A river is a flow of life and a route of passage

A walk by the Tolka River in Dublin with a history dating back to the Bronze Age, Vikings, the Middle Ages, and in the 18th century the location of a village named Cardiffsbridge noted for its prominent mill and ironworks. There were also several castles and tower houses located in the area and there is a legend that St. Patrick once roamed and blessed the surrounding landscape. The Tolka is the second largest river in Dublin, and this walk along a river bank was accompanied by early morning sun transforming frost to spring growth.

It was the sound of the river that led me somewhere else in myself. The line of the river offered direction and motion.

river, waterway, stream, brook, tributary, inlet, rivulet, channel, creek, course, estuary

The Walking Studio Gardens

February 27, 2021

The Botanic Gardens (Dublin) is home to 17 000 plants from around the world including 300 endangered species. In size it is 50 acres featuring a pond, river, vegetable garden, wild plants, and flower displays. It is an ideal place to indulge in forest bathing within pine and cedar trees with scents that are invigorating. Forest bathing is dwelling in an atmosphere of trees that re-charges with a vigour of replenishment. The experience nurtures as an antidote to the strains and tensions in life and concentrations on urgency and preoccupations.

Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku is a wellbeing practice based in Japan that encourages time with trees for restoration of both mind and body. It is the rejuvenating elements of pine, cedar and eucalyptus that brings solace and optimism. In a botanic garden international species of trees form community and develop a companionship with the locals. The aroma of each tree’s essential oils is not only uplifting, but an immersive encounter with an environment that surrounds as a balm and a stimulus.

“Shinrin-yoku was developed in the 1980s in Japan. Although people had been taking walks in the country’s forests for centuries, new studies showed that such activity could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. A chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, was found to boost the immune system. As more research highlighted the benefits of shinrin-yoku, the Japanese government incorporated it into the country’s health programme” Harriet Sherwood (2019) Getting Back to Nature: How Forest Bathing Can Make Us Feel Better, The Guardian.

Being with silence and the desire to wander, without expectations, can in itself be a remedy and a elixir that fuels other pursuits with a heightened sense of purpose and a lack of restrictions upon one’s accessibility to encounters.

Eucalyptus Bark
Pine and Cedar Grove for Forest Bathing
A map of the Botanic Gardens, Dublin

The Walking Studio Parks

February 25, 2021

Shelters, Habitats, Nests and Retreats

This is an invitation to become part of a walking art collective. Our studios will be our localities, our walking routes and our artistic quests to photograph, make and write about what we find along the way of everyday journeys.

I hope we can share our walks together through photographs, reflections and artworks. We will meet in our shared artistic encounters documenting our surroundings that create impressions in the moment and beyond.

My recent walks have been discovering human nests in Phoenix Park, Dublin. These are large habitats made by people within the park’s forests. These dens have multiplied in number and feature designs handmade by those who frequent the park. They are available for personal retreats, forest schools, family occupations and group escapes. As a form of social media (socially constructed with a multiplier effect), they are landmarks in a common landscape of people.

A forest shelter and habitat in Phoenix Park, Dublin

Below you will see an aerial view of Phoenix Park, one of the largest enclosed parks within a European capital city. The park was established in 1662 and it is home to deer, foxes, badgers and rabbits. Throughout the park there are forests, gardens, lakes and paths going into wild and quiet places. During darkness the park is a sanctuary for solitary walkers, who travel with night vision, moonlight and with street lanterns to guide their passage.

“The commons as public park is there for the making—place making is integral to experiencing the commons as an archive of landscape that is environmentally designed by people and ecology as co-creators. A public park is there for everyone, a location that can be re-formed by art making, and a declaration of how to create with materials that are readily available” (https://en.ecopoiesis.ru/aktualnoe/news_post/habitats-of-composition-the-nature-of-the-commons)

The creative pursuits of a walk are many, and within each roaming there is a studio to be discovered along the way.

Phoenix Park is depicted in the map above, as the large green area
An aerial view of Phoenix Park
A deer herd in Phoenix Park, Dublin
A walking journal with grass and leaf imprints

A Response Walk by Bridget Nugent

“The experience of walking around the town park was paradoxical, it was busy yet peaceful, some trees were bare after the winter but there was also an abundance of greenery, in areas it looked like there was no life yet what you could hear was full of life- the birds singing and kids playing. The car park was full yet the paths were empty. A fresh walk for a Saturday evening.”

Drum Manor Forest Park is located near Cookstown, Northern Ireland. The park was created from the pleasure groups developed in the 1800’s around a Manor House in the vicinity.

