Travelling into a landscape: dis-orienting yourself to wander in our places

“Changing places, dealing with different worlds, being forced to continually recreate your landmarks, is regenerating on a psychic level, but today no one recommends a similar experience. In primitive cultures, on the other hand, if you did not get lost, you did not grow up. And this path is followed in the desert, in the forest, while the places are a kind of machine through which other states of consciousness are acquired”

(Franco La Cecla)

Instructions for Use

Do not take time away from your walking to read this text.
Read it instead to rediscover its meaning.

Listen to/live your steps

TEST

Close your eyes and listen: not to the noise around you, not to your breath, but to the sound of your footsteps. Clear your mind and perceive that gesture that is so natural. Does it seem obvious to you?

Yet it is not obvious.
It is a gesture conquered with difficulty, freeing your hands.
At the beginning it was essential for hunting and gathering, then it moved men into unknown territories, in random paths, in a walk that was and is “wandering“.
Then the path was born and with it the world began to be mapped, therefore interpreted. First through the maps of a nomadic attitude, in which the signs disappear, the routes rest on invisible tracks, then on maps drawn by sedentary men, composed of their cities and the routes to reach them.

As the author Francesco Careri says “By changing the meanings of the space that was crossed, the path was the first aesthetic action that penetrated the territories of chaos, building a new order on which the architecture of the situated objects developed” 1

Every time you take a step, you leave a trace. In that moment you are acting on the landscape, building a relationship. Walking becomes our way of “inhabiting the world” 2, with which to cross, immerse yourself, recognize, familiarize yourself, discover, love your own landscape. We get into it and it gets into us.
“Our relationship with the landscape does not end in gaze and contemplation. It involves the body and its sensory participation, it is charged with affection and memory, it becomes an element of identity”. 3

Nomadic map and the walkabout

We are sedentary, often in the body, certainly in our culture.
Walking through the space as we do, requires stable, marble landmarks: asphalts, streets, buildings, signs, …
What would happen if for a moment our eyes were nomadic?

“The nomadic void is an infinite and uninhabited, often impracticable one: a desert in which it is difficult to orient oneself, like an immense sea in which the only recognizable trace is the trail left by walking, a mobile and evanescent trace. The nomadic city is the path itself”. 4
The focus is not so much on the point of arrival and departure, but on the path. It is the space of going.
There are no stable landmarks, just disappearing signs.
Unlike us, nomads are capable of forming their own map in every moment, their own constantly changing geography, following the changes of the territory and the movement of the observer. Every geographical peculiarity is to be noted, even the smallest. It is a physical landmark acting as a guide in the path, but it can also become the space of a mythological history, a narrative path and mnemonic aid in that of the world, such as the Aboriginal walkabout, i.e. the system of paths that the Australian populations used to map a entire continent.
Each geographical element, and not only, is part of a map of walkways: physical places, but also key points of stories that are continuously intertwined.
Each place is narrated in a mythological tale that must be sung while walking through it. “Each street has its own song and all the routes of songs constitute a network of erratic-symbolic paths crossing and describing the space as a sort of sung guide”.5

TEST

Are you still able to recreate your own personal nomadic map of a known place? Can you be amazed by the woods you know, get lost in your villages and in your cities?

Praise to the wandering

Even before the nomadic mapping, the Paleolithic erratic path lived by chance, at the mercy of events. By following preys or gathering food, our ancestors had to learn to build paths.
If nomadism often develops in cyclical paths – therefore known – and foresees a return, while wandering you move into the unknown. Only with time, giving names to the surrounding environment, you become familiar with it: “Walking produces places”. 6

After Dada’s “urban excursions to the banal places of the city” 7 and the “Lettrist drift” where “elsewhere is everywhere, even in Paris, the exotic is always at hand, you just need to get lost and explore your own city” 8, the path has fully entered our places.
Our cities, our environments can transform themselves into a landscape that is perhaps new, perhaps to be rediscovered, perhaps unexpected.

“Not being able to orient yourself in a city does not mean much. But getting lost in it, as one gets lost in a forest, is something to be learned. Because the names of the streets must sound like the crunching of dead branches to the ear of the wanderer and the internal narrow streets must clearly reflect it like the mountain gorges”.9

Good wandering

Sources:
“Mindscapes. Psiche nel paesaggio” (Psyche in the landscape) by Vittorio Lingiardi (Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2017)
“Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica” (Walking as an aesthetic practice) by Francesco Careri (Einaudi, 2006)

Notes:
1 from “Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica”, page 4
2 from “Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica”, page 4
3 from “Mindscapes. Psiche nel paesaggio”, page 23
4 from “Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica”, page 18
5 from “Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica”, page 26
6 from “Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica”, page 28
7 from “Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica”, page 45
8 from “Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica”, page 72
9 Walter Benjamin from “Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica”, page 44