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Book review: Walking From Scores

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Published as a paperback, the books 500+ pages carry a lot of weight.
Granted, all material in its pages is available in both English and French, doubling the volume, but the contents is an impressive overview of the long-running history of walking art, as well; Elena Biserna collated the work of some 60 artists, spanning several decades, all, in one way or another, fitting the description ‘walking score’.

In the introduction, Biserna justifies her curation, leaning on a history of Fluxus, the Situationists, and John Cage, she points out that walking scores, written in plain text as opposed to musical notation, are more easily accessible. And, through that, bring a promise of a kind of societal discovery.

Biserna brings up the unique aspects of walking scores, as per Fluxus: they question notions of authenticity, originality, and auctoriality. That is, the work can take on different forms, can be reproduced, and sees the artist lose control over the final product.

This makes this kind of walking art ‘incidental’, which also covers my personal interest in the field.
Or, perhaps put more simply, walking art has the potential to democratise art, as it requires the audience to become creators, as opposed to spectators.

That’s not to say that all artists in the field also act on this to its fullest extent. Granted, though a significant portion of the work in this compendium predates the widespread arrival of the internet, it saddens me that, even today, too much walking art, as well as its analyses and developments, are corralled within academia, and worse, western academia.

Even just publishing a book, without making its material available to the general public on a platform with a lower barrier to entry, is an example of this.

Biserna does not address this to its full potential, though she does bring up the disruptive possibilities inherent to walking art, for example in terms of its possibilities around decolonisation.

The book is divided in three sections; ‘walking’, ‘itinerant listening’, and ‘playing on the move’. The material in the latter is perhaps a bit too involved and elaborate to be useful for easy consumption, but pretty much all pieces in the first two sections are easy-to-deploy methods for urban exploration for anyone, and all are an excellent refresher, or introduction, to walking art as a playful, inclusive, framework of participatory art.

The book is available from our bookshelf.

Babak Fakhamzadeh

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Babak was working in ICT4D before it had a name (2001), never really left it, and knows how to throw together a pretty mean combination of a wide array of programming languages, both frontend and backend. He brought photomarathons to Africa (2007) and won ...

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