Walking - one sense at a time

Walking - one sense at a time is about ways of knowing, relationships with places, walking and paying attention.

“Walking – one sense at a time” explores what changes when you try walking more attentively, making use of your senses. In this series of creative city explorations, we focused on one specific sense per walk: smell, sound, visual, tactile. During each of the walks we noted the respective sensory observations, discuss their meaning and create a unique sensory map. Weaving together arts, research and community activating, each walk is ultimately concerned with engaging the participants into broader social issues – what does a liveable city smell like, what is the sound of social justice, what does pollution feel like?

We walk with an assertion that decades of ‘evidence-based-decision-making’ and scientific reduction have been clearly failing to create a meaningful cultural shift required for dealing with climate change. We walk after those who walked before us, in a sign of a protest, together with those around us, questioning & before those, who will walk the damaged planet they inherit.  We walk to practice a more wholesome and coherent way of understanding the world through interpreting not only texts and talks but also using our senses. It is my hope that through attentively attending to our environments and recognising the interconnected lively assemblages in it, we can become capable of producing a more ethical and grounded response that the climate change ‘situation’ calls for.

The walking series took part in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand from May to September 2018. There were 4 day and 4 night walks, with each pair focused on a specific sense. More than 50 walkers in total explored Auckland’s streets as a medium for creative city exploration, linking everyday sensory experiences to broader social and environmental issues. I led the walks and shared various ways to smell/touch/look at/listen to the city. Participants mapped their experiences and I facilitated discussion after each of the walks. Together with my project partner I created five sensory maps that collated participant’s observations. These were made publicly available at the interactive community hub Pā Rongorongo in Auckland’s City Centre.

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“I was staring at the tree roots breaking from beneath of the concrete pavement, crumbling it on its sides as they emerge. It was an ‘intensity’ in slow motion. There might be nothing happening if you glance at it briefly, but when you stop and look at it you realise the scale of this extraordinary process.”

“At first I was a bit more reserved with touching things, but the longer into the walk, the more it felt great to explore the different textures and surfaces, it was liberating.”

“I don’t usually stop by and take time to look at things, so this time I decided to look at things that I normally don’t pay attention to - the pavement, the manhole covers, the railings - I was very impressed”

“A three-course touch-feast: first you get the lichens - dry and flaky, crumbling under your fingertips, then sharp and stoney rock and finally some soft moss. It was a sensory symphony.”

The project was was carried out in collaboration with the community organisation Splice and supported by Auckland Council.

Here’s me talking about it on Radio New Zealand.