Walking as Method
KABK Art & Design Research Practices
Design and the Deep Future
Walking as Method
In 2020 I launched a new initiative at KABK to highlight and examine the research methods being used in art and design within the expanded KABK learning community. This first edition explored the research strategy of walking from an art and design perspective. The exhibition was accompanied by a publication (see digital version here), a video interview, and a Zoom-based discussion panel. It was part of the KABK Design Lectorate Program, Design and the Deep Future.
Already a familiar and well-theorized qualitative research methodology in the social sciences, especially geography, in recent years the act of walking has been adopted and adapted by those engaging in research in and through the arts. At KABK (The Royal Academy of Art The Hague), many tutors and students engage with walking in their research practice, both as a way to explore their inner mental landscapes, and also to observe, or to immerse in, the social and physical aspects of their surroundings, be they urban, rural, digital or imagined, or those indeterminate spaces in between.
Whether they wander, saunter, stroll, dérive, crusade, trespass, or consciously follow the coordinates of a map; whether they bring with them a camera, facial recognition software, audio recorder, pen and paper, or nothing at all; walking can provide designers and artists with ways to think and make in solitude, to talk and exchange with others, or to simply co-exist with non-human companions.
Walking means being present, bearing witness, putting one’s body into the research process and into the world.
Walking means being present, bearing witness, putting one’s body into the research process and into the world. It can result in blisters, getting wet or thirsty, feeling exhilarated, bored or exhausted. But, after all these, it can mean becoming attuned to something greater at a deep rhythmic level. It can cause us to question our habitual selves and familiar surroundings, and also to connect with more desperate social and planetary issues such as forced migration and environmental degradation, the measure and beat of which should underlie all our reflection and research practices.
Exhibitors and Works
This exhibition focuses on the working process used by public space and landscape designers Krijn Christiaansen and Cathelijne Montens (KCCM) who teach field research in BA Interior Architecture and Furniture Design at KABK.
Specifically it features a speculative urban planning project in Saga City, Japan, in which the designers attempted to reactivate the city’s extensive system of ancient waterways and find points of entry and connection for local communities. In addition to their initial archival research, mapping of the waterways, and interviews and conversations with residents, KCCM conducted 24 walks during which they collected the memories, stories, images, impressions, and objects that the creek network contained. In practical terms, this meant wading in the creeks, videoing their progress from a frog’s-eye-perspective, but also dredging and excavating artefacts from the creek beds and making rubbings and photographs of structures on the creek banks.
The exhibition provides a detailed exemplar of how walking as a research method can function in a project and in a practice. Mostly, it is meant to provide inspiration and a departure point for anyone interested in finding out more about walking as a research method in art and design.