QUOTE | Roberta Mock on walking in the suburbs

Posted on 10/07/2014

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“I am from ‘the suburbs’ and, if there’s on thing that’s rather noticeable in autobiographical accounts of walking, it’s that walking tends to occur in either rural or urban environments rather than in the hinterlands between the two. There may be a reason for this, art-historically speaking, beyond the dearth of permissible routes through a landscape of clearly demarcated privately owned plots. In 1967, the year that Francesco Careri identifies as ‘the year of walking’ – […] the American artist Robert Smithson […] set off on a ‘suburban odyssey’ of the city in which he was born and then mounted the photographic traces of this journey. The images of Passaic’s empty streets, blunt metal pipes, disorientating bridges and obsolete machinery that he chose to share in this exhibition add up to a vision of suburbia that Smithson evidently considered shallow, mimetic, false, and always already incomplete […] At one of the (admittedly many) moments that heralded the birth of aesthetic walking practice, the suburbs were deemed and represented as void and empty, denied a legitimate sense of past or future and, perhaps even worse, of either the present of (human) presence.”

Roberta Mock, “Introduction: It’s (Not Really) All About Me, Me, Me” in Walking, Writing & Performance: Autobiographical Texts by Deirdre Heddon, Carl Lavery and Phil Smith, Bristol, UK: intellect, 2009, 8.

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