About the theme for the first edition of the Summer School (2010)


An overarching theme is proposed for the first edition of the Summer School: “Walking and Places: building transformations”.

Walking and other ambulatory practices (e.g. running, choreographic movements) will be explored: as an artistic practice as well as a method of investigation ; as an empirical ground as well as a sensible support ; as a practice for exploring, learning, mapping, and intervening, in urban and in rural contexts. And the theme of walking will open the possibility to further explore how movement also relates to place and community development, with the dynamic between movement and place, traveling and home, transnational flows of ideas and people and site specificity (whether individual houses or collective places).

With this specific theme, we aim to verify how different cultural and academic practitioners can compare and associate their ways to work with a specific modality of action-based (re)search. We think about artists as well as cultural practitioners in a wide sense and about the scholars of different disciplines (geographers, historians, philosophers, sociologists, ethnologists, , anthropologists, biologists, ethologists, ornithologists, etc.).

A few examples from contemporary practices in the arts, in academia and in society

In civil society, walking and other ambulatory forms as searching and social-transformation practices, inherit from a rich heritage :

At the personal level, the long history of pilgrimage roads meets the modern forms of long-distance walking (e.g. on the Via Podiensis to Santiago de Compostella) in offering journeys of shifted temporality and opportunities of self-discovery.

At the social level, the spirit of diverse traditions such as carnivals, meets the experiences of various civil rights marchs (such as Gandhi’s Salt March To Dandi) in expressing non-violent action for social change.

Many further insightful walking practices could be mentioned : For example, the movements and transhumance of pastoral peoples across the world (from the Komi and Nenets of Siberia to the Karimojong and Turkana of East Africa) both count as an intangible heritage of the world’s cultural diversity, and contribute to biodiversity through zoochory (i.e. the transport of seeds across climatic zones).

In the 1950’s, Guy Debord and the Situationists developed walking-based psychogeography, i.e. “”a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities [...] just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape” (Hart 2004). The main walking-based method of psychogeography being the “dérive”, theorized by Debord in 1958.

In the field of the visual arts, from the 1960’s onwards, artists investigated walking from different perspectives : Richard Long’s steps in the deserts, Hamish Fulton and his slogan: “No walk, No work”, and in the 1980’s and 1990’s a new generation of ‘walker’ artists (Francis Alÿs, Gabriel Orozco, Laurent Malone, the group of Rome-based architects Stalker). Exhibitions about the walk as artistic practice followed, such as “Les figures de la marche”organized in 2000 by Thierry Davila at the Museum Picasso d’ Antibes (France).

Several ecological artists have also developed the practice of walking into an ecological exploration with communities, and highlighted walking-spaces as a priority for urban planning, from the Harrisons’ ‘Baltimore Promenade’ (1981) to David Haley’s ‘Wild Walks’ in Manchester (UK).

In postmodern dance, also from the 1960’s onwards, ambulatory practices in the public urban space were experimented, and from there a whole new approach to body politics was developed with Steve Paxton’s ‘contact improvisation’. Nowadays, choreographers elaborate walking-based discourses on contemporary society: e.g. Jean-Michel Agius (in Etats de Marche), untitled states (Simon Whitehead and Barnaby Oliver) or Jennifer Monson (following bird migrations in Bird Brain Dance).

Several scientific disciplines, from life-sciences to social sciences, make use of walking as a basis for various empirical and explorative practices (from the discovery of new species to the visual anthropology of cities). In the 1980’s at the University of Kassel (Germany), Annemarie and Lucius Burkhardt developed “Promenadologie”, deriving from sociology, urban studies, cultural studies and philosophy and gaining practitioners in academia and among artists. Promenadologie invites to a closer sensing and knowing of one’s environment, one step at a time : walking as an instrument to reinvest our everyday life at a more human rhythm than the one imposed by technologies of speed (cf. also ‘dromology’, in the words of philosopher and urbanist Paul Virilio).

The practices mentioned above bring up insights highly relevant to the summer school’s focus on action-based research for sustainability in social transformation – and altogether they constitute the possibility of a common field which is growing directly out of a relation to practice, rather than as a purely theoretical formulation.

Traditional as well as new ‘déambulation’ practices (e.g. in postmodern dance or among traditional pastoralist communities) mark the relationships between cultural practices and their social and ecosystemic environments. Furthermore, in the recent past, the walking-based (re)search practices that have flourished both in the arts and sciences, are opening up spaces for inter- and transdisciplinary explorations, which the summer school will further develop and interconnect.

Short reference bibliography on walking and ambulatory practices


  • Catalogue de l’exposition. “Les figures de la marche, un siècle d’arpenteur de Rodin à Newman”. Exposition du Musée Picasso, Antibes, 1 juillet 2000 – 14 janvier 2001, RMN.
  • Dennis Adams et Laurent Malone. JFK. éd Integral_LaurentMalone, Marseille, 2003
  • Sally Banes. Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theatre, 1962–1964. Duke University Press, 1993.
  • Francesco Careri. Walkscapes. El andar como pràctica estética / Walking as an aesthetic practice, Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcellona 2002, trad it. walkscapes. Il camminare come pratica estetica, Einaudi, Torimo 2006.
  • Joseph Hart. “A New Way of Walking,” Utne Reader July/August 2004.
  • C.J. Novack. Sharing the Dance: Contact Improvisation and American Culture. University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.
  • Stalker. Attraverso i territori atuali/ à travers les territoires actuels. éd. JeanMichelPlace, coll. “on visu:in situ”, Paris, 2000.


  • Jean-François Augoyard. Pas a Pas. Essai sur le cheminement quotidien en milieu urbain. Ed. du SEUIL, Paris, 1979.
  • Lucius Burckhardt: Warum ist Landschaft schön? Die Spaziergangswissenschaft. Martin Schmitz Verlag, Juni 2006
  • G. Chelkof. Entendre les espaces publics. rapport de recherche. Cresson, Plan Urbain, Grenoble, 1988.
  • Merlin Coverley. Psychogeography. Pocket Essentials, London, 2006.
  • U. Hannerz. Explorer la ville. Minuit, Paris, 1983.
  • Philippe Haeringer. Trois cheminements piétonnier. Les pulsions quotidiennes dans la capitale ivoirienne. in Cahier O.R.S.T.O.M., séries Sciences humaines, vol XIX, n°4 193, pp. 491-512
  • T. Paquot, L‘art de marcher dans les villes. Esprits n° 308, pp 201-21.


  • Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall. A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.
  • Hubert Beckmann and Jesus Garzon Heydt. Transhumance as a tool of species conservation in times of climate change. In David Knaute and Sacha Kagan (Eds.). Sustainability in Karamoja? Rethinking the terms of global sustainability in a crisis region of Africa. Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, Köln, 2009.
  • Michel de Certeau. L’invention du quotidien: 1. arts de faire. Gallimard, Paris, 1990, pp. 139-164.
  • Chris Humprey. The Politics of Carnival: Festive Misrule in Medieval England. Manchester University Press, 2001.

Further bibliography in English on walking can be found here and there.

Sacha Kagan 2009/09/01 13:36

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