Issue #56: Walking in the Container
+ Opinions on Pedestrian Infrastructure, Walking during an unpredictable Autumn, Caught Walking by the ActionKid and more links!
|Bryan Formhals||Sep 13, 2020||1|
Life: Autumn is my favorite season for walking. It cools down enough to prevent the heat from zapping my energy. And in New York, fall extends well into December now because of climate change. Given how 2020 is going, there might not be winter in New York. Great for my walking habit, terrible for the future of humanity.
My birthday is in October so that adds another dimension to the season. It has come to symbolize the entrance into a new phase of life, and in many cases, I find myself pushing into new directions with my work.
I don’t know what this autumn will bring. We’re in such a unique period historically that like most of us, I’m expecting the unexpected. But I also have a feeling we might end up reverting to the mean. So back to normal? What is normal? I guess this framework tends to fall apart if you think about it enough. There is no normal. We have our routines, rituals and habits, but most everything is out of our control.
Walking in the Container
Film: Portra 400 35, Roll 2, Frame 13 - Sunday, February 23, 2020, 12:49: PM, Hunters Point South Park path view of Empire State Building
Art: The container, box, blank page are metaphors often used for art and content creation. You have an empty container, what do you put in it? I view my planned walks as containers and events. A closer metaphor might be sporting events or performances.
I played baseball and basketball growing up, so through all that practice I internalized creating parameters around an activity. It has come in sharper relief since I started tracking and mapping my walks. The walk is the container, it’s the event. Within that space, I can do what I please creatively. It creates a new set of problems, because up until this point, what I have put into the container has been photographs.
I have thought about this long enough now to arrive at the realization that only putting photographs into the container greatly limits my creativity.
“Pedestrian infrastructure” is an oxymoron
“Pedestrian infrastructure” is an oxymoron. In a place that’s hospitable to people and walking pedestrians don’t need separate “infrastructure”—they can use the streets as a place to walk, just as humans have done for the several thousand years in which there were cities but no cars.
Much of what purports to be “pedestrian” infrastructure, is really car infrastructure, and is only necessary in a world that’s dominated by car travel, in places that are laid out to privilege cars. It’s telling that the “level of service” provided to pedestrians (nominally for their safety) would never be tolerated in any freshly built or “improved” highway project: The the ramps to reach overpasses double, triple or quadruple the distance a pedestrian must travel to cross a roadway, and require them to ascend and descend a substantial grade. No highway engineer would build a bypass that doubled or tripled travel times for cars, but they regularly do this for people on foot. - Joe Cortright, Streetsblog
Infrastructure & art: This is one of my favorite opinion pieces of the year. Cortright articulates many ideas and questions that have been running through my mind since I first started my research and exploration of walking and pedestrian infrastructure. Although I suppose given the above quote, perhaps I need to reframe the way I communicate my project. I’m still reconciling the project I made last year where I attempted to photograph every pedestrian bridge in New York City. I’d like to write more about it, and perhaps will at a later time, but for now, I’ll just share a few photos here and there.
Caught Walking by the ActionKid
Walking & Social Media: I wrote about the ActionKid and these walking youtube videos at some point last year. I can’t watch a full video (they are like 5 hours long!) but I do check out his videos from time to time to see what he’s up to and have listened to enough of his narration to get a sense of his personality and style. I’m impressed with his dedication and ambition. It’s admirable.
The other day I was walking home from Long Island City, when I spotted someone walking toward me that I thought might be him. So I decided to stan and sure enough it was him, and now I’m in his video! It’s strange. The internet is so weird sometimes. And by watching this video, I realized that I’m a motherfucking boss walker. Holy shit do I walk fast and aggressively. Granted, I had open space here and rest assured, I check my privilege in crowded situations, and always allow people to pass. But on an open sidewalk where I have space? It’s time for speed. Nothing like walking with purpose.
Links of Note
Newsletter: Ameena Rojee has an insightful meditation on walking, filled with useful links as well (and a nice shout out to this newsletter.
Social Media: An interesting analysis of TikTok vs InstaStories, and how the TikTok format will probably dominate the social video landscape for awhile.
Art: Love this —> John Cage Fans Celebrate Chord Change In 639-Year-Long Performance
Way of the Walk is my newsletter on walking, photography and creativity. Each issue, I share updates on my current walking projects as well as interesting articles and projects focusing on walking, urbanism, New York City and art.