About Walking

When everyday life in many countries shut down in March 2020, almost everything came to a standstill; and yet walking took on a new social relevance during lockdown. Walking the empty streets stripped from most urban mobility, walking to the supermarket or in the neighbourhood, walking in circles on roof terraces, endless strolling through the internet, but also walking as the only remaining mode of transport to reach one’s home. In a time when drastic restrictions touch upon society and the individual, the notion of walking can take on many forms. Even before the pandemic, walking experienced a real boom from a health perspective. Today, almost every smartphone has an integrated pedometer, and users can compare their fitness using various apps. Going out can feel like a little escape and can allow us to experience our environment more consciously. Whereas for some walking takes on mostly positive connotations, even in times of the Corona pandemic, for others walking became necessary and existential. Such as for migrant workers in India, who only have the possibility to reach their homes on foot, which are often hundreds of kilometres away. Thus, the current social situation invites us to examine the image and perception of walking against a transcultural background.

Photography takes on very different functions in this context. It is present on Instagram, in media coverage, but it also functions as a companion to reassure oneself and to pass the time. In her 1977 essay On Photography, Susan Sontag describes the camera as the tool of the flâneur. Whereas in early photographs movements could not be depicted due to exposure times, the motif of strolling figures became a central theme by the end of the 19th century. Street photography is inseparable from the streets of the big cities and their conquest on foot. In Photowalks, the community aspect is particularly important. Like walking, photography is also a form of exploring and appropriating the world. Today, this often takes place not only offline but also online. Archive photographs allow us to wander into past times, Instagram or Google Street view allow us to travel digitally to distant places and take a virtual walk on our screens. 

This month we explore the many ways of walking in the context of photography today and invite researchers, photographers and the interested public to actively engage with the topic through interactive, digital ‘thought walks’ that cross borders and take into account political, social and habitual aspects of walking.

The Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie (Germany) and the Chennai Photo Biennale (India) are jointly organising a symposium that is dedicated to walking in photography. Under the title "About Walking", photographers and researchers will talk about the various social and political aspects of walking from a transcultural perspective. Whereas for some walking can be perceived as a relief in times of drastic mobility restrictions, for others walking became necessary and existential. Such as for migrant workers in India, who can only reach their homes, often hundreds of kilometres away, on foot.

Invited speakers include photographers Michal Iwanowski, Andreas Langfeld, Paroma Mukherjee and Katja Stuke, urban planner Vidya Mohankumar, environmental activist and founder of Veditum, Siddharth Agarwal, and the visual storytelling agency Storytrails Chennai. Artist and curator Ram Rahman and Alexander Hagmann, founder and editor of dieMotive – Zeitschrift zur Kultur der Fotografie, will moderate the discussions.

More details here 

Co-presented with Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie @die_biennale 

With support from Friedrich Stiftung

Artist Works | Texts 

This haunting song by Aadesh Ravi, Hyderabad-based composer, lyric writer and singer, is surely one of the most powerful cries that’s emerged about the lockdown-driven migrations across India. 

Source: People’s Rural Archive of India 

In a recent interview Chinese artist Han Bing encouraged people to join his movement of walking cabbages or other appropriate vegetables as a form of protest. In response to his call, Heba Amin decided to join the ranks of vegetable walkers with a watermelon (a symbol used in parts of the Arab world to describe something as a joke or a sham) with the hope that such a gesture may create a momentary schism in the political realities, or at the very least allude to a much-needed spatial imaginary. 

Source: Ibraaz Publishing  

Women adventurers reveal how gender inequality can limit movement—and imagination. 

The casualness with which a man might enter an unfamiliar place is a luxury not always afforded to women. Arati Kumar-Rao, an Indian writer and photographer who walked through the country’s Punjab region, said, “I realized Paul could sleep, sit, bathe, poop anywhere without danger, while I could do none of the above without worrying about my safety.”

Source: National Geographic 

In this groundbreaking genre of WALKED DRAWINGS, Karshan’s feet become her drawing points, approaching historical spaces in the same way she approaches the paper medium. She coalesces with each space to enact walked lines and movements that embody her internal rhythm and form. Following the patterns of her breath and her intuitive “inner choreography”, Karshan walks in precise patterns of straight lines that recall her drawings on paper, sometimes stopping to embellish a particular point with a few steps of dancelike footwork. As she moves through each space, Karshan’s footsteps resound off the walls and floors in an interplay of echoes and rhythms to create auditory portraits. The artist herself becomes a living presence giving voice to the place itself. 

- Ishmael Annobil, collaborator and film director, Stonedog Productions

Source: Stonedog Productions 

Tishani Doshi (born 1975, Madras, India) is an Indian poet, journalist and dancer. The daughter of a Welsh mother and a Gujarati father, she won the Eric Gregory Prize in 2001. With her first volume of poetry, “Countries of the Body” she won the 2006 Forward Poetry Prize. In her poems, Tishani Doshi deals critically with issues of being a woman, aging, sexuality, loss and violence.

Source: Lyrikline 

We Walk Lahore was created by Honi Ryan during her two month artist residency in Lahore, Pakistan, hosted by Lahore Biennale Foundation, in the framework of Urbanities – art and public space in Pakistan. 

Urbanities – art and public space in Pakistan is a critical exploration of the urban, its complexities and possibilities under the premise of individual artistic work and research approaches.

Source: Goethe-Institut Pakistan

‘Take a Picture’ is on one level a performance and on another level a documentation, of an individual as well as a collective experience at a moment in our own but also in technology’s history. 

Made in collaboration with my mother using multiple visual components - images from her archives, screenshots from google street view, desktop wallpapers found on the internet, and images captured through the laptop computer’s lens, we took the Covid-19 lockdown as an opportunity to simulate travel to my mother’s ‘dream destinations’. She is a travel agent and loves to have her photograph taken. The title of this work is kind of her ‘mantra’ everytime we travel together. - Kaamna

Source: Kaamna Patel 

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