Friday, September 08, 2006

I went to see walkwalkwalk, a performance by Gail Burton, Serena Korda and Clare Qualmann, at the Camden Arts Centre a few nights ago.

The artists take an urban walk as the core of their art. On this walk, they collect items from the strewn rubbish they find.

On entering the performance space, the three artists stood around a table, discussing each item in turn. The discussion was framed as an episode of Antiques Roadshow. I was initially not impressed by this; they seemed to present wonderfully everyday items in an overly pretentious manner.

I soon realised, however, that their script revealed how the items represented layers of social history. Examining a sachet of salt, they discussed salt's role in folk rituals - how carrying it warded off evil spirits. After experiencing bad luck, salt was thrown over the shoulder to hit the devil in the eye.

My favourite item was a gummy bear. The artists discussed the history of gummy bears, which originate in Germany in the 1920s. They noted how the gummy bear they had found was of a design first began in the 1960s.

The breadth of information and knowledge they presented was astounding. I loved how they tied everything they found to the location in which they were found: attempting to locate the origin of a wooden chip-shop fork by retracing the possible steps of its user, for instance.

The performance was fascinating to hear, revealing how our cities do not just encapsulate social history and georgraphies through their structures and architectures, but through everything, in the complete ephemera of any street, in any city, in any country.