Unwinding With Hamish Fulton's "Rock Fall Echo Dust"
Posted by Laura M. on September 9, 2010 - 12:54pm
Categories: On the Walls

On August 15, the New York Times published an article documenting the journey of five scientists who left their electronically dependent lives behind and immersed themselves in the wilderness of southern Utah in hopes of understanding how technology affects the brain. The article referenced a study from the University of Michigan that suggested people are better able to learn after a walk in the woods compared to a walk on a busy street.

This association between the human thought process and walking reminds me of the work of Hamish Fulton. Fulton (British, born 1946) is a conceptual artist whose work is largely comprised of what he refers to as “nature walks.” For Fulton, the act of walking is the art. His walks have taken him all over the world, covering over 15,000 miles. He records each walk through extensive journaling and through various forms of media, such as photographs, collage, and text—the evidence of the journey—which becomes the art object later seen in museums and galleries.

When standing in front of “the evidence,” one wonders what thoughts run through the artist’s mind when engaging in such a journey. Fulton’s walks seem analogous to anchors securing larger buoys of thought. They’re about being a witness to the natural environment, while simultaneously making that environment a personal studio. The sites that he chooses are not necessarily populated or known for their beauty, but instead for the power of the surrounding landscape.

Rock Fall Echo Dust (currently on view in the Museum galleries) is an example of one of the artist’s walks recorded with text. The words are painted in alternating red and black acrylic directly on the white gallery wall, filling the space from floor to ceiling. They read as an abstract poem or ephemeral postcard scrawl, conjuring a rock that falls in a remote terrain. Smaller letters beneath them offer specifics: A twelve and a half day walk on Baffin Island, Arctic Canada, Summer 1988.

As a busy twenty-something born into an age of social media, taking a walk in nature is a ritual I cherish but rarely enjoy. I live in the suburbs and consequently, drive everywhere. Both Fulton’s work and the Times article remind me of my own need to unwind in nature. Perhaps tonight I will take a walk after dinner instead of perusing Facebook.

You can read more about the work on Tyler Green’s art blog, Modern Art Notes.