Walking in air in Solothurn, 19/09/2021, 3.15pm
Tüllinger Hügel – September 18th
I ascended through vineyards and a garden-colony, crossed an expressway and turned right to follow a soft footpath. Dog roses and old fruittrees on both sides. Noticed that the nuts on some walnut trees were not green but black.Took a side-path mounting left after 15 minutes. Looked out for a wooden cabin I had visited 15 years ago. Found it was totally hidden in a thicket of bushes.
Squeezed myself through the thicket and found the cabin destroyed, window broken, door open. Sat on the planks in front of it. A thick green wall of bushes in front of me. Impossible to view through.
A shield. I sat a while. Turning my head over my left shoulder I spotted a book lying on the floor of the destroyed cabin. Bound in beige linnen, it’s title : Wie man Freunde gewinnt ». « How to win friends ». A robin sat close on a branch. Not irritated by my presence. Dry leaves on the planks.
Rustling as I touched them. I picked up the book and went through the pages. Smell of wet old paper. A piece of paper dropped from the pages. Traces of handwritten dates from the years 1974/75. I layed the book back on the planks in the cabin. I looked at the green thicket. I passed through my ascend to this place in air and ground and noted :
Walking in Air de Chez Soi
In the days before September’s ‘Walking in Air de chez soi’, I had been reading the American poet Peter Gizzi’s ‘Poem Beginning with a Phrase from Simone Weil’, which begins with the following lines:
There is no better time than the present when we have lost
everything. It doesn’t mean rain falling
at a certain declension, at a variable speed is without
purpose or design.
The present everything is lost in time, according to laws
of physics things shift
when we lose sight of a present,
when there is no more everything. No more presence in
The poem is set in motion by the phrase from Weil and it works through variations on the themes of presence, loss, velocity and time. I was struck by the odd word ‘declension’, which hitches grammar to descent. In my first Walking in Air outing in January 2001 I had thought about the following words from an essay by Susan Howe: ‘Maybe the nature of a particular can be understood only in relation to sound inside the sense it quickens. Setting sun. A mourning dove compounds invisible declensions.’ As I prepared for my second walk in air, I thought about the Gizzi poem’s preoccupation with encountering the present. And about an article on Weil, in which Sharon Cameron suggests that the French thinker asks us to reconsider how we attend to the world:
Insofar as contradiction is repellent to what would make the
world intelligible, resting in contradiction (indistinguishable from
resting in attention) implies relinquishing understanding, along
with the recognition that understanding is an operation that can
only be performed in a vacuum isolated from the real, as on a
plaything. Thus attention is regard that is innocent of desire or
aspiration, hence innocent of either masochism or sadism, and
not to be explained by a psychologizing vocabulary.
Cameron, ‘The Practice of Attention: Simone Weil’s Performance
Critical Inquiry , Vol. 29, No. 2 (Winter 2003), pp. 216-252.
Cameron finds in Weil a forceful commitment to the value of the unintelligible, endorsing instead a disinterested mode of attention and an acknowledgment of indeterminacy. Getting ready to walk, I thought about this and the Gizzi poem alongside the discussion of knowledge in Tim Ingold’s article ‘Footprints through the weather-world: walking, breathing, knowing’ – Ingold argues that the walking ‘wayfarer’ encounters knowledge in a way that is ‘not classificatory but storied, not totalizing and synoptic but open-ended and exploratory’.
I decided to walk on Wolstonebury Hill in Sussex. The summit was once the site of a late Bronze-age hillfort. Open-cast mining activity in the 18th-century punched a series of declivities into the ground at the top. From the hill, one can look out over the flat plain of the Weald, which runs to the North Downs in Surrey, or East or West along the ridge of the South Downs Way, or at the wind turbines in the sea beyond Brighton.
In the first section of my walking in air, I moved upwards over a section of the ridge, following a chalk pathway running between two gates. To the north, on my right, there was a steeply curving drop. There were white sheep in the field to my left, white chalk underfoot and white clouds overhead. As I walked, I thought of a line from another Peter Gizzi poem that I had with me, ‘How to Read’: ‘A textual nimbus, air born’. Gizzi’s ‘textual nimbus’ seemed to accommodate the interpenetration of thinking and landscape as I moved along the chalk pathway.
After the second gate, I came to a wire fence that was humming in the breeze, moved by the air. I attached contact mics, plugged them into my audio recorder, and lay down in the sun. The sound of wind on wire, only faintly discernible to the ear, became deep and resonant when captured by the microphones. The occasional jogger or rambler stopped to chat, usually remarking on the warmth of the day.
