The walking playground: flickerings

I took my last walk for this residency project at a local reservoir. The cool sunny day made the spot extremely popular with runners, families and walking groups, dashing any hope of a quiet walk. The dusty path hugs the periphery of the reservoir. It has been created by the local council and skirts along the edge of the water holding back the young gangly gum trees and creeping vines. The path is constructed to provide an easy stroll for visitors however on busy days like this walking becomes stuttered, a series of quick darts and skips to let puffing runners go through or to concede the right to pass to chatting families. The dust rises and makes its way up the nostrils, the pollen of the yellow, overhanging wattle blossoms also finds its way in. My nose is really tingling as I continue to stop for the oncoming traffic. The sun is getting high and I regret my choice of wearing sweat pants as I walk on.

The sun starts to flicker through the gum saplings, and even though my pace is slow I am bombarded with bright, frantic dashes of light, hitting the edge of my sunglasses and adding to my disorientation. My walk becomes less of a walk in the bush but a walk in particles, motes, light and shadow; a walk of jerking muscles and social negotiations, of emotions, temperatures and moistures.

This walk of flickering movements, sensations, affects and materialities offers the perfect conclusion to my project.


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The walking playground: pedagogy

This week I decided to collaborate with one of my graduate classes on the project. They are a great class and, as my gran would have said, keen as mustard, willing to try new practices and challenge their thinking. I began the class with some drawing exercises; the kind that produce giggles and help ease away fears about drawing ‘well’. I wanted the class to create gestural marks and encouraged the students to move their body in different ways to play with scale, to draw through different temporalities and to encourage them to notice the materiality of the tools and drawing surfaces.

The exercises helped prepare the class conceptually for looking at the website and my previous residency postings. I think perhaps some were still a little perplexed despite doing the drawing exercises but the class showed a curiosity for the work and what my intentions were. I explained how I created the drawings and what I paid attention to as I made them and explained that we would work together to produce works.

We took a walk to a green space that is situated at the main entrance to the campus. It was late morning so the area was reasonably busy with students travelling between classes and heading to lunch. Before we left the studio I explained to the class that I wanted them to find a tree and lay under it on their back. Without looking at the paper they were to find some way of holding it to draw on while looking up at the tree canopy and create gestural mappings of the moving edges of leaves, branches, clouds, blossom, and shadows. The paper was thin and they had no hard surface to lean on so the task was fraught with difficulty, however it made the materials highly present in the event.

I wasn’t sure how my class would deal with my request given the presence of so many other people around however they lay under the trees, trying not to put holes in their paper as they scratched and mapped away. Afterwards we walked back to the studio.

The chance to walk and draw differently is playful and pedagogic. The students were prepared to engage in a drawing performance and become a momentary spectacle, and they were prepared to suspend their ideas about how drawings are made. In so doing they also willingly participated in a pedagogic encounter with walking, mapping and movements.

This posting contains a greater number of images to include everyone’s drawings.


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The walking playground: dusk

The campus where I work is set high on the top of a rise, this provides a sense of walking in amongst the tree tops and the vibrant Queensland skies as I hurry about my business. I usually leave the campus as the day is ending so I find myself slowing my usual walking pace at this point to take in the colours of the sunset. Dawn and dusk are short-lived in this part of the world, usually taking no more than 15 minutes to transition from day to night or vice versa. They are quite spectacular though, producing incredible light shows when the weather is good (which is often). Dusk is a temporal edge, a time zone where sight is affected, temperatures change, air pressure changes, and the tasks of daily routines change.

The thing that interests me about dusk more-so than dawn, are the movements this temporal edging triggers. Queensland is home to an incredible array of wildlife; at dusk many animals, insects and birds signal the onset of night and their time to sleep, awaken, hunt, or hide. Every time I walk through my campus at dusk I am reminded of this by the deafening chorus of the crimson rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, noisy miners and the tiny, darting welcome swallows as they race from tree to tree, socialise, fight and feed. This week I carefully timed my walk home, stopping periodically to listen to their arguments and blusterings, and made some gestural mappings (very inefficiently) of their calls and movements.


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The walking playground: flightlines

Have you ever stared up at the sky and noticed how the clouds seem to travel really fast? This week I walked the river at the section where it slices the city in two. This is a big river, brown and steady in its flow, tidal and therefore potentially lethal. This river has declared its power on a number of occasions, swelling up and indiscriminately swallowing everything it encounters. Today it is at low tide, exposing stubbly mangrove shoots and riveted sandbanks.

But it is the sky I’m interested in, and the flightlines birds take across it, some high, straight and aloof, some looping and in low swoops like tired bunting. Birds love to play I think. I see how they dive through crowds, how they scurry between bushes and how they intimidate each other with their screeches and mock-bravery. Walking along this wide, slicing river, I see how these flightlines leave momentary tracings.


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The walking playground: coastal

I am visiting the coast, this provides a great opportunity to walk and explore where the sea and beach create a shoreline.  I decide to walk along this shoreline each day to see what I notice and to think about the walking playground in this new space.

It is easy to be inspired. The shoreline is teeming with interesting things: as I walk I look up into the sky, look down at the sand and what may be strewn there. I look out across the watery horizon at birds, boats, rocks and distant hills. Thoughts about scale come easily, as well as movement and the tricky, shifting edges between things. As I walk this coast’line’ I watch the sea and think about its capacity to solidly occupy the space beyond the beach, its capacity to hold objects and creatures, its capacity to reduce and minimise as it edges inland as well as gather itself up, retreat and swell and boom and crash.