Drum Manor Forest Park, Cookstown (Northern Ireland)

The Art of Walking

October 4, 2018

“Walking is finding an impromptu studio in a place you never expected. Marking territory. Remembering. Picking up things. Making eye contact. A walk is never the same twice. Writing notes to self. Losing one’s way. Talking to yourself. A chat with a stranger. Going with the unexpected. Being surprised by what you find. Marking the journey with objects, the milestones of moments. Unexpected encounters. The desire to be in a new situation. Be somewhere different. Revisiting the past. Caught up with what’s going on. Making do. Taking the long way home. Getting as far away from home as possible. Being curious. Nonchalant. Indecisive. Having a route mapped out. Going off course. Letting things happen. Every so often taking a rest. Time-out. In between places. Both lingering and counting steps. Not knowing what’s around the corner” (Pamela Whitaker, The Art of  Walking)


Photos: David Renault and Mathieu Tremblin, Les Frèrers Ripoulain, Human Hall of Fame, 2010, Nantes France, Walking Graffiti – Sandwich Boards for Collective Art Making

“David Renault and Mathieu Tremblin work together as Les Frères Ripoulain and their partnership seeks to address issues that they describe as ‘vandalism and anonymity, space and solitude, silence and invisibility, strangeness and secrecy…[What interests the artists is the classical graffiti tag]…not the tag’s status as ornament or decoration, but its relationship with territory—its role in the acquisition and stealing of space. Tags can be seen as the diametric opposite of commercial advertising whereby people buy space to publicise the product they want to sell.” Reference: The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti by Rafael Schacter.

Interartive: Walking Art/Walking Aesthetics



Honi Ryan. Walking Presence. 2016. Photo by Kashif Saleem.

The Elastic City: Participatory Walks Curated by Artists 

Photograph, Elastic City, https://www.elastic-city.org/about


“Elastic City intends to make its audience active participants in an ongoing poetic exchange with the places we live in and visit. Artists are commissioned by Elastic City to create their own participatory walks for the public, often using sensory-based techniques, reinvented folk rituals and other exercises to investigate and intervene in the daily life of the city, its variously defined communities, and the politics of individual and group identity”

Link to the Book Prompts for Participatory Walks edited by Todd Shalom.


Prompts for Participatory Walks 


Elastic City Videos


Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble performing Songs of Ascension at Ann Hamilton’s Tower, Oliver Ranch, Geyserville CA, Oct 2008

The Walking Lab: Performing Lines and Research-Creation 

“Performing Lines: Innovations in walking and sensory research methodologies is a partnership research-creation project to study and advance the theory and practice of walking methodologies, exploring and developing innovative interdisciplinary practices”. Stephanie Springgay and Sarah Truman.




Photos Above: Walking Off Course, The First Fortnight European Mental Health Art and Culture Festival, 2019

Agnes YOSHII, Japan, Contemporary Dance Unit, Minimal Performances

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Video Walk
Produced for dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel Germany.




Artworks Above: This Way Brouwn and Steps of Pedestrians on Paper by Stanley Brown

“This Way Brouwn is made up of doodles drawn by pedestrians who Brouwn asked for directions, and whose simple maps he later appropriated by stamping them with the title of the series…one sheet is left blank by a passer-by who didn’t know the itinerary. The sheets, either marked or untouched, not only highlight the social dimension of walking, but also point to the subjective experience of distance and geography as opposed to the standardized conventions of cartography and topography.” (Stanley Brouwn by Jan Mot in Frieze)


Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit Quotations

“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.”

“Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.”

“When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.”



Photo:  Artist Tehching  Hsieh, One Year Performance, 1981-1982 “The artist spent a year outdoors moving around New York City with only a sleeping bag and a few other belonging” (Reference: Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers by Karen O’Rourke)


Photographs: Song Dong, A Pot of Boiling Water, 1995, Beijing

Stories from the Walking Library (2014) by Deirdre Heddon and Misha Myers in Cultural Geographies 


Photo: Gustavo Ciriaco, “Here Whilst we Walk”

“Inspired by the long tradition, which links walk to the production of thought and awareness, the artists Andrea Sonnberger and Gustavo Ciríaco take the public for a silent walk using as device a big rubber band. The two performers start a journey through the city,  investing on the possibilities of inhabiting the urban space through another politics of sharing and of perception…A contact in displacement where the place shall always be moving and moved.” (Gustavo Ciriaco and Andrea Sonnberger)

Bruce Nauman, Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square, 1967-1968.

Our Story of Resistance by Vickey Curtis, Dublin


Vickey Curtis is a spoken word artist. Her performance A Rose By Any Other Namespoke the language of street harassment in the course of a walk from the Spire to Rathmines in Dublin. Read a witnessing of her performance that was part of the Dublin Live Art Festival 2016 in:Action/Irish Live Art Review. Photograph by Blue Print Photography, Dublin.

Canadian artists Shawn Micallef, James Roussel and Game Sawhney, showcase the power voices carry to define places. They record personal stories about neighbourhoods and city streets. Murmur broadcasts oral histories for others to hear within everyday walking routes. The video above is a Ted Talk by Shawn Micallef examining the urban/suburban divide in Toronto.

