Hamish Fulton: Walking as Knowing as Making
Krannert Art Museum / University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign
March 5 through July 31, 2005


An artwork cannot re-present the experience of a walk

The texts are facts for the walker and fiction for everyone else

The location of the walk is not in the gallery and the walk itself is a past event

Only make art resulting from the experience of individual walks

The flow of time and the rhythms of a walk

An object cannot compete with an experience

Change perceptions - not the “landscape”

Walks are like clouds they come and go

My art acknowledges the element of time, the time of my life – in relation to the sun moon and stars

All my walks are related from the first to the last

Each walk marks the flow of time between birth and death

Quotations taken from writings by Hamish Fulton


If standardized systems of measurement allow us to make sense of the world, to guarantee clear transactions in trade, science, or poetry, they also create some unusual and shocking juxtapositions. All minutes are the same duration, all inches the same length; but the value of an inch of space along the morning commute differs greatly from an inch of space between two friends. A minute of waiting for a traffic light to change seems immeasurably longer than the first minute of a footrace.

These unexpected misalignments of the commensurate are common to the work of artist Hamish Fulton. He chooses to place in series and comparison a variety of experiences of the same span of time or space. In the artist's installation for Krannert Art Museum, we see a series of days' events – one day, one walk - a collection of days that span almost 30 years. The structure of the project suggests commensurability, that one walk on one day is the same as any of the others, and yet we see in even these spare descriptions wild variations in task and detail. Walking "one day in a gale" in Iceland is vastly different than walking "one hundred thousand paces on country roads" in England. For Krannert Art Museum, Fulton adds another day to this series, a day that in itself contains an equally discordant juxtaposition. He asks us to compare one artist walking back and forth by choice for a day in Sadorus to the forced march of over 850 Potawatomi Indian people from Sadorus to Monticello for one day in 1838.

Fulton forces such meetings, juxtapositions of unlike things throughout his work, exploring the promises and limits of representation and measurement. Even his choice of medium pursues promise but threatens failure--mere text on a gallery wall serves to represent these varied and arduous walks. We are left in the austere space of the museum gallery to imagine these walks on our own with the sparest of additional information, nothing of the traditional data conveyed through painting or photography.

At the center of Fulton's projects is his body--by measuring in steps, walks, or days before meters or miles, he makes commensurability dependent upon physical experience. One might contrast these choices to those of professional athletes, for whom the machine-measured increments of seconds and milliseconds serve as the mode of comparison and critique. In Fulton's work, the body links unlike events, whereas in much of modernity the machine ensures such comparisons for purposes of profit and regulation.

Fulton has pursued this project for over 30 years, walking over 28,000 miles on five continents. Born in 1946 in Britain, the artist decided in 1973 to "only make art resulting from the experience of individual walks." Since then the act of walking has remained central to Fulton's practice. He has stated "If I do not walk, I cannot make a work of art" and has summed up this way of thinking in the simple statement of intent: "no walk, no work". Although only Fulton experiences the walk itself, the texts and photographs he presents in exhibitions and books allow us to engage with his experience. Elaborating on the overlapping tensions between experience and representation, private and public, and fact and fiction, Fulton has said: “My art is about specific places and particular events that are not present in the gallery. The given information is very minimal. My hope is that the viewer will create a feeling, an impression in his or her own mind, based on whatever my art can provide.”

Hamish Fulton's work is featured in numerous permanent collections around the world, including The Tate Gallery (London); Museum of Modern Art (NYC); Los Angeles County Museum; National Museum (Osaka); Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); and Kunstmuseum (Basel). His walks have taken him to places as diverse as Ireland, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Lapland, Iceland, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Nepal, India, Tibet, Australia, and Japan. His visit to Champaign included both the creation of a work for Krannert Art Museum and participation in the semester-long symposium: Walking as Knowing as Making: A Peripatetic Investigation of Place. His one-day walk in Sadorus is likely to appear in future installations elsewhere, as he continues his exploration of walking as a way of knowing.

Kevin Hamilton, Assistant Professor, Art + Design
Nicholas Brown, Graduate Student, Art + Design


Beyond imagination
In the memory
Nowhere to be seen