Participatory art project, 2021
Felix Obelix: concept, visual art
Collaborators: Friends, acquaintances
Supported by: Chatham Arts Council (JumpstART grant program)
In January 2021, I began a project I called Walk & Chat [& Response], in which I invite friends and acquaintances to talk via phone during my daily one-hour-long walk. By mid-pandemic winter 2020, I had observed that people were becoming both more isolated and also more in need of connection. The conversations by that point in the pandemic had grown narrow because our lives had narrowed: the sameness of our days was mirrored in the sameness of our conversations. Right at the point where we needed to stay more connected, we were withdrawing. Walk & Chat was created in response to that phenomenon. It is an invitation to blow past conventional topics of conversation and connect deeply in a time of social distancing. After each Walk & Chat, I track how long the chat lasted, our topics, our moods, etc., and I make a small visual art piece in response to the conversation (in the abstract to protect confidentiality).
Some questions I am exploring:
What does it mean to the participants and to myself to be offered this form of unscripted, yet sustained interaction? How would the conversations change as the pandemic unfolded? What do people choose to talk about offered the opportunity to blow past the everyday? What could I learn from this kind of daily practice?
I had originally intended to do the project for only a few months, but as the pandemic changed, so too did the conversations. I decided to continue it for longer to map the larger trajectory of how we are all doing in 2021.
The months of June/July 2021 were graciously supported by the Chatham Arts Council’s JumpstSTART grant. An exhibit of some of these works is on display from November 7 to 17, 2021 at the Welcome Center in downtown Pittsboro, NC.
A visual piece created in response to a Walk & Chat from June 2021 has been enlarged and exhibited on a kiosk in downtown Raleigh (a project of the City of Raleigh Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Office of Emergency Management and Special Events and the Raleigh Arts Office).
In October 2021, I was invited to extend Walk & Chat [& Response] to include students of the Digital Musics graduate program at Dartmouth College, who participated in the process. I spent a few days in Hanover, NH discussing the project with them and sitting in on their critique-based seminar.