Photos Above:  Floats in the Aether, Amanda Coogan

“Floats in the Aether is an ambitious, large-scale performance comprising a series of events involving over 100 women and girls of different backgrounds and social contexts. In each event, Amanda Coogan will lead a silent, slow-moving, choreographed procession through the historic rooms of the National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin). Each participant wears a simple cream jacket with gold, purple, orange and green painted details to reflect the colours of the Irish suffrage movement. Coogan believes ‘this performance puts groups of women together in the spirit of community, togetherness, witness and expectation to remember and celebrate the work of the Irish suffragettes…” http://www.amandacoogan.com


Artist, Hamish Fulton, Walking On and Off the Path (2016), A walk around the west side of a mountain range, Picos de Europa in Northern Spain. Commissioned by Fundación Cerezales Antonino y Cinia, Spain.


Kathy Prendergast, City Drawings, London, 1997 Photo Source: Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, http://www.kerlingallery.com

“The map no longer offers itself as a narrative, or indeed as an interpretative tool, but is instead transformed by drawing into a zone of the imagination. This practice relates as much to a long history of artists using map images as a way of accessing states of mind and the unknown as it does to conventional map making” Reference, Frances Morris, Tate Britain, “Prendergast: City Drawings.”


Photo: Artist Susan O’Malley, A Healing Walk, commissioned by the Montalvo Arts Centre, Saratoga California


Artwork above by artist Richard Long who creates Textworks with words listing what is observed on a walk, its duration and location. Richard Long (www.richardlong.org) is a walking artist, who began his career with “A Line Made by Walking.”


Photograph: Richard Long, A Line Made by Walking, 1967.

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Artworks by Fiona Robinson, Circular Walk Drawings, 2007, http://www.fionarobinson.wordpresss.com


Photo Credit: Natalia Klishina


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Photos Above: The Art of Walking—artworks created on a footpath beside Castletown River, Co. Louth, Ireland and a young participant creating a line while walking. The walk was an intergenerational collective of walking artists of all ages.  Participants created artworks from natural collections which were left on footpaths, and made artworks with imprints from flowers and botanical finds.

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Photos Above by Santoshi Roberston Davis, The Art of Walking at the Canadian Art Therapy Association Conference in Montreal. The workshop for conference participants included a walk to the gardens of the former Grey Nuns Convent (now part of Concordia University), and the Canadian Centre for Architecture sculpture park, gallery, and gardens. The walk was researched by Janis Timm-Bottos (Associate Professor, Art Therapy, Concordia University), so that each stop included a historical and social context for participants to better understand the significance of every location along the walking route.


Photo: ‘Why I Walked Blindfolded for Two Hours Through the Streets of Vancouver’ by Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail 

“Last Friday, I toured the streets of Vancouver blindfolded, guided by a woman I’d never met before – and had never seen. Do You See What I Mean? is a work of one-on-one theatre created by Lyon, France-based choreographers/artists Martin Chaput and Martial Chazallon, whose company Projet in situ describes the work as “the choreography of participation.” They’ve mounted the piece – tailored for each place – in several cities, including Montreal; it’s now in Vancouver, as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

This was a rare moment: when my thoughts drifted beyond what was directly in front of me. During the tour, you are totally focused on your experience and its implications. You’re not checking your phone, you’re not casing the room, you’re not thinking about anything other than the steps you’re climbing, the lavender pastry you’re tasting, the exchange you are having with your guide. Your mind does not wander at all. At least mine didn’t – and that is a feat for me. I didn’t – couldn’t – take a single note. But I remember everything. Do You See What I Mean? is set firmly in the world we’re already in, but have long forgotten to notice. We become intrigued again with the streets we walk every day” (Extracts by Marsha Lederman, ‘Why I Walked Blindfolded in Vancouver for Two Hours’)


Marina Abramovic and Ulay, The Great Wall Walk (1988). The meeting of Marina and Ulay after each walked 90 days from either end of the Great Wall of China. While initially planned as a celebration of their twelve year artistic and personal relationship, their meeting (documented above) marked the end of their collaboration and partnership.


Photo: A walk in an art therapy forest studio, Ireland.

Further Reading

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Walking Artists Network 

WALK: University of Sunderland’s Walking Art, Landskip and Knowledge Research Group

A Listing of Walking Artists by www.glasstire.com/The Ten List: Walks as Art 

Walking Interconnections: Researching the Lived Experience of Disabled People for a Sustainable Society 

Walk Poems: A Series of Reviews of Walking Projects by Louis Bury and Corey Frost 

The Walking Reading Group 

The Loiterers Resistance Movement 

The Sideways Art Festival, A Walking Expedition through Belgium 

Walking Artists to Discover

Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, Alec Finlay, Marina Abramovic, Chris Drury, Mike Collier, Brian Thompson, Tim Brennan, Tim Robinson, Julian Opie, Bruce Nauman, Melanie Manchot, Richard Wentworth, Francis Alÿs, Janet Cardiff, Atul Bhalla, Simon Pope, Sophie Calle, plan b, Wrights & Sites, Dan Holdsworth, Rachel Reupke. Joe Bateman, Brendan Stuart Burns, Rachael Clewlow, Sarah Cullen, Bradley Davies, Tracy Hannah, James Hugonin, Tim Knowles, Pat Naldi & Wendy Kirkup, Ingrid Pollard, Bryndis Snæbjõrnsdóttir & Mark Wilson, walkwalkwalk, Jeremy Wood, Catherine Yass, Carey Young.

