Errant paths: the poetics and politics of walking

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    Walking has moved into increasing visibility in social, cultural, and geographical studies as well as art and cultural practice in recent times.Walking practices are often mobilised as a means for sensing and learning about spaces, for enabling reflection on the mutual constitution of bodies and landscapes, and for finding meaning within and potentially re-enchanting environments. Through the influence of Michel de Certeau in particular, the idea that walking `encunciates' spaces and is a creative, elusive, and resistive everyday practice, counterpoised to the `solar eye', has become commonplace. This paper focuses on projects by the artist Francis Aly«s that are based on walking in London and other cities, to consider their engagements with the politics of urban space. Attention is paid to walking as his method of unfolding stories, and to its potential to unsettle and bring into question current realities, especially in the context of the regulated, fortified, and surveilled zones of London. Addressing the poetics and politics of his spatial practices, however, reveals the inadequacy of undifferentiated models of creative resistance, nomadism, and subversion beloved of much recent theory, and often endorsed through a partial reading of Certeau. Instead, the openness and ambivalence of these practices suggest a need for a more nuanced approach to the multiple rhythms, trajectories, and narratives that constitute urban spaces as well as to their contested (in)visibilities.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
    Pages (from-to)672-692
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • walking art, surveillance, visibility, resistance, rhythm, Francis Alÿs, Michel de Certeau

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