I have started a new collaboration with a young graduate, LJ Klee. We call ourselves Sidelong. We met at Nottingham Contemporary, where we were both working on the Family Activities programme there. As we met and talked, we realised we both had an interest in walking, mapping and people participating, so we decided we should work together on something.
I have a history of doing walking projects, I’m still doing a lot of walking in parts of Northamptonshire and I had an interesting experience once trying to walk in parts of California! (It’s not easy when there are no “sidewalks”!) I’m a bit of a walker anyway, it’s part of my practice and I like the outdoors, and I’ve walked large parts of the Peak District. It was about time I did a walking project in Nottingham.
Thinking about our idea of walking and also the opportunity to take part in Light Night, we proposed an idea to create a night walk, where we would place artistic interventions, hidden art works, around the streets. The art works were made from reflective material, which you could only see when you shone a torch directly at them. The idea was to create a mysterious walk of magical, surreal images that suddenly appeared and disappeared. A bit like a dream. So we called it Dream Walking.
Nottingham City Council liked the idea, so we began! As we searched for our route, we had to contact numerous local businesses and ask them for permission to place an art work on their premises. Everybody we approached were delighted. It was great to find Nottingham businesses who supported us with such enthusiasm, and some of them inspired our ideas for designs too.
Firstly, what I liked about our event was that it really challenged people. It wasn’t something that you passively watched, you had to invest some effort into it, and many people really rose to this challenge! We gave participants a map and a torch and they had to find the route themselves with the map to guide them, and see how many of the eleven interventions they could spot! It almost became a competition to see who would be the first to spot all eleven.
Secondly, my experience of actually being there was quite strange. LJ and I had invested three months of our time in creating the walk, getting to know the route, talking to businesses, researching ideas for images. But suddenly, here we were, standing on a stall, sending people off to experience our work for themselves. Without us! It was that odd moment that artists experience, having invested time, effort and emotion into a piece of work, the work is then launched out into the world and you have to just let it go. What will people make of it?
Cleverly, we had made sure that the route took people in a circle so they could come back to us and tell us what they thought! We collected lots of feedback. Some people only found a few, but enjoyed the act of looking, whereas other people made it their mission to find every single one and some of them even went back to find the ones they had missed! We had people of all age groups take part, from the very small, in family groups, to much older couples, as well as lots of couples and groups of young adults. It seemed that there was something for everybody.
Of course, because we had to stay at our stall, we didn’t see much more of Light Night ourselves. But I really enjoyed some of the light spectaculars that wandered their way past us – the brass band was excellent and marched past us several times, we also saw people on stilts and could hear the cheers from a crowd watching fire juggling, and the giant puppet came past us to keep us entertained! It was brilliant and really busy, despite being cold. I hope I get to do it again next year…
I’ve written a bit more about how we created the Dream Walk on my blog at jodacombe.blogspot.com and we will be writing about each of the images we made and how they relate to their locations on our Sidelong blog at sidelonguk.blogspot.com.
“I’m an artist working in the public realm. I undertake commissions, generate my own projects and am involved in arts education. I’m interested in mapping, walking, connections, public space, modes of travel, change, sense of place and looking sideways, using a wide range of media for temporary and permanent artworks.”
All images by Jo Dacombe
Are you interested in becoming a CreativeNottingham Guest Blogger? Here’s how. “