Art Therapy and Ecology 4

January 17, 2018

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Photos from Top to Bottom: Anya Gallaccio ‘That Open Space Within”, herman de vries ‘Forest Collage’ and David Nash ‘Ash Dome Drawing’

“Movement, change, light, growth and decay are the life-blood of nature, the energies that I try to tap through my work. When I work with a leaf, rock, stick, it is not just material in itself, it is an opening into the processes of life within and around it. When I leave these processes continue.” (Andy Goldsworthy)

Why Art in Nature? The purpose of art making in nature is to experience the natural environment as an outdoor studio and to work with living art materials. It’s an opportunity to explore working with both found natural materials that make marks (i.e. mud, grass, berries, flowers, and charcoal) and to also investigate working with larger sculptural forms that evoke the idea of shelter within forest habitats. Equally, the acts of walking and collecting can be understood as important artistic practices.

Collected objects from nature can be assembled into displays where textures, colours and patterns are highlighted. Since natural materials gradually decompose photography, sketching and writing can be used to document artworks made in the forest. The nature studio offers many experiences to perceive ecology, and to structure these perspectives into a variety of artworks that will explore lines, shapes, dimensions, and patterns found in the natural world. Land Art is an intriguing form of contemporary art which works within a variety of natural environments, transforming living materials into distinct compositions. Nature is unpredictable and constantly changing – these are also the features of environmental art made outdoors within different kinds of habitats.

“I use the world as I find it…A sculpture I’ve made along the way is a sort of celebration of that place, of me being there at that time in that state of mind. It’s a record of that moment in my life.” (Richard Long)

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Photos: Andy Goldsworthy, ‘Sticks in River’ (Top) David Nash ‘Ash, Branch, Cube’ (Below)

What is Land Art? Land art is usually made in relation to a specific landscape or location, using collections of natural materials found on site. Land art can be left within the landscape, to be affected by the elements, or it can be transported into a studio space or gallery. This form of art is subject to change, it is ephemeral subject to decay and the impact of ecological processes including the effects of weather. Land Art can also incorporate walking, as a way of drawing upon the landscape. Walking artists consider forest paths to be like lines of drawing, a way of making one’s mark by foot, or taking a line for a walk. Walking artists Richard Long and Hamish Fulton use collections of words to illustrate their journeys through landscapes. Long uses the term textworks to describe the way individual words can encapsulate the essence of nature walks.

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Photos from top to bottom: Andy Goldsworthy ‘Rowan Leaves with Hole’, Hamish Fulton ‘Rock, Fall, Echo, Dust”, Chris Drury ‘Shimanto River Sphere’, and Richard Long ‘A Line Made By Walking’

I want an intimate physical connection with the earth. I must touch. I take nothing out with me in the way of tools, glue or rope, preferring to explore the natural bonds and tensions that exist within the earth. The season and weather conditions determine to a large extent what I make. I enjoy relying on the seasons to provide new materials. (Andy Goldsworthy)

What Kinds of Natural Materials can be used for Land Art? Charcoal (collected from abandoned campfires), Berries, Grass, Mud, Seed Heads, Leaves, Moss. Pine Cones, Pine Needles, Roots, Weeds, Flowers, Stones, Logs, Bark and Branches

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Photos: A Textwork by Richard Long ‘Day to Day’ (Top) and Patrick Dougherty ‘Childhood Dreams’  (Bottom)

I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and “found” tools – a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn. (Andy Goldsworthy)


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Photos of Art Therapy Bundles, Made from Branches, Felt, Fibre Materials



Top Photo: Miguel Angel Blanco, ‘Library of the Forest’, nature collections in wooden “book” boxes that are journals of his walking journeys.

The idea of a book being a collection of objects that are ideas, moments of time, a landscape, and movements held within a box vessel, can be a vital medium of artistic practice within art therapy. A walk can be taken alone or accompanied by others, either can become documented as an art therapy journey that involves the surrounding habitat as living studio.  The words of thought and feeling held within the significance of objects selected, illustrate and enact a psychological quest. This is a language of wandering and finding significance in what is close at hand. The book is an installation that can be handled and read in many ways. Time is contained within the dimensions of the book’s architecture. The composition of the book, reveals itself as a structural building, a home place for an ephemeral story.

Websites for Inspiration 

  1. Green Museum The Online Museum of Environmental Art
  2. Women’s Eco Artist’s Dialog
  3. Chris Drury
  4. herman de vries 
  5. Richard Long 
  6. Hamish Fulton 
  7. Patrick Dougherty 
  8. Also Search online for Artist Anya Gallaccio

Materials and Preparation List 

Fully charged camera phone or camera for photography

Sketch book or notebook for drawing, for imprints of natural materials, creative writing, and ideas you wish to take away from the workshop

Pencils and pens, graphite, charcoal or pastels for drawing and writing in sketchbook

Tape for attaching foraged items into sketchbook

Containers or bags for foraged items. These materials can be used for artworks after the workshop.



