Last year on 22 June 2013 I walked a spiral through Paris following the descending numbers of the arrondissements from 20-1 and then eventually to Point Zero where all distances are measured from. I was accompanied by 14 participants, most of them strangers. They had responded to a call out from Dimanche Rouge, performance art organisation, or 59 Rivoli Gallery.
The walk in Paris was inspired by the landscape mandalas of the Kii Peninsula in Japan, whereby walkers follow an ancient trail which traces a mandala over the landscape as a practice towards ‘satori’ enlightenment. In Paris I was questioning and attempting ‘an encounter with the sacred in the urban landscape’.
The walk began at 8am from Porte de Bagnolet, me and my big black flag, about to start the longest Black Walk yet: unbeknown to me then, I was embarking on a 50 km walk that would last 13 hours: I may conceptualise but I do not measure.
I met my first participant just before the entrance to the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Of course each of these meetings was ostensibly a ‘blind date’: I had no idea who these strangers would be. Rafaële appeared from the anonymity of the street and silently entered my step . Moving in complicit unison, we entered the cemetery and ‘danced’ a walking duet as we got lost amongst the gravestones.
13 hours and many ‘blind dates’ later I found Point Zero in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. I was accompanied by five of my partners, a brave band of participant-collaborator-conspirators who had crossed the city with me one by one. It was in them that I found the sacred in the city: in the silence, the steps, the rhythms, the burning questions, the conversations, the shared encounters, the intimacy of strangers, the trust in a project that simply set out to walk for hours with no specific slogan, no aim, no message. Just bodies moving, sensing the city, travelling, both provocative and invisible.
When I waved the black flag at Point Zero Paris it was not of conquest but of continuity. I’ll be taking Black Walk to India next year.
Thank you to each of these participants who walked and shared their experience through drawings, writings, films, photographs, memories and to a later contributor Rich NXT for sound composition:
尔尼 (text & voice)
Hector & Lucette Bonarjee
KURI / Katsu & Miho
San Germano (Super 8 footage)
Rafaële Cellier (spiral animation)
Rich NXT (sound composition)
With the support of:
59 Rivoli Gallery