I (along with about 70 others) volunteered to be part of Hamish Fulton’s walk at Turner Contemporary on Friday 20th April, 2012. We were asked to walk the width of the forecourt to the gallery – about 6 metres – but to take one hour to do it and, to do it in total silence. I soon realised that this meant working out how long it would take to walk the length of a flag stone and how many of these I should have crossed after half an hour in order to pace myself correctly so that I didn’t end up with my nose against a wall for the last ten minutes. The maths done, the claxon sounded and off we went, at a snail’s pace!
There was a line of people coming in the other direction equally as determined not get to their destination too soon. So, once I had settled into a comfortable pace, what was I to do with all this spare time? My main strategy was to use my senses. I looked at the people coming towards me, why were they doing this walk? To be part of something extraordinary, to test themselves, for a laugh, just to see what would happen, to meditate? I became very familiar with the door and the windows of the café, with the ground immediately ahead of me and with the Droit House clock ticking away each of the five minutes it took to walk a flag stone. I listened to the seagulls squawking and every now and then, sparrows twittering and, to the silence amongst all these people. I smelt the sea.
There was a feeling of slight panic when the two lines came closer and closer and we had to work out how to pass between each other, as the flag stones were not very wide. My dance training kicked in and I used my épaulement (twisting the torso from the waist upwards with one shoulder back and the other forward) as this reduced the amount of space my body needed. Others jumped, squeezed and shuffled through. Once clear there was a communal sense of relief.
My new view, for the last half hour, was that of the café and diners arriving for an evening meal. They were greeted by a wall of people walking very slowly towards them. Some of the diners looked intimidated and changed seats so that they couldn’t see us, others embraced the experience and took photos and filmed the event with their phones. After acknowledging all of this activity, I decided to look down so as not to be distracted from the ‘walk’ and the last few minutes of the experience. With one minute to go I was up against the glass wall of the café, pacing from one foot to the other until the claxon sounded. We turned to the centre in unison and there was spontaneous applause.
How could one hour have disappeared so quickly? On reflection, I realised that you don’t have to sit still to meditate, the mind can ‘relax’ through a simple activity for a sustained period of time. The overwhelming sense of calm has stayed with me for days.
Hamish Fulton – walking artist – http://www.hamish-fulton.com/