„Solitur ambulando?“

Way and weighing
Stile and saying
On a single walk are found. 

Go bear without halt
Question and default
On your single pathway bound. 

/In: Martin Heidegger – Poetry, Language, Thought, 1971/ 

 

It will be solved by walking, this is what the „solvitur ambulando“ means. Allegedly Diogenes of Sinope, as an answer to the argument that motion is unreal, stood up and walked away. The saying has been used since then, in a slightly different sense: if you need to solve a problem, rethink you life, or just „clear your mind“, just walk and by walking, the solution comes to you.

Peripherique.0 is a conceptual art work invented by various Various Artists embodiments Bernard Leroy – Freddy Grant and realized in the rural area of Vysočina district of the Czech Republic in 2014 in the space known as KRA – Kravín Rural Arts, located in Hranice village. It it a part of a larger series by Various Artists called „graphical works“. 

The terrain was not unknown, at least to some of the Various Artists members. In July 2012, KRA provided a refuge in its old stables for a group of bikers, travelling from Poland to Croatia. This trip was a part of another project called Peregrini. The bicycling pilgrims were on their way from Baltic to Adriatic sea following a fold, a stripe cut out from the map of Europe from sea to sea. KRA happened to be just at the border of the stripe. The pilgrims were fullfilling artistic missions on the way (e.g. placing the ad hoc made altars with various local saints and other figures along the road), and creating documentation. The next project began, when the group decided to buy a piece of land of 30 square meters just next to the KRA gardens. It was proclaimed a space for a free use by artists, and the Various Artists themselves became the lucky first ones to try it. 

Finally, in the summer of 2014, the (temporary) land art piece was created in and around these 30 meters. Various artists sent people to this piece of land to walk on its borders during four days. At least one of them was an architect, which appeared to be crucial for the shaping of the work, since the final trajectory was very carefully designed. The ideas behind this collective walk was to create a new path (visible and recordable by the google-big-eye-arieal-mapping-equipment), and at the same time demarcate the land. 

The larger ideas behind the performance (which didn't have much audience apart from the elderly neighbours who watched it from their colourful bench in front of the house) contained questions like: „How can artists appropriate public space?“, „How can their works or projects encourage others to make different use of that space?“, „How do we avoid public places being occupied by private initiatives?“. Lots of other questions could follow when we would look more closely to the concrete plot of land and its history. 

/Historical patch in parenthesis begins/

The cowhouse farm, located in the village Hranice – meaning border in Czech - used to be a part of a farming estate and like the other farms in the neighbouring villages (Víska, Předboř, Lány…) administered from the Maleč castle. It is marked by various historical periods – once belonging to a larger farming compound, which was in 1862 bought by František Ladislav Rieger, Czech politician, economist, and political writer, active in patriotic circles. It remained in the assets of that family until 1948 when it was nationalized by the communists. The cowhouse in Hranice was then administered by the agricultural union (družstvo), which used the stables for storing materials, the ground floor of the residential house for offices and its first floor was rented to tenants. At the beginning of the 1990s, the Maleč castle was given back to the family, and the cowhouse with it… The plot itself is located right next to where a large barn (hit by the thunderstroke) used to be, now only few stones remaining from it. What was going to become the KRA, then a group of enthusiasts, bought it in 2009 with the aim of establishing a cultural center. Since then we have been disclosing the historical layers, brick by brick, taking away barrow after barrow full of concrete… So: for about 50 years the land and the plot had been taken care of by everybody and nobody at the same time. 

/Historical patch in parenthesis ends/

Various Artists always move around according to a certain plan, with carefully and well thoughtout concept. Their trajectories could be long or tiny, but they are certainly not wandering around. Walking is not a random and improvisational act for them, but an analytical one; not solitary, but collective. Their performances are statements, fullfilments of a plan, a manifesto. They create new (imaginary) landscapes by walking. 