Photos: Collections of nature by artist herman de vries



Photo: A print of a tree trunk and a drawing of a forest walk

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Photos: Ecole du cloitre Vic sur Seille, Les Photos de Marc Pouyet


Photo: Kriss MacDonald, “My Botanical Desk – Winter Nature Diary” 

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Photos: Shelters Made in a Ravensdale Forest, County Louth


Photo: Nils-Udo ‘The Nest’


Photo: Chris Drury ‘Pine Circle, Cone Sphere’

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Photo: Derek Jarman photographed by Terry O’Neill (The Guardian)

Derek Jarman (1942-1994) was an English film director, artist, writer, stage designer and gardener. His garden journals, reflections and nature based artworks are profiled in his book Derek Jarman’s GardenWritten before his death the book crusades the proliferation of personality in every garden, rather than codification and regulation. Out of a shore composed of flint and shingle, and near a nuclear power station in Dungeness, Kent, Jarman created a gardening legacy that acts as a stage for not only his own personal experiences, but a catalyst for the pursuits of others who follow his example. An activist opposed to lawns, garden chemicals and the dictation of order, Jarman encouraged a garden’s anarchy and wild abandon. His garden was without borders and conventions, extending in all directions and inwards to meet the realities of landscapes both human and natural. His home, a restored fishing cottage, became his sanctuary and studio for forays into various forms of contemplation and artistic enterprise. The garden is still today infused with the magic of surprise. “I saw it as a therapy and a pharmacopoeia” (Derek Jarman), its essential nature to assist with the experiencing of life cycles.


Photo: Derek Jarman’s Garden

“Derek Jarman gave his garden a certain narrative; perhaps he treated it a bit like a film or theatre set. His films were visionary, eccentric, romantic and rebellious, all of which could also be said about his garden. The plants were distinct players in the action…He put wild with cultivated, made art out of rubbish and declared the garden a gallery where nature played the most important part. He sought refuge in his garden, but chose a setting with no boundaries, where everything is an edge: shingle, sea, sun, wind all shifting and changing…It is a weird and wonderful place, but in many ways humble: a small house, a tiny garden, yet the maker showed us all how wild and brilliant our own spaces can be if we’re prepared to look sympathetically at the landscape around us, to make room for the flotsam and weeds in life as much as the jewels.” (Alys Fowler, “Gardens: Planting on the Edge in Derek Jarman’s Garden”, The Guardian, September, 24, 2014


Photo Source: Gardenista


Photo Source: Kriss MacDonald, Derek Jarman’s Garden

herman de vries: to be all

November 19, 2015


Photo: herman de vries standing at the Kilianseiche near Falsbrun, Steigerwald (2006) [photo susanne de vries, Eschenau]

For herman de vries, human existence is rooted not in thought but in consciousness; this consciousness is primarily sensorial. Natural phenomena and processes first of all evoke the meanings of their physical presence; as an extension of that, the works and installations of herman de vries possess an immanent poetry that can be experienced directly…each natural element is itself and nothing else. (herman de vries, Visitor’s Guide, Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2015).


Photo: herman de vries at the Dutch Pavilion, Venice Biennale by Judith Jockel

The Dutch artist herman de vries (b. 1931) does not differentiate between nature, art and existence. His exhibition at the Venice Biennale entitled, to be all ways to be, studies properties of nature as a way to comprehend consciousness and knowledge.

His collection of natural elements interspersed with debris acts as a commentary on the juxtaposition of ecologial and cultural habitats. The artworks are an encounter with nature as a force that transforms everything. de vries collects distinct categories of nature (i.e. soil and plant collections) in order to enlarge their energetic significance upon human life. His ethos is to enhance each person’s sense of reality through sharpening their perception.

Everything is all ways significant for all. (herman de vries, quotation in herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding, 2006)

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Photos: IMAGE CREDIT http://www.hermandevries.org, herman de vries at the Kunsthalle Schweinfurt arranging the ‘steigerwald cosmology’ (2010)
photo Katharina Winterhalter/Main Post

herman de vries interrogates his surroundings by researching a particular land area. His philosophy of being with the immediate and the actual, incorporates the belief that nothing is stable, with every moment becoming a new manifestation of reality (herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding). Through walking, observing, collecting and presenting his discoveries, he invites each one of us to become more intimately involved with our habitat. Each walk becomes a journal and an immediate experience of being, an inclusivity of everything and the significance of ‘all’. The body intertwining with its environment absorbing the complexity and pulse of natural phenomena.