I pause to draw some of these thoughts, and as I draw it occurs to me that there are three really important aspects to the place I’m in. The enjoyment of being at the beach is not just about the sand, the water, the rocks, the creatures and so on. There are other aspects that are not ‘physical’ but take on a materiality and affective significance. Movement is one, in the micro scale of sand grains as they are drawn into the sea as the waves recede, or in the ginormous pulsing tides. Light is another, and dark (or the absence of light, or the effect of greater mass density) is another. These aspects take on a materiality because they are crucial for seeing how water forms and shifts, the exposure of rock through waves, the glare of sun, the movement of sand grains. Light, dark, and movement help map the coastline and its playful contents.

I decided to hold with the theme of the beach: instead of my usual mapping process I created drawings of dark, light, movements, and edges on postcards and sent them out to friends across the globe.   IMG_8744 IMG_8756 IMG_8755

The walking playground: festival

My location shifted this week, to the parklands in the middle of the city. I have been working as a community educator and artist at a large festival for young children. During the festival the city parklands are reconstituted as marquees, flags, lanterns and art installations demarcate open space, pathways and trees, forcing new movements and route-finding.

Walking this space I took notice of the attempts by the wind, leaves, flags, people, dogs, birds and other things to find routes through the new architectures. Movements, colours, scents, encounters, amplifications.

The helicopter seeds blew everywhere, and were thrown up in great handfuls so they could display their whirling rotations. The coloured powder from the Holi Throw had a strange, flowery scent that carried across the park on the wind, forcing sneezes, coughing, watering eyes, and the patting of clothes to send the tiny particles of colour on their way again.

Although the festival architectures quickly disappeared the parklands are not returned to what was. The scent and colour particles continue to move about the space, and the bleached and flattened grass patches that emerge as the marquees are removed, are affect articulations of recent play.


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The walking playground: forces

When I began this residency I thought it would be fun to look up different meanings for play. One definition suggests ‘to deal or behave carelessly or indifferently, esp. for one’s own amusement’. 

We recently had storms and the weather was still really windy so I took a walk to the playground to see what effects this was having. I was shocked to see that a small tree was completely snapped in half. The trunk showed a gaping gash of pale wood while the canopy hung to one side, hanging on by some sinewy threads and fluttering limply. The heavy rains had uplifted the bark chipping in the brick-edged pits and spewed it across the grass where it still clustered in damp lumps all the way to the creek. Edges have definitely been breached!

I followed the wind gusts and the dancing choreographies of small things as they left the park and I headed towards Fish Creek. As I walked I mapped these small twigs as they settled and relocated on the bridge and path in front of me. Too many to record, but their configurations are complex and make me stumble as I try to walk and draw.

As I walk the creek the wind continues to play, carelessly and for its own amusement. Its extraordinary shifting presence has forced a flattening of grasses, reeds, palms and trees as it rushed through the cut between the houses and the rising ridge. Barad is interested in ‘matters experimental nature, its propensity to test out every un/imaginable path, every im/possibility’. As I walk the twisty creek I think about the wind as it gusts, how it has (violently) played, and its affective movements with the creek bed, the trees, grasses, leaves and twigs, the water; how it plays through and amongst matter leaving it tangled, overwhelmed, bruised or perhaps invigorated. As I walk and draw I think about the un/imaginable paths the wind took, how it tested out every im/possible potential choreography as it whooshed through. residency_day2_5 residency_day2_4 residency_day2_7

The walking playground: departures

I head to the playground in my local neighbourhood. The playground is in a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, nestling amongst tall gum trees at the edge of a national park in the west of the city. The playground is unremarkable: swings, climbing structures, a flying fox zip-swing, all sunk into a hefty layer of bark chipping to mitigate against serious head injuries if someone falls. The bark chipping fills a series of brick-edged, organic-kidney-shaped pits that seem to delineate where play is to occur.

These brick-edged pits suggest a boundary, an edge when really, there are no real edges to a playground. The play structures aren’t the edge, and there isn’t an invisible line that heads vertically up from the brick-edged pits to divide the playground zone from the park or the trees. Playgrounds are associated with children’s play but in turning attention away from humans and onto birds, leaves, temperature, wind, water, rubbish as they move in and through the space, what else is playing? How is play, where is play?

The edges of the playground dissipate and explode outwards, everything filled with lively movement as it gets taken up into the air and away. I follow this explosive movement through walking and mapping, following the playground on its imaginative path.

From my local neighbourhood playground I follow the movements of things as they leave the brick-edged pits and the structures and head for the small bridge over the creek and into bush land.

I come across a local creek called Fish Creek. It is a small creek with tight turns but it has lots of large trees, and grasses and palms that grow right to the water’s edge. There is a steep, woody range rising up on the left and I can spot the back of houses on the right. The topology creates a tunnel for the wind to come through and everything seems to be moving.

As I walk the creek I make mappings of things playing: leaves whorling on branches, treetops swaying, minuscule flies and insects weaving about, the sun suddenly shining on motes in the air. This walking playground is teeming with careless and indifferent play and I am the only human there.

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