A how-to for a forgotten art

Please note: This text is absolutely work in progress. Consider it as a ragbag of stuff that was condensed to a construct that is a wild mixture between an essay, how-to and article. I will update this page every now and then when I have new thoughts under the shower or out in the woods.

What you’ll need

Absolutely nothing. I repeat: nothing. Period. Leave your DSLR and your fitness tracker, your smartphone and all other devices at home that are able to track, document or conserve your experience as a continuum of snapshots. 
If necessary take a note- or sketchbook with you, but only when you can ensure that these little things won’t distract you. 
Also leave at home your need to label/s how that things you are currently doing. A whole industry relies on the primitive fact that people need to show others what they are doing through artifacts and (status) symbols. So get rid of your jogging outfit, your hiking outdoor polar Serengeti survive gear etc. 
Dress as casual as possible. Dress as cozy as possible. When you need to think about your clothing then you are doing it wrong.

What you’ll do

You go for a walk. You do not have other aims or tasks. Just go for the walk per se. Try to experience the spaces and locations you will face. Be as humble as possible but yet focused. Always repeat in your inner voice: “I am part of THIS world. I am not the uninvolved spectator nor the destructive invader.” Behave respectively. Try to answer the following questions for you in personal:

  • What makes this current location different to the location before?
  • Why did I stop exactly here? Was my motivation to rest an inner need of myself or did the environment force me to stop?
  • Is this a location or a place?
  • If I would have to name this place, what would it be called? (If this place is already named: Do you think the name is adequate? Why/why not?
  • What in particular would you want to change in your environment if you could? (Try to break this question up into two different versions: First, what would you change within your environment’s paradigm? Second, what would you change if you do not have any physical, metaphorical or financial limitations? Focus particularly on the (imagined) physical boundaries!)
  • Spatial theory says that every space needs borders. Where are these borders in your location?
  • How are these borders determined? Which of your found borders are imaginary, which are material?
  • How do you experience the different spaces? Can you find locations that are determined only through non-visual (i.e. sound, odeur) sensing? What does this mean regarding the naming conventions? What does this mean in the context of our documenting culture? (There is no instagram for odeurs, there is no tumblr for sound.)
  • Do we miss something relevant when we reduce our experiences to visual media exclusively? (This no rhetoric question: What exactly makes a place unique and special? Why do people still want to travel even when Streetview exists?)

It is extremely important that you do not document your considerations in any way.

What you should avoid

Everything that will distract you. Most important: Try to resist the urge of trying to document your journey. You won’t need the big camera, nor your smartphone (with the neat little f/2.8 “professional” lens). Speaking, documenting, showing off are all habits that will make you unhappy in the long run. (And, as we all know: Only unhappy people buy things they don’t need – so the industry has a vital interest in keeping you unhappy. Be always aware of this fact.)

Why you’ll need to do it

I call it: The recapture of your environment:

  • Try to think your surroundings no longer as a necessary evil that you need to cross when you want to get from point A to B. The modern human is 24/7 in mobility-mode what translates to: A human that enjoys its surroundings does not create profit (that’s why our urban landscapes are covered in advertisement to wrest the last bit of attention to economy)
  • Try to interpret your environment not only as a backdrop for your photos (or your social life). It may sound obscure, but you are a significant part of this scenery. Interact with your environment not only with people in it.
  • Do not take the easy ways: The path with the least resistance is the path everyone takes. No, this is not a quote from the basic teenage girl’s Instagram account. Take these words literally: Alter your paths.