Participants blindfolded during 'Atmospheres (Body as Sensors)', a walk curated by landscape architect Malú Cayetano Molina and actress and performer Sonia Pérez 

Walking around with your eyes closed 

Issue no5
Oct-Nov 2020
Wat is Nederland

Blindfolded in Amstelpark, Kaylie Kist joins one of the walks curated this autumn by Zone2Source as part of their exhibition and public programme Mind Your Step. A sense of vulnerability opens up as she and other participants are trying to navigate through the park. Auditory and tactile senses are intensified, allowing for alternative ways of responding to eco-political challenges to emerge.

Nestled in the centre of Amstelpark, Amsterdam, you find Zone2Source: starting point for a series of exploratory walking workshops titled Mind Your Step. On a rainy day I join Atmospheres (Body as Sensors), a walk curated by landscape architect Malú Cayetano Molina and actress and performer Sonia Pérez . Aiming to reveal invisible relations between body and environment through sensory data mapping, the two-hour routine consists of several exercises rooted in the performative practice called ‘Body Weather’ which entails consciously using the body as an instrument to experience the surroundings in which it feels and moves. What happens when we try to tune in or re-synchronize with our environment?

Cayetano Molina and Pérez prove themselves to be a perfect match: Pérez starts off by compelling other participants and me to hear through our feet, touch with our mind and sense through our fingers, and Cayetano Molina consequently transforms these sensory experiences using a wearable device that she’s developed. The information she captures (physical and sensory data, such as location, movement, sonic and thermal mapping) is downloaded from the device and re-connected to the park’s spatial lay-out through digital mapping.

Pérez starts off by compelling other participants and me to hear through our feet, touch with our mind and sense through our fingers

The experience starts off with a series of warming up exercises such as touching the grass or closing the eyes to enjoy the sensation of sun or wind on our faces, all the while breathing deeply. Pèrez instructs us to forget phones and watches and to slowly wander with her through the park. Once off the beaten track, the next exercise begins: we are encouraged to find a place, a patch of ground or a tree to nestle up to and to describe, continuously, everything we could see and sense. Our descriptions start to evolve from obvious observations into almost microscopic insights. Continuing to try and sharpen our senses, we start to follow the movements of the park’s flora. Finding different ways to mimic the sway of plants and trees, we become a nature-inspired, choreographed collective. Dog walkers and park-goers watch in earnest, becoming the audience for a performance of atmospheres.

Blindfolded and coupled with a partner we continue, taking turns to explore a small area of the grounds. Our auditory and tactile senses are intensified, and a sense of vulnerability opens up as we are trying to navigate through the park. Everything that usually lingers in the margins becomes sonically and texturally amplified: the experience –which I am later told lasted 20 minutes– feels like a refusal of our day-to-day rhythms. We’re rebalancing our senses.

'Atmospheres (Body as Sensors)', a walk curated by landscape architect Malú Cayetano Molina and actress and performer Sonia Pérez 

Participants blindfolded during 'Atmospheres (Body as Sensors)', a walk curated by landscape architect Malú Cayetano Molina and actress and performer Sonia Pérez 

Back in the Glass House, I am fascinated to see how the sensory information of our bodies is transformed into a computerised, living map of Amstelpark. A spectral glow of colour highlights the movements and temperatures of body and environment while walking. This evolving cartography archives each of the walks that are part of Mind Your Step and will be shown as an on-going visualization of possible atmospheres within Amstelpark and its effects to its visitors.

Twelve artists contribute to Mind Your Step, either by organising expeditions or by showing works in the pavilion. Amstelpark is the key mediator in each project, acting not only as a unifying backdropbut as an active collaborator for each of the artists. This dynamic allows for alternative modes of practice and ways of responding to eco-political challenges to emerge.

An example of such a persuasive practice is that of Naomi Bueno de Mesquita’s whose work Walkaway is on show. Using the Walkaway phone app, Mesquita encourages people to wipe out existing cartographic walking trajectories. Deleting roads, streets, pathways and parks Mesquita allows people to renegotiate social constructs. Unmapping is presented as a tool to claim co-authorship of public space. Three monitors show the real-life footsteps of others. Somewhere between the strides of each participant, a re-writing occurs on the displayed maps and tiny new openings appear right before your very eyes.

Deleting roads, streets, pathways and parks Mesquita allows people to renegotiate social constructs. Unmapping is presented as a tool to claim co-authorship of public space

Naomi Bueno de Mesquita, 'Walkaway'

Iris Hoppe, 'Rundgang / Rondwandeling / Circuit'

'Het Glazen Huis': one of the pavilions of Zone2Source with a part of an outdoor installation work by Chikako Watanabe, Journey to Meet Star-Gazers, Amstelpark 2020

Iris Hoppe’s Rundgang / Rondwandeling / Circuit (2020) was first filmed in 1996. The artist is recorded journeying through the streets and parkland of Amsterdam. Running adjacent to this is a more recent film of the artist’s daughter, following in her footsteps, tracing the same path. Time travels as the two films run simultaneously, a juxtaposition that is simply beautiful to watch. Later this month artist Ienke Kastelein will curate two walks called Don’t Walk Into The Woods At Night and Walking White Chairs. Kastelein describes walking as something that “sneaked into” her practice, helping her to find ways to not only analyse exterior spaces but our inner spaces too. Using white plastic garden chairs she goes around the park with participants to find intuitive resting places. Asking them “where are you”?, she triggers a consciousness of psychological- and park-space.

There exists an on-going constant dialogue between the works: Mind Your Step has a kind of rhizomatic format that is inclusive, engaging, and on some level even restorative. For director and curator at Zone2Source Alice Smits, providing a platform for trans-disciplinary approaches of ecological topics such as climate crisis, environmental degradation, and biodiversity-loss is essential. She constantly seeks to activate Zone2Source’s three glass pavilions scattered across the park (The Glass House, The Orangery and The Rietveld House). Setting is key: the ever-changing environmental atmospheres coupled with the unpredictable and mixed park-audience enables Zone2Source to reach far and wide. Its sensory approach enables visitors to live and breathe with the park.

VOLG METROPOLIS M OOK OP INSTAGRAM

All images courtesy Zone2Source, photo's by Ilya Rabinovich

Mind Your Step is a group exhibition and public programme, Curated by Alice Smits, founder and director of Zone2Source.Location: The Glass House in Amstel Park and surroundings. Running from: October 4 – November 29, 2020

Featuring: Tim KnowlesTom BekkersIris HoppeJustin BennettChikako WatanabeNaomi Bueno de MesquitaLiesje van den Berk, Malú Cayetano Molina & Sonia Pérez, Ienke KasteleinIsolde VenrooyEsther Hovers.

Kaylie Kist
is an artist and writer

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 5 — 2020