Welcome to day 4 of the Virtual Groundwork project.
Building upon Lisa, Jess and Elizabeth’s insightful activities that focused our attention to close looking and listening, today’s exercise is an activity designed for our daily walk within the 2KM radius (but can be made in your home, garden or wherever you find yourself).
I chose this activity as I find that slowing down and observing our natural surroundings can give us a sense of normality in these extraordinary times. I first began making short videos of my daily rambles after a conversation I had with a friend in isolation. The intention was simple, she missed the fresh air, walks in the woods, noticing the signs of spring, so I would bring these elements to her by sharing short videos of my own walks.
I walk with my dogs every day; the act of walking is important to me and my creative practice. Walking clears the mind, opens it to new ideas, and connects you with the everyday world. Creatively, as a research tool, walking connects you with the history, culture, and environment of a place and provides a way to bring people together to discuss ideas. I usually document my walks through photography as a visual diary, so it was nice for me to work with something new like filming. If like me, you use photography regularly, video might be a nice medium to experiment with. If you are not used to photography, and would like to try this exercise through this medium, then please do.
The act of slowing down, of noticing, and then eventually describing the different elements that interest you can bring new insights to your 2KM surroundings and new ideas on how to interact with your everyday. This activity could be used daily to create a visual diary of your time. If you have loved ones in isolation, sharing images or videos of your walks could be a welcome addition to someone’s day. This activity can also be done in a group of various ages, one important thing is to obverse a certain level of silence/quietness to let your visual and aural senses heighten.
I have added a variation to accommodate a family group. (Scroll down to the bottom of this page)
There are many different characteristics of your surroundings you could describe and below I give some initial prompts. Before we begin, I would like to share a quote on walking and the act of noticing by one of my favourite authors, for your consideration.
Suddenly I came out of my thoughts to notice everything around me again-the catkins on the willows, the lapping of the water, the leafy patterns of the shadows across the path. And then myself, walking with the alignment that only comes after miles, the loose diagonal rhythm of arms swinging in synchronization with legs in a body that felt long and stretched out, almost as sinuous as a snake…when you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
SLOW YOUR PACE
Take some time to ease into your walk, walk without the camera in your hand.
When you slow your pace you will notice more. To experiment with focusing your gaze, use a viewfinder; use your two hands to create a rectangle and look through, or on one hand with your index and thumb to peer through a circle shape.
SHAPE, PATTERN & COLOUR
What shapes, patterns, and colours are interesting to you?
Notice textures and feel them to compare their difference.
REFLECTION, MOVEMENT, THE PLAY OF LIGHT AND SHADE
Notice what ephemeral elements are around you. How long do they stay the same?
Turn around, look up or down, change the direction of your gaze. Spend some time looking in different directions.
DESCRIBE THROUGH THE LENS
Describe what interests you through the lens. Do you focus on one aspect today? Ask yourself what it is that you are describing. Is it movement, texture, colour? How do you use the camera to describe these? Do you stay still to describe the movement of things? Do you move nearer to describe the texture or smaller details?
Share Virtual Groundwork
Upload your recount to Instragram or Facebook, tag Greywood Arts and be sure to use the hashtag #virtualgroundwork.
I hope you enjoy this exercise, let me know if you have any questions or feedback. Have a lovely day! Stay safe and stay healthy!
X Carol Anne
If you are doing this exercise as a family exercise and you don’t have cameras at your disposal for everyone, you can frame this activity as a silent walk- no technology is needed apart from a clipboard, pencil and a few A4 sheets of paper.
Write out a few prompts on a couple of A4 pages
We are going to take a silent walk (specify your start and endpoint, approximately 10-15minutes)
What sounds do you hear?
You can describe what you hear in a drawing, a shape, a word, or a sentence.
Stop, and look left, right, ahead, behind, or above you.
How many colours can you see? What are they?
Look in a different direction now.
What kind of shapes can you see, describe them?
Find something smooth and something rough
Do they cast shade? Are they see-through? Small or large
Discuss each exercise after you get home or if you stop somewhere to rest along your walk.
Carol Anne Connolly is a visual artist and art educator based in the countryside in East Cork. Her COVID 19 lifesavers are her blissfully unaware dogs, her project-driven partner, her wonderful 2KM radius, and the Virtual Groundwork group.