Magic in the mundane?


Over the weekend, I walked with my friend and collaborator Shoshana Gugenheim from the Portland Steel Bridge, on the corner of NW Oregon Street and Interstate Way, to Director's Park in the heart of Portland's downtown. We walked shoulder-to-shoulder, in-step, in silence.  Like one entity, my left hand was at my side, still, mirroring hers which rested on a satchel. My right hand felt the momentum or her right hand, together they swayed with intention propelling my feet forward. Right. Left. Right. Left. Both of us keenly aware of the other and our surroundings. Both of us listening and absorbing: The smell of coffee from a cafe on the corner. A woman's perfume. A loud conversation about tomorrow. A crow swooping down to land on the top of a lamp post. I heard the gentle tap of it's claws touching the aluminum armature as a truck passed, thundering down Taylor Street. Negotiating directions and intersections, a change in elevation and traffic felt curious. When we walked beyond each building's shadow, sunshine filled our eyes. Together we squinted. Left and then right. Left then right.  


We were experimenting, playing, wondering...actively wandering. How do we inhabit public spaces? What does civic engagement mean? What are the political consequences of our presence? What are the consequences of public silence? What would it be like to walk together, in-step through the bustle of a city? What would it require to remain together? Would anyone notice our unity? What does it mean to combine our efforts? Combine, at it's linguistic origin comes from the prefex "com," which shares it's meaning with "co," means with or together and "bine" means two. Two people. Two sets of arms. Two pairs of legs. Two bodies. Together. 

Last February, during our "Walking Tour of the Olympic Sculpture Park," Eric Olson and I publicly shared a set of scores or simple instructions that were set to site-specific sculptures or places throughout the park. Standing on a walking path just a 100 feet from Jaume Plensa's 2011 sculpture Echo we instructed the audience to, "Identify a rhythm in your environment. Using your voice or body, echo this rhythm. Repeat. As we walk toward the sculpture spontaneously repeat." 

Photograph by Jonathan Vanderweit. Orbiting Together. Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park. 2018

Photograph by Jonathan Vanderweit. Orbiting Together. Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park. 2018

In this period of listening, mirroring and echoing I found myself giggling with Celia, a 4 1/2 year old friend of mine. Her little feet pattered on the pavement with certainty as she grinned up at me. With focus, I smiled back at her and tried (with all my might and attention) to step in sync. My short steps and her big steps, my foot lightly settling to the ground, matching the sound of her confident stomp.

While walking with Shoshana, I recalled this moment. Sometimes the inspiration for my future work is hidden in my body. I only see it when I am brave enough to act on my vision, impulse or intuition.

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