12 June 2012

Text Message Map

Earlier this year the artist Susan Lynch walked from Malin Head, Co. Donegal, to Mizen Head, Co. Cork. She recorded her journey in various ways and some were recently on view in PS squared, Belfast. Walking as artistic practice is not a new idea but one thing makes this project different. She often walked with company of one sort or another, her experience seems to have been more about connection than isolation.

Richard Long's stone circle on Aran Mor, Co. Galway.
More usually artists take on landscapes alone, perhaps seeking the singular quality of a spiritual or meditative experience. The artist Richard Long, for example, always walked alone. He would leave stone circles in his wake, the very form of which seem to reinforce the isolated, inward-looking, mode of his creative process. The walk as ritual. Werner Herzog, in a journey recounted in Of Walking in Ice, walked weeks by himself. He was sometimes overwhelmed by loneliness yet it is impossible to imagine he would have done it any other way. My own walks along the Irish border were always done without company. After three or four days and nights by myself I would return to Belfast starry-eyed and socially awkward (even more than usual). Yet, I would have considered walking alone necessary to having an authentic experience of the borderland. I now find it difficult to justify that notion. What harm if I had had another person's influence to spice up the experience? No harm, there may even have been gains.

The poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts teamed up to explore peripheral spaces for their rich and enjoyable book Edgelands. Walker/writer Iain Sinclair also bucks the trend of walking unaccompanied. He brings pals and sometimes his wife on his explorations.

During her journey, Susan Lynch stayed with people every night, members of her family walked sections with her and she was interviewed by local radio along the way. She was also in near-constant text message communication with many people, including her mother. It was print-outs of these text messages that formed the basis of her show, ‘A Malin Head to Mizen Head Approach.’ They were pinned up along wall drawings of the routes she traveled.

This map recounts the journey from Pettigo, Co. Donegal to Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh and on to Clones, Co. Monahagan.

Heading south out of Pettigo.
In Clones.

Lynch's maps have a warmth about them. They are not the trails beaten by solitary types, they are the transcripts of a walk supported all the way by a friendly network. In the exhibition notes the artist emphasizes connections and friendship over personal revelation or meditation. She mentions aiming for the nightly beacon of a glowing window, the house where she would pass the night. "The comfort of the light from each B&B, arrival was imminent, warmth and generosity was certain.” The idea of always moving towards a light takes fullest form when Lynch realises that for the whole journey she was constantly moving towards one big light, the lighthouse at Mizen head.