After a time, I moved on towards the top of the hill. I tried to imagine what it might mean to ‘relinquish understanding’, even as I engaged in an activity that was surely guided, in one way or another, by ‘desire and aspiration’. At the top, I found a sheltered spot to lie down in – one of the bowl-like mining scars that pockmark the hill. There, I set up my recorder again. Every time an aeroplane passed overhead I sounded a note on an old pitch pipe. I addressed the huge metal machine roaring through the air above by means of air sounded as it moved through a short metal tube. (When I listened to the recording later, my piping had been so quiet that it was entirely effaced by the sound of the jet engines.)
Some time later, I made my way back to my starting point in two stages. In the first I watched a cluster of skylarks wheeling around the hilltop. Pulling out my phone, I learned that the collective noun for these birds is an ‘exaltation’. I thought again about how passing over the variegated terrain, moving though air that was soft and invisible but full of the sounds of cars and aircraft, my thoughts were modulated by my surroundings: the textual nimbus.
In the final stage of my walking in air, I passed down the easy slope of the ridge, now in declension myself. I tried to attend to the asynchronous patterning of my walking in air: footsteps moving more quickly than breath. Gizzi’s Weil poem ends:
A certain declension, a variable speed.
Is there no better presence than loss?
A grace opening to air. No better time than the present.
I ended my walking in air and walked home down the hill.
DEUX MILLE-VINGT DEUX
Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche : Le Centre des livres d’artistes, 2021. 300 ex
– 24 p. agrafées ; 21 x 14,7 cm. – Imprimé en offset 1 couleur (noir) sur papier blanc.
– Couverture en carton blanc imprimée en noir.
prix : 8 €
Midwife Toads, Le Bourmier.
‘As Gregory Bateson insisted (1973: 429), the mind is not bounded by the body but extends along the multiple sensory pathways that bind every living being into the texture of the world. These pathways, as we have seen, are both traced on the ground as tangible tracks and threaded through the air as trails of scent.’
Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans)
As a gardener, walking up and down my quite big garden on sloping terrain, I am very aware of the gradient – whether or not it has rained and the ground is slippery, when I have to take more care, for example, how I place my feet. I have to measure my energy levels also as I get older, changing how I garden and what I grow. Gilles Clément’s approach (the garden in movement) concurs with mine.
The weather plays a prime role in what I do on a daily basis. Perhaps changes in weather are affecting the decreasing population of snakes, and other small mammals and amphibia around me. I am attaching a recording of the Midwife Toad’s (Alytes obstetricans) made about a decade ago when throughout the summer we were almost always entertained over meals al fresco by their musical accompaniment. Sadly, since the past few years, we are lucky if we hear a solo.
Walking in Air est un projet interdisciplinaire qui englobe la marche, l’écriture, la pensée, la musique, la performance et la discussion. S’appuyant sur la suggestion de Tim Ingold selon laquelle « la connaissance se forme le long des couloirs transitoires du ‘weather-world’ (monde météorologique) », le projet considère “walking in air” (Marcher dans l’air) comme un modèle de pensée spéculative, d’activité créative et de prise de conscience de notre place dans un espace de nature.
Les propositions de marche et autres peuvent être de nature collective ou individuelle. Celles-ci donnent lieu à des performances, des discussions, des textes et des enregistrements audio, dont une grande partie sera documentée en ligne.
Les co-organisateurs sont Will Montgomery (Royal Holloway, University of London) et Emmanuelle Waeckerlé (University for the Creative Arts, Farnham). Les participants sont issus d’un bassin international de compositeurs, d’artistes et de poètes.
Walking in Air is an interdisciplinary project that encompasses walking, writing, thinking, music, performance and discussion. Drawing on Tim Ingold’s suggestion that ‘knowledge is formed along paths of movement in the weather-world’, the project considers walking in air to be a model for speculative thinking, for creative activity and for reconsidering our place within the natural environment. The core walking events can be either collective or individual in nature. These give rise to performance, workshop discussion, texts and audio recordings, much of which will be documented online.
The co-organisers are Will Montgomery (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Emmanuelle Waeckerlé (University for the Creative Arts, Farnham). Participants are drawn from an international pool of composers, artists and poets.
recollection (online) 20/09/2021 5 to 7pm (UK time)
L’arbre généalogique de la Belgique sauvage,
Bruxelles : Phantomas – Théodore Koenig éditeur, 1978.
Illistrateur : E. Quix.
Affiche (53 x 38 cm) augmentée de la mention « Une tentative de ce genre – 2012 », revues éditée par Les Éts Decoux
[26 + 3] Lectures Expositions 1993 – 2019
– 256 p. : 29,7 x 21 cm.
– Imprimé en numérique couleurs sur papier recyclé gris 80 g.
– Reliure sans couture.
– Jaquette en papier kraft.
– 1 marque-page format A4, plié en 3, imprimé en rouge sur papier jaune ([fac-similé] de l’invitation à l’UNIQUE LECTURE DIFFUSION de Lefevre Jean Claude, jeudi 8 mars  à 19h30, Limoges, galerie d’exposition du Musée national de porcelaine Adrien Dubouché).
prix : 20 €