Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Walking Sticks / Demo Sticks

In 2019 I was working on a large body of work that reflects on disability, imagination and activism. Among the books I was reading were Derek Jarman's Diaries, the collected Poems of Brecht, classic texts on pain by Elaine Scarry and others, and the writings of Henri Lefebvre. 

In practical terms, I was beginning to work on a first draft of the minor walk manifesto and a discussing a residency with Paths for All. I wanted to think of ways in which illness and walking overlap

An old idea inspired by Dr Johnson's oak staff inspired me to paint some imaginary walking sticks. I added a placard to one of these – it's such a futter trying to draw poems on my shaky drawings of walking sticks – and the idea of the demo stick was born. 

What would happen if the ill and infirm were to rise up and push for their rights in a great wave of poorly protesting? I wanted to imagine a gentle, implacable, unstoppable insurgency: a kind of Maggie's Centre philosophy crossed with the poetic bravado of May '68. 

As the project developed I began to blend together ideas about illness and rewilding, considering how we perceive vulnerability in wild landscapes, and how the imagery of ecology and healing are increasingly fusing together. 

Why shouldn't we imagine a gentle revolution in which climate breakdown, pollution, pain, land ownership, land access, the architecture of healthcare and pinewood remediation come together in a clanjamfrie of change-making?

The demo sticks are painted on Frederic Gros' A Philosophy of Walking and Rebcca Solnit's Wanderlust.

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