Saturday, 11 February 2012

Curating: weaving the Dream Walk

Design for Dream Walking intervention
Friday saw the first curated walk put together by LJ and me, working as Sidelong, take place as part of Nottingham's Light Night festival.

Overall it was a great success, with over 160 people taking part, despite below freezing temperatures.  Time, then, for some reflections on curating walks.
LJ giving out maps at our stall

LJ and I wanted to think about the notion of a curated walk.  How would that work? What does it mean to curate a walk?  Our Sidelong projects aim to explore different ways of answering that question.

We started working on our walk in Nottingham back in November.  We started to devise the route by taking a dérive (see the translation of Debord's original writing on the Theory of the Dérive at the Bureau of Public Secrets)  - a wander through the streets with no destination in mind, letting the city itself suggest the route and pulling us towards places of interest.  We felt that for the walk to be truly curated, we should allow for a meeting between what the city offered us and how we organised that imaginatively into a route with cohesive meaning.

Daryl Bank questioned what a curator actually does, suggesting that the definition of a curator has broadened and become hard to pin down.  "In its broadest terms, the curator is an active producer of meaning. In the context of an exhibition, that meaning can be produced through their bringing together of works of art, or artists, and their development of a framework or a context through which those works can be viewed."

I asked LJ the same question, when we first started talking about collaborating.  She felt that a curator should somehow create new narratives.  We had a number of ideas, including how we might weave together narratives or meanings and engage audiences in those, but also how audiences themselves should be brought into creating their own meaning through engaging with our work.

In the Nottingham walk, Dream Walking, we did find a narrative or framework of meaning that suggested itself.  Our dérive began to draw links between different buildings and images in the streets.  There were numerous references to angels - the Old Angel Inn, images of cherubs on moved gravestones, Office Angels, and so on.  There were a number of birds also, carved into buildings along the route.  We also came across the offices where J M Barrie used to work, who wrote Peter Pan, about a flying boy.  Once we had made the connection of wings and flying, we started to find other points of interest that could weave into the theme.  The Lace Market area of Nottingham suggested the lacewing, an insect beneficial to gardeners.  The crossed keys symbols found on paving stones suggested the Key Brothers, who broke the longest flight record in 1935.  And so our curated walk of woven meanings began to take shape.

The crossed keys of St Peter

Over the next few weeks I will be blogging about each of the eleven sites where we placed an art intervention for the Dream Walk.  You can see each artwork and read the story behind it on our Sidelong blog at

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