after the laundries that used to service the new fancy houses of West London.

emma davis
4 May 2020 10:13am

The Area was called ‘the potteries’ and the ‘piggeries’: ” Beyond the Colony of pig-keepers at the end of Pottery Lane I discovered another in Latimer Road. . . . But what a place it was when 1 first discovered it—comparatively out of the world—a rough road cut across the fields the only approach. Brick-fields and pits on either side, making it dangerous to leave on dark nights. A safe place for many people who did not wish everybody to know what they were doing.” In this desolate region the worthy man conducted services and established a day school.”

j o h n r o s
4 May 2020 10:14am

walking around the city is when i do my best thinking… i think it has something to do with the shower principle? i took these images on my walk to the studio saturday morning. i tried to focus most on pictures i would not normally stop to take… i think it worked for the most part… but also got some good traditional “john ros” photos. here is the group of all images…

4 May 2020 10:22am

I went on a walk on Saturday evening and the route was mainly determined by avoiding being blinded by the setting sun while walking west. Crossed Music Row and left our own neighborhood and headed through what is mostly Vanderbilt property to 21st Ave. mostly so I could take in the view of the city from the top of the hill and see the horizon for once.
The light was lovely and it did great things to rusted metal and sandstone.
I tried to practice not editing what caught my eye. Several shots were of very boring buildings and the failed attempts at decorative details on them to make them look older than they are. By contrast one quirky red painted building near us has stained glass windows – it’s an old music studio and it’s set to be demolished and replaced by a much larger building.
I’m not sure if I like the telephone lines because they are lines or because of the negative shapes they make in the sky.
Like Alexandria, I noticed pops of color on random objects.

j o h n r o s
4 May 2020 10:26am

these were good surprises for me. less of my internal/intuitive editor present. what they all have in common is some level of organics. because i work site-responsively, i mostly deal with what is around, which for the past 10 years has tended toward the post industrial/city/urban landscape in and/or around old warehouses. organics rarely find their way into the recent work. the last time i spend any amount of time dedicated to working with natural/organic landscape directly was in 2006 @ the vermont studio center … painting during the spring/mud season and 2007 back in nyc and dedicating a series of collages to the struggle between the urban and rural — mostly thinking about my commute up and down the hudson line metronorth railroad to and from the city — observing the hudson river and the palisades across the way.

emma davis
4 May 2020 10:26am

I spent a lot of time in University College’s special London Library which held Mayhew’s London Poor and the stratification of criminal activity across the streets in the city, which recalls this evaluation of this area: “Bad housing, and the inherited effects of alcoholism, improvidence and vice have tended to sap the vitality of the sons and daughters of the Dale. But other causes have contributed to its degradation. If the railway embankment of the West London Junction Railway had not cut off communication with the west, and if St. Clement’s Road had been carried through St. James’s Square, as was originally intended, instead of ending abruptly behind the houses, Notting Dale would not have been a backwater, and probably would never have become such a notorious ” Guilt Garden,” a sink for the dregs of other localities.“

j o h n r o s
4 May 2020 10:31am

cary… o-m-goodness… your garden! i don’t think i would leave!
lexie… love your finds. who doesn’t love the awkward necessity of a perfectly placed port-a-potty?
andy… sames goes with your tree house! i would not leave! (as long as i had access to wifi) 🙂 and the lines of twigs! obsessed with line lately.
emma… i miss london! such fond memories.

what fun to explore what is in plain sight. thank you all.

Cherith Lundin
4 May 2020 11:27am

I walk my neighborhood several times a day, and never alone – it’s been a good way to clear our heads, for either my husband and I, or me and my kids. Maybe I’ll trace this week’s routes for my book, we’ll see… We finally have spring here, after prolonged cold and rain, so my eyes have been drawn up, to where things are changing the most right now: the leaves and flowers on trees. I walk this neighborhood so much, that it feels very known – after months of sameness, finally the world in it is changing.

Cary, I am in awe of your garden!!

And Alexandria, those pops of color and funky black plastic tubes made me keep coming back to your photos.

Like the slowness of our spring, the practices and containers and streams we’ve been talking about are going to take some time in my studio as well – I’m eager to get to some organizing once my semester is over next week.

Alexandria Roland
Alexandria Roland
4 May 2020 1:43pm

Really enjoyed seeing everyone’s neighborhood and their routine walks. Cary, your garden is beautiful, looks like the dream garden my parents are currently working towards. Emma and John, I loved your walks around the cities you’re in. Getting to see the texture and color differences between our neighborhoods is quite fun.

4 May 2020 5:16pm

There are some great images here. Such an interesting mix and some lovely common threads.

Emma – I grew up for the first 13 years of my life in Surrey and I love seeing your London photos and the text is so interesting. Brings back many memories including a rather ironic one – a day long walking tour of the city in the early 80s with my Dad and a camera that I did for a Brownie badge. I still have the book I put together as a record.

There’s a common thread in many images we’ve collected on our walks of the places and moments where the urban man-made and nature sit cheek to jowl. And that does seem to be its own kind of implicit commentary on the environments we find ourselves in.

A key reason I wanted to transform our garden was because of gentrification and the destruction of so much green space as gardens in our street disappeared to make way for vastly bigger houses that fill up the lots. It made me very aware of the strain being put on the local wildlife habitats. So it’s become a secluded haven for me – I know no better activity for mental well being than gardening- and for wildlife and I see it as a labour of love that is part living art work and part social/political act/witness. (I got the garden registered with the National Wildlife Foundation as an urban wildlife habitat and they supplied me with a metal plaque on the front fence.

It’s an ego test to garden in that more public space where if it goes wrong everyone can see it. Thankfully it’s gone mostly well so far and the birds and insects seem to like it. They are the only critics that matter in the end. Which might be true of art too I suppose.

Melissa Dunn
Melissa Dunn
4 May 2020 6:26pm

I have to admit that all weekend I kept forgetting to take my phone on walks and then I’d see something to document and I’d realize I didn’t have it. I guess I habitually go for making myself ‘scarce’ as I perambulate. I appreciate how much this course is helping me see my habits around how I gather and sort. Here are some shot from around my house today.

Melissa Dunn
Melissa Dunn
4 May 2020 6:45pm

Here are a few more in thinking about Thomas Nozkowski. I feel a deep kinship with him because when I walk what I’m mostly noticing are how shapes interact with one another. This time last year I went on a week long silent mediation retreat at a Buddhist monastery. Every day 200 people quietly walked together very very slowly together around the grounds for an hour. I’m thinking about those walks a lot right now, what it means to walk alone vs. with people, the luxury of both. How walking in it’s very nature quiets our mind (Thinking Fast and Slow – great book!) and gives us pause to process our life and the visual inputs we artists are inundated with. It’s wonderful to see a window into all of your worlds. I wish I could go on a quiet slow walk with you all.