The world is my chance, it changes me everyday. (herman de vries, quotation in herman de vries, chance and change by Mel Gooding, 2006)


Photo: herman de vries Journals http://www.hermandevries.org
IMAGE CREDIT im winter auf dem grossen knetzberg • ein journal, 2013 [Photo Bruno Schneyer, Zeil am Main]

The methods and reasoning put forth by herman de vries are an invaluable resource for art therapists interested in resourcing the natural world for art, field trips, and metaphorical discussion. His dedication to astute observation, the ordering of findings, and attending to the details of human nature are about working with every day discoveries. Each walk is a quest for enhanced concentration upon existence in all its complexity. A journey’s documentation becomes a journal of perception in contact with greater essences of life.

A personal journal is a record, but it is by its very nature subjective and partial…It’s purpose is to record a process or a progress in time, in a particular place or on a particular journey, and to use the events as the basis for reflection and speculation…It is worth noting that the Latin diurnalis (daily) is the root both of ‘journal’ and of ‘journey’ (originally the distance travelled in a day): ‘journal’ thus encapsulates the idea of movement through time and space. de vries has made several journals, usually in the course of a journey or a visit to a specific place or area, each of them having in common the ordered bringing together of a series of framed ‘entries’ of material gathered in the period of the journey or stay.

The heterogeneity of the materials reflects always the diversity both of the artist’s experience and of the landscape in which they have been gathered. They may include plant forms, animal traces, mineral objects, and human artefacts: leaves, twigs, seeds, stems pieces of bark, lichen, fungus, shells, feathers, stones, earth and ash rubbings, fragments of ‘rubbish’, text works, photographs. They demonstrate, by implication, unity in diversity by means of the visual order of their presentation in grid-like arrays. Each ‘entry’ may seem to be a fragment of reality: put together they present an image that implies both a thrilling chaos and a beautiful order in things. The visual ordering accords with the underlying principle that in every part of complex reality there is both the natural disposition to form and order and the impulse to entropy. (Quotation by Mel Gooding, herman de vries, chance and change, 2006).

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Photo: Burned III, After a Summer Bonfire, de vries, Dutch Pavillion, Venice Biennale



herman de vries: chance and change (2006) by Mel Gooding

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Forest Rubbings with Wind, Charcoal Trees After a Forest Fire, Torres del Paine, Chile 

“All language proceeds as a system of navigation. Named things are fixed points aligned or compared, which allow the speaker to plot the next move” (Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia)

Patagonia finds its place within endings and beginnings, it encompasses borders and edges of land that draw lines not only on maps, but within the imagination. A place where travelling to an end point evokes a new sense of beginning. In his classic book In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin pioneered digression within travel writing, as a way to entangle fact, fiction and biography. Chatwin’s travelogue meanders through different time frames, acts of conversation, and journeys through Patagonia’s geographies. Chatwin succeeded in immersing his own psychology within travelled landscapes. A kind of psychogeography where significance is gained through unknowingness, happenstance and surprise. Patagonia is both distinct and vague, ‘a theatre for restlessness’, a landscape where people are not neutral, where bleakness seizes the imagination with a “nothingness that forces the mind in on itself” (Nicholas Shakespeare, An Introduction to In Patagonia).

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Forest Rubbings with Wind, Charcoal Trees After a Forest Fire, Torres del Paine, Chile

Whereas the term psychogeography originated as an urban construction (or situation), Chatwin implements the discursive meaning of the term within his travels to remoteness. Patagonia was a journey into Chatwin’s own form of fiction, an exile into lost identity and undetermined meaning. Chatwin’s journals document spontaneous encounters with displacement, the language of changing scenery and perspectives about oneself. His book is mostly about ‘interiors that are elsewheres’ a symbolic voyage where language becomes a means of navigation (Nicholas Shakespeare, An Introduction to In Patagonia).

Travel journals are useful resources for art therapy, recording the circumstances of being in between known locations. These suspended times away from fixed references are impromptu negotiations with unfamiliarity. They are spontaneous chartings of endings and beginnings found within travelled landscapes. Travel diaries record passages, situations and chance encounters. Written on the move they draw on the geography of change as a psychological stimulus. The travelling journeys of restlessness, the elsewheres that beckon and manifest as marks on a page, become navigational routes between borders of experience.


Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia

Nicholas Shakespeare, An Introduction to In Patagonia

Merlin Coverly, Psychogeography



Miguel Angel Blanco has developed a collection of wooden boxes as a forest library, containing the findings from intentionally symbolic walks. These collections are his journals imprinted with journeys taken from the past thirty years. The Biblioteca del Bosque (Library of the Forest) is housed in the basement of his home in Madrid. Miguel’s walks are primarily taken within the Guadarrama Mountains outside of Madrid. The library as a whole is an evolving sculpture, it is also an ecology of life, documenting Miguel’s communications with nature.

His library comprises more than a thousand wooden “book-boxes” each of which is a reliquary or cabinet containing the objects and substances (snakeskin, quartz crystals, resin, elm leaf) gathered along the course of a particular walk. Each of these micro-terrains represents a completed journey; but the library itself – ever growing – is a compound pilgrimage without visible end (Robert Mcfarlane, ‘Rites of Way: Behind the Pilgrimage Revival’, The Guardian, June, 2012).




