Fall 2022 Electives, University Liberal Arts: Waking as Research Practice – Lydia Matthews

Caption: Walis Johnson, The Red Line Labyrinth, 2017


University Liberal Arts: Waking as Research Practice

UTNS 5164, CRN: 9173, Credits: 3

Wednesday 1:00-2:50pm

Taught by: Lydia Matthews


Course Description:

Walking as an art form and a mode of inquiry has emerged as its own discursive field, with artistic projects, curatorial ventures and multi-disciplinary publications dedicated to exploring this terrain. This course will focus on how to approach the practice of walking as a means of investigating issues at the heart of your specific studio or scholarly practice—while simultaneously gaining deeper insights into the complex social, political, and ecological dynamics within our local environment. This form of research is less focused on reading and writing (although there will be some of both) than it is on becoming increasingly aware of one’s body as a multi-sensory vehicle for discovering images, stories, materials and urban rhythms. Not only does walking the city sharpen perceptual and critical observation, but it can also lead to the development of broader social networks or resources for future collaborations/ projects. In a fast paced and technologically oriented city like ours, what compelling narratives—both internal and external– are only available to us when we move slowly, with an eye towards becoming increasingly informed about a place’s histories and contemporary political realities? 

Initially, we will launch our activities through group sessions on Thursday afternoons, followed by independent meetings with the instructor as each student develops/archives their own unique walking practice, and one weekend day during which we will take one another on a mini-marathon of illuminating walks throughout NYC’s Central Park. We will gain an overview of key writers and artists whose work offers insights about the cultural history, theory, and methodologies of walking (e.g., Michel de Certeau, Rebecca Solnit, The Situationist International, BlackGotham, Janet Cardiff, Ulay + Abramnovic, Ernesto Pujol, Francis Alÿs, Stalker, etc.) Topics include: crafting aesthetic walking scores; exploring acts of solitary and collective walking practices (from sacred pilgrimages to political marches to virtual exchanges); understanding the politics of rebellious, anti-capitalist derives; mapping the relationship between walking and cartography; and encouraging the experience of “getting lost” in an age of GPS, among other themes. Invited guests will share their fieldwork and discuss how walking has informed their practice. Good walking shoes, a critical sensibility and a sense of adventure are required.


Faculty Bio:

Lydia Matthews is a Brooklyn/Athens-based cultural activist whose work explores how contemporary artists, artisans and designers foster critical democratic debates and intimate community interactions in the public sphere, often in response to a variety of urgent global and local conditions in their daily lives. She has published and lectured internationally on socially-engaged art, craft and design practices; curatorial/artistic projects include art exhibitions, walking events, community-based urban festivals, and multidisciplinary pedagogical exchanges. Commissioned by NEON, CEC Artslink, Open Society Foundation, Trust for Mutual Understanding, Fulbright, LMCC, Emre Senan Foundation and the US Embassy, she has curated projects in the Bienalʼ21 Fotografia featuring Alfredo Jaar and Susan Meiselas, (Porto, 2021); Benaki Museum (Kardamyli, 2021 and Athens, 2011); ArtMill Center (Czech Republic, 2018/19); Artisterium International (Tbilisi, 2017, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008); Batumi Backyards Project (Batumi, 2013, 2012); Tengri Umai Gallery, (Almaty, Kazakhstan 2015/16); Proteus Gowanus (Brooklyn, 2014); Souzy Tros Art Canteen (Athens, Greece, 2013); Kuad Gallery (Istanbul, 2012); Byzantine Museum (Athens, 2008); and Art Caucasus International (Tbilisi, 2007, 2005). Her participatory walking projects have been featured in “Walking Practices/Walking Arts/ Walking Bodies” (2019, Prespes); Ca Foscari University’s “Porto Maghera Project “ (Venice, Italy, 2017), Colorado College’s Design Week (Colorado Springs, 2017), NeMe Arts Centre (Limossol, Cyprus, 2017), as well as in Milena Principle’s “Made of Walking Festival” (2016, Delphi, Greece.) She is online at: www.lydiamatthews.com