Walking as an art form became popular in the 1960s with artists like Richard Long, Josef Beuys, or Sophie Calle. Also Vysočina region – the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands as it is translated - has its art-walkers, like Zorka Ságlová or Vladimír Havlík. This mostly rural, hilly agricultural region, covered with woods and relatively sparsely settled is a walkers' paradise. Zorka Ságlová worked on projects in the countryside shortly between 1969 and 1972. At the beginning of March 1970 she organized her Homage to Gustav Oberman in a little village Bransoudov, near Humpolec. After dark, she and a group of participants set fire to sacks full of jute in a snow-covered field. This event, held on a site where pagan mystery plays were once performed, related to a legend about a shoemaker who, before the start of World War II, would spit out fireballs in the meadows here in protest against the German occupation, but also to a Sovied occupation in 1968. Also other of her few events she organized, then attended by a group of close friends and photographed by her husband Jan Ságl, now internationally renowed, included playful actions in landscape. Vladimír Havlík's events from the 1970s and 1980s were largely solitary. Yet they were also an attempt at dialogue, albeit with an ironic subtext. Havlík's pieces almost always include working with his own body – as for instance in Trying to Sleep (1982), when he wrapped himself in a piece of turf. One of the other events he described: „A few centimetres of fresh snow had fallen overnight during the winter of 1978. I got dressed and went to sweep the path from the front door to the garden gate. But I didn't stop there... I kept going, sweeping a path between fences, over a hill and across a valley, through a snow-covered field, another hill and another valley...“ Many of his projects were based „on a simple, poetic gesture that established (if only temporary) a public space of freedom, which I guaranteed with my total participation.“ 

The walk by Various Artists shared the apparent pointlessness and the idea of making a demarkating, symbolic gesture of freedom with the above mentioned events, and was in line with our previous walking projects, especially the series about the (legendary) medieval path, which - according to legends and some historians – was in the early Middle Ages connecting Bohemia and Moravia. It follows the flow of the Doubrava river, passes through Hranice village, where allegedly a customs house used to be, and continues over the Hradiště hill to the next village Libice. We organized a walk with locals, invited historians and artists to provide lectures, concerts and sonic interventions on the road... Our aim was perhaps to establish a new path on the old one, covering it with some new stories and bringing back the old ones. Walking as a way of being together, and getting to know the surrounding landscape. 

So how is it with the apparently purpose-less walk along the ogdoad by Various Artists? The new path leads from nowhere to nowhere, and walking it makes you dizzy with its octonary turns. I contributed to the new path by walking it for several short periods of time (carrying my then almost 1 year old son), and its dizzying rhythm had a feeling of entwining all the thoughts together and leaving my mind totally empty. Perhaps it could be understood also as a symbol, binding together various walking histories and walkers that are still left. Because walking has ceased to be a regular means of transport in the area, being now either recreational diversion, artistic project, or an odd activity of weirdos. 

This article is dedicated to all the devoted walkers/bikers from the area (all with their own varied aims and purposes), the notable examples: 

1) Mrs. Macháčková, the wife of the owner of the Maleč castle, who sold us the house and the land, regularly sets up alone to walk for several days;
2) Lucka, bio vegetables grower, walks from her farm in Zastráň to Chotěboř where she lives (3,2 km) or to Hranice to visit us (3,3 km);
3) a man called Básník (Poet) walks and hitchhikes anywhere because he doesn't have money for transport, allegedly he lost his job and is lost in debths;
4) Jano Kostolanský came here on his bike from Trenčín, Slovakia and was still biking here all the time (288 km);
5) Mr. Hořínek, worker whom we employ to dig out the old concrete floors or uncover stones in front of the house, a hero of all the local kids who call their lego figures after him (he uses bike for transport in between his various job places);
6) Ladislav Urban, our neighbour, passes our garden during his health walks, checking if everything is ok and giving us reports if anything happens while we are not here.

 

Lenka Dolanová, beginning of May, written also while sitting on the platform next to the now overgrown path by Various Artists (the highest time to renew it!)