Women in Walking Art – Talk

Women in Walking Art & Community Based Arts Practice

(Talk Notes)

When I was asked to do a talk on my pet subject walking and art for National Women’s Day, my first response was that this is a notoriously male dominated practice.

I had myself come across this whilst studying I said I was not a political artists and it was pointed out to me by a collegue that as a woman in a male dominated art practice I was by definition ‘political.’

So the question I set out with was are women overlooked in walking art?

With little research I came across a seminar took place in London in 2016 called ‘walking women’ which investigated this relationship

Driven by Amy Sharrocks who when she attended a talk by Iain Sinclair and Will Self at the V&A in 2015, presenting a history of walking art. There was no mention of female practitioners.

“I asked Iain about it and he said that there weren’t any women doing this kind of work,” says Sharrocks, whose indignation is palpable.

Sharrocks along with Clare Qualman started the Walking Artists Network in 2008.


Of course this statement wasn’t true, in fact there are numerous women who have used walking as part of their practice:

Virginia Wolf, Sophie Calle, Marina Abramovic, Mona Hatoum, Patricia Johanson, Ingrid Pollard, Janet Cardiff…

Sharrocks suggested “Established male artists and curators have a responsibility from their positions of power to do better research, as do we all.”


What are the elements of a walking art practice?

You may be:

  • Walking and telling a story
  • Creating art installations along a walk, (a cross over here with land art)
  • Recording movement, passage of time, travel
  • Performance elements can be included – walk, gait, repetitive movement, durational performance can all be part of walking art.

An example: Marina Abramovich

Walking the wall of china, splitting up with Ulay (at the end of the walk,) perhaps demonstrates a walking artst addressing a relationship issue from a uniquely female perspective and was lambasted at the time for doing it as a publicity stunt, you decide.


My own Walk as Art

Place Story Artefact – my  response to the idea of a ‘cultural quarter’

A series of walks around the St Botolphs area, with installations, quotatons and references to famous walking artists (like Abramovich at the wall along the station) culminating in an installation of Field ii my tribute to Anthony Gormley.


Local Heros

How can you get involved?

  • Extend your social network to meet people who are involved in and who create community projects like Rowena Macaulay of Walk Colchester.
  • Start and create Walking Art events of your own, or take part in Janes Walks.
  • Learn more about the inspiring women out there in your location and support their work.
  • Support each other.


A Case Study: Jamboree

Jamboree 2018

Bought together 150 visual artists, curators & arts programmers from around the UK in a relaxed outdoor setting, of Darlinlington Arts centre on the Dartington Estate near Totnes, Devon, UK.

Developed by LOW PROFILE who are Rachel Dobbs and Hannah Rose based in Portsmouth

The event was in response to their position as artists who struggle to meet other artists, for a range of reasons including money, geography, time, other work and family commitments.

LOW PROFILE curated an event where artists and curators became involved in co-delivering a programme of presentations about their work, micro-exhibitions of their work, activities and discussions to share practice.

I’m going to tell you a bit about what the ambitious profile included with some examples;

  • Seminars – including Ingrid Swenson who runs Peer Gallery in Hoxton, originally one small shop front now two shops knocked into one, and not unlike our own waiting room in its efforts to site art in an everyday space so everyone has access/can relate to it.
  • Walks as art – Zoe Toolans’ Lone/ly Wolf Walk took a group out into the deer park and investigated the lone wolf the desire in us all for autonomy and what brings us together in a pack. (She also programmed the group to howl on lead wolf’s command which came in handy when the DJ stopped the music at the last nigh party!)
  • Silent Swim School by Simon Lee Dicker – This walk to a wild swim in the river Dart was introduced (after we had all undressed under the trees) with a poem, encouraging us to; ease into the cool water, look up at the trees, hear the sounds around us, swim up current, splash, pet heavily… but above all, DON’T TALK! We all slowly moved into the river en-masse in silence, and began to swim up stream, it was a truly magical moment…

Camping together and networking.

The event aimed to:

Enable artists to meet new people, find out about each others work, build new relationships and make connections that lead to new projects.

This project created and led by two women has created a very real network of practitioners from the South of England, and has inspired and me to start thinking about what we here in Essex could do if we worked together and supported each other.

I left feeling I had been present at a very special moment in time, an inception a coming together and an opening of possibilities and with a spark of inspiration in my hand…


Thank you to Jane Ostler who performed a durational walking art installation as part of my talk.

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