Miguel Angel Blanco, Artist Statement

The Library as sculpturing life project, is a work open to nature’s vastness, carried out with the same slowness and steadiness with which a tree grows, a symbiosis between the right angle and the biologic form. I share with oriental art the wish to achieve an organic composition, in which fullness represents substance and emptiness the circulation of vital breaths, joining in this way the finite and the infinite, like creation itself. Maybe the goal of the work could be to understand the universe’s secret language, to create a great mystery from the starting point of a piece of fern or a drop of resin. To be an echo of the ephemeral. To establish communication with the universe and receive an answer from it…

Art is experience. The simple action of walking about the forest’s paths opens the eyes to the essential, increases receptivity and tunes the senses. The walker is on the watch, on a constant alert, trying to see in the landscape more than the usual, expanding reality. The forest creates an inner state of serenity, pureness and optimism (Miguel Angel Blanco, The Forest’s Library, http://www.bibliotecadelbosque.net/la-biblioteca-del-bosque/)


The idea of a book being a collection of objects that are ideas, moments of time, landscape, and movements held within a box vessel, can be a vital medium of artistic practice within art therapy. A walk can be taken alone on accompanied by others within an art therapy journey that involves the surrounding habitat within a rite of discovery. The words of thought and feeling held within the significance of objects selected, illustrate and enact a psychological quest. This is a language of wandering and finding significance in what is close at hand. The book is an installation that can be handled and read in many ways. Time is contained within the dimensions of the book’s architecture. The composition of the book, reveals itself as a structural building, a home place for an ephemeral story.

Miguel Angel Blanco, Artist Statement

The book, ultimate tool for the transmission of knowledge, is not composed of words in my case. The language spoken is another. It is the fragment of nature capable of communicating a whole world, which words can only approach. Silent invocations. All components of my books originate in nature’s realms, even the wood of the boxes and the different papers – subtle transformation of wooden hearts – of the pages on which I draw. In fact, books have an important relationship with trees, even etymologically, for the Latin word liber (= book) also means the living part of the tree’s bark….

The box is a small recondite sanctuary, a sancta sanctorum. Sealed with glass, hermetic, to preserve its contents, it is at the same time ark, essence-container, shrine and crucible. Moss, lichen, barks, needles, pine cones, pollen, brambles, fungi, wax, roots, earth, minerals or resins are some of the materials I have collected. Materials that liberate secret images. Unfathomable abysses, deep lakes, infinite spaces, storms, creeks, fires… may open inside a small box. One may even contemplate the creation of the universe in a drop of resin. Microlandscapes. The box-book is the memory of the immemorial. But we will never be able to span the infinity of the inner dimension (Miguel Angel Blanco, The Forest’s Library, http://www.bibliotecadelbosque.net/la-biblioteca-del-bosque/).



Miguel Angel Blanco, Biblioteca del Bosque http://www.bibliotecadelbosque.net/la-biblioteca-del-bosque/

Robert Mcfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot.

The Drawing of a Journey

February 22, 2014


Photo: The Walking Piece, Matthias Sperling and Siobhan Davies Studios, London


Photo: Practice Ireland, Day Away for Artists Working with Children, Masking Tape Workshop, Map of Encounters

map = picture, sketch, design, plan, print, drawing, tracing, portrayal, depiction, projection, delineation, diagram, arrangement

Drawing upon a journey documents passages across both familiar and unfamiliar places, encountering geography, landmarks and people along the way. Tracking and marking one’s travels can become a record of activity and a personal reflection.  A map can depict investigations of personal and social spaces meeting and implicating each other. The act of mapping can also sketch out the performative aspect of walking, the interrogation of mind, body and situation through intentional rites and rituals.


Illustration: Finding a Way Around, Poetry Map, Ravensdale Forest, County Louth, Ireland

Sketches of geography can become a personal archive of walks. Combined with words they become examples of visual poetry that transcribe experiences into drawn lines of travel. The depiction of a path does not map out a destination, but portrays what you think about as you trace over a byway. Words accompany steps, and paths are the accumulation of many people’s routes through landscapes that define walking trails and a history of footsteps.


Photo: Katie Holten, It Started On the C Train

Usually I’m on the move, and I started to crochet on the subway making circular shapes that were like a drawing accompanying my journey. I collected a bundle of crochet doodles, all made from a simple chain stitch and connected them together. The bundles of crocheted ‘maps’ can be displayed and assembled in different ways (Katie Holten, It Started on the C Train, Irish Museum of Modern Art)


Photo: Letter from Poland, Photo by Clare Moloney

A pedestrian’s language can speaks about rights of way, getting lost, and finding something by chance.

Making one’s way through streets and landscape can mark time and map lines of encounter. It can involve familiarity, deviation, and wandering around in circles. The drawing of a map can be instinctual, not so much a fact, but a kind of imaginative possibility. Mapping is plotting lines of habit and discovering new situations.

