First off, I would like to say that this is an art project. It will be done with the intention of having artwork to give to my backers after completion. It is probably different than what most people imagine to be performance art, but I think this is a good thing. I am not looking to do a performance in front of a live audience, I am doing something that will mostly be appreciated after the fact. Part of what makes it a performance is that it includes adhering to strict rules, which are designed not for fun or convenience or for the purpose of taking better photographs, but for the purpose of making a statement as an artist. This will involve a significant amount of physical and mental endurance, as well as integrity. The photographs that result from it will be taken under these conditions, and it is my hope that this embedded context will color them in a way that gives them more meaning. I think that anybody who can understand the performance and draw meaning from all the silence and the walking will be more than rewarded by photographs.
My project is multi-layered. Firstly, it is a performance. I will adhere to my rules to the very best of my ability. These rules are simple: I will begin the project on my 22nd birthday by making a video in which I explain my reasons for doing this and what I hope to get out of it. I will begin a yearlong vow of silence halfway through this video. Immediately after, I will begin walking, carrying all that I need to survive, a 4x5 field camera, and film for that camera. I will have money to purchase food along the way. During this year, I will walk across the country, taking a southern route to avoid a harsh winter. I will completely abstain from all noisemaking of any kind, including talking, and will abstain from reading, writing, listening to music, watching television, or any other kind of entertainment. The golden rule is that unless it is walking, photographing, or completely necessary to my survival, I am not allowed to do it. I will finish on my 23rd birthday, outside of Los Angeles, at the home of a close friend. Then, I will make a second video, halfway through which I conclude the vow of silence and say whatever it is I feel I need to say at that point.
On top of the performance, the project is about photography. I am interested in communicating solely through images, which I will be mailing home periodically. I will not develop any of the film until I come home afterwards. I will be shooting primarily 4x5 black and white film, both because I can develop it myself and because it is more economically viable. I am interested to see what comes out of the project photographically. I will be both photographing the country as I see it and any people that I encounter along the way that are interested in my project. Separately, I will be photographing myself every day in an attempt to document to performance through imagery.
On top of the video and photography aspects, I may also write about the trip afterwards, though I really cannot know what that would be. I expect that by the end of this project, I will know what it means to me and what I want to do with it. I am sure that I will be excited to share my experience with my supporters and make this into something that I am proud to have done.
Furthermore, during the trip I will have an emergency notebook should I need to write anything down. This could be anything, a moment of weakness, a necessary message to someone, a note to myself. I am interested in where the performance will have to be broken, where I will in fact be pushed to my limits. I do not think any performance can go perfectly, but I think that what does happen can be more interesting and meaningful than things simply going as planned.
As for money, I need money primarily for food and film. I have already been awarded $2000 through the Chase Coggins Memorial Fund for the completion of the project. I estimate the project will cost about $10,000 in total. I am trying to raise the remaining $8000 with this Kickstarter, which will bring me most of the way towards completely financing it. If you are not interested in buying a print, I am also eager to collect any and all addresses within the continental United States that might provide a safe place for me to rest and get a shower. This could be the second cousin of a sibling’s friend, just simply somebody who could be notified that there is a small chance I may be walking by. I hope to plan my route around these safe locations.
Finally, I want to say how much this project means to me. It is the culmination of a lot of changes in my life. It is something that I have thought a lot about and am completely committed to. I am committed to it because I truly believe that there is value to this kind of art-making and if I want to see more of something in the world, I might as well go make it. I would like to mention that the project is very much inspired by the performance works of Tehching Hsieh, who did a series of one year performances in the 70’s and 80’s. I wrote to him about my project and he said, "it will be a beautiful piece by walking and by being silent.” And that meant a lot to me.
I have A LOT more to say on the project than what I am going to include here, so please email me (email@example.com) any thoughts or questions and I will be more than happy to respond. I can also include any questions or comments on the project page.
Risks and challenges
There are obvious risks and challenges to this project, all of which are obstacles that I have been considering for several months now. In order to best prepare for this trip, I will have done two practice walks before the actual yearlong walk. I did one of these walks in Connecticut over spring break and learned a great deal from it. I plan on doing a second practice walk in June after graduation. I will leave for the final walk on July 9.
I do not expect the project to go exactly as planned. I have learned that these kinds of things never do go quite as planned, and that is a good thing. I can say for sure that I will make it to California by foot eventually, whether it takes me a year or ten years. I can also say for sure that I will remain silent for the year. This restraint means a lot to me and will be taken very seriously. Other than that, I do not expect to have much trouble with the other rules. The major forces in the way of this project are physical injury, law enforcement, anyone that might want to do harm to me, cars, wildlife and weather. I will note though that plenty of people, with all levels of experience, have been able to walk across the continental U.S., so this is really not a very radical idea.
If you want to continue the discussion of the risks and challenges of this project, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will be glad to answer any questions or hypotheticals.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Isn’t the best part of a trip across America all the different people you can meet? Learning is based on a two-way exchange. Might the silence prevent the trip from being as meaningful as it could be?
In regards to the two-way exchange of ideas, I think that for me art is all about the suggestion of ideas. My project, the action itself, communicates a lot more about me than I could tell someone in words. I am interested to see how people respond to this. In showing people what I am doing, I will be able to communicate a lot of my concerns, both about art and about life. I am a very intense and dedicated person and that is how I approach art - I hope that my conviction to the project can be inspiring for people to put the same level of dedication into whatever means the most to them. Art is all about learning and communication, and so is this project. On the road, rather than simply learning from others, hearing their stories and concerns, I want it to be a true exchange, and my footsteps and silence are just my way of communicating. In the end, I truly believe that this will be a building block to future pursuits, especially because it is indicative of the kind of artist that I want to be, communicating through actions, however extreme, and learning from what results.
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