Dedicated urbanites “know” beyond shadow of doubt – because doubt never raises its disturbing head – that civilization is the real world: you only “escape” to wilderness. When you’re out and away and immersed, you “know” the obverse: the wilderness world is real, the human world a superimposed facade… The controversy is, of course, spurious. Neither view can stand alone. Both worlds are real. But the wilderness world is certainly older and will almost certainly last longer. Besides, the second view seems far healthier for a human to embrace. — Colin Fletcher River (1997)
Last Sunday Harpo and I set out from the Henry Art Gallery with a few new friends, and a few old acquaintances, on an unplanned day-long dérive – the public presentation of our ongoing work titled *Map Not Included, which is included in the Henry’s Field Studies program this summer. We walked, together and apart, for 8 hours – ending our outing at the Hideout on First Hill to recap our experiences.
Our intent was to offer people a framework for a personal, unmediated, unplanned adventure. Whilst hiking the Appalachian Trail last year, we were always on a path and more or less knew where we were going. With our dérive, we experimented with a time-based exercise where destination and impact were not premeditated.
While the walkers in general transcribed a westerly ark – headed towards Gasworks, then into Fremont, and some venturing as far as the Ballard Locks and Myrtle Edwards park what happened in between varied wildly. Some people chose to walk the entire time, while others did laundry or ran home to charge their batteries. Some people got free samples at Theo, others watched crabbers come in with their catch at a tiny public shore access in Ballard, or smoked a joint with DK Pan (who one might meet outside the Olympic Sculpture Park at any unspecified time). Some wandered through open air farmer’s markets, while others cozied up at a cafe with their journal. Some saw signs. Some returned to former places of meaning and let memory and emotion wash over them.
While we could have offered more constraints, it seemed best to allow anything to happen, providing a platform for open improvisation. What occurred was unexpected – people at the happy hour meet up, almost uniformly shared with us a moment of significance, whether noticing some detail (like an agave blooming after walking past it for years) or having a strong association with a specific architectural space. People also recalled to us how they suddenly found themselves in a locale that unlocked memories, emotions, events from years gone by. Some said they had no idea that they could easily traverse 10 miles in one day – they just hadn’t tried. It’s as if, by freeing ourselves from expectations about how to productively use time, we were more invested in seeing what was actually around us and coming into touch with our physical capability.
We thank each and every participant who set aside a good chunk of a rainy Sunday to join us in this excursive diversion – as well as the super Whitney Ford-Terry, who hooked it up. Also, our lovely photographer Lindsey Rae Gjording who provided all of the images above. And not to forget, Mighty-O for the tasty vegan, organic snacks. Kudos all on getting lost…