Getting lost is not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind who you are, who others think you are. (Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost)


Photo: Nobutaka Aozaki, Here to There, Hand Drawn Maps of New York

Mapping journeys and drawing upon space can be an evocative way of sharing stories in art therapy. Lines marking land or noting the surfaces of pavement and urban spaces represent the meeting of identity and context. Personal maps, as part of a journal, record ordinary life and departures from the everyday. They mark out patterns of movement and spur of the moment impulses, together encompassing the diversity of an individual trying to find their way in life.


Photo: Fiona Robinson, Mapping Space


Photo: Kathy Prendergast, City Drawings, London


Katie Holten, http://www.katieholten.com

Walking and Art: A Blog About the Uses of Walking in Art http://walkart.wordpress.com/

Walk of the Week: Walking Through Modern and Contemporary Art Practice http://walkoftheweek.blogspot.co.uk/

Karen O’Rourke, Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers

Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost


Photo: Tino Sehgal, Outside the Tate Modern, London

The artwork started to emerge. I started to see how the performers inhabited the space, telling a narrative of sorts. They seemed to be conducting a commentary on a progress of being human. Not progress in technological terms, just a simple progress of bodies moving in time and space, a progress apparently disrupted and changed by encounters, disrupted by moments that change the way thoughts and consequently bodies move (Miranda Pope, “Wish You Were Here: Tino Sehgal at the Tate”).

German artist Tino Sehgal choreographs experiences, he constructs situations in public locations that catch people off guard, beginning conversations and contact between strangers. The orientation of his performative art form is influenced by his background as a dancer. The materials of the dance between strangers is physical presence, happenstance and discussions related to human experience and philosophy. People come together in unplanned encounters that stimulate contact through a sense of being together within a particular place and time. Participants are stopped in their paths, in order to meet within an enhanced level of human connection. Names are not important, but sharing opinions, beliefs and experiences entangle the conversation with different approaches to meaning.

Sehgal’s work is not theatrical; it is a choreography with choices. It is about movement, pathways, interactions and encounters. He implicates habitual movements within public thoroughfares with surprise meetings. Somehow awakening the body, while awakening the mind, while inviting new ways of approaching everyday worlds.


Photo: Tino Sehgal, These Associations, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, 2012

In 2012 Sehgal produced These Associations at the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London. He trained interested members of the public to walk, sing, jog and talk to strangers. The movement of Sehgal’s volunteers was described by the Tate’s Gallery Director Chris Deacon as an “anarchic experience, a flow of energy that gave a feeling of recognition and belonging” (Tino Sehgal Takes Over Tate Modern Turbine Hall by Genevieve Hassan).


Drawing: Doris Schlaepfer, Drawings After These Associations

Unknowingly, I became part of Sehgal’s production in the Turbine Hall.  I was swept up into a wave of people pacing the large cavernous space, at first in lines, then running, then scattering suddenly. I was approached by one of Sehgal’s mediators, who talked about family, regret, confusion and loss. The conversation happened not at the beginning, but in the middle. There were no introductions, no mapping out of identities, just two life currents meeting at mid-stream.


Photo: Tino Sehgal, These Associations, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, 2012

In their recent book Art as Therapy Alain de Botton and John Armstrong reference Sehgal as a political artist changing the nature of human interaction through addressing the collective personality. The art that Sehgal choreographs is both intangible, a passing experience, and also the making of a mind and body imprint.

To call the experience Sehgal has set in motion life-affirming would be no more than platitude. This is a profound work and at the same time riveting; a new form of art somewhere between theatre, performance art, dance and memoir and yet based on an immense gathering of humanity that includes all of us as live participants. Life art, I suppose…Attention is what it is all about, this precious thing we scarcely give one another and which is both the substance and the object of Sehgal’s work. We often speak of art as life-changing; this event truly has that potential in all its fullness and humanity. One learns about other people, and one learns about oneself. I shall never forget it (Tine Sehgal These Associations – A Review of Laura Cumming).

The significance of Sehgal’s work for art therapy is choreographing experiences – generating public art forms that ignite interactions within the extended practice of art therapy. The essence of Sehgal’s art is meeting people where they are in the moment. Exposing the materials of daily life, as the materials of art therapy in a combination of togetherness and sharing. Art therapy needs to embody spontaneous gestures on a larger scale, and to embrace public happenings as important therapeutic interventions.


Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong

Tino Sehgal These Associations – A Review by Laura Cumming http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/jul/29/tino-sehgal-these-associations-review

Tino Sehgal Takes Over Tate Modern Turbine Hall by Genevieve Hassan http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18957938

Wish You Were Here: Tino Sehgal at the Tate by Miranda Pope http://www.theweeklings.com/mpope/2012/11/18/wish-you-were-here-tino-sehgal-at-the-tate/

Doris Schlaepfer, http://dorisschlaepfer.com/sehgal.php