D e b  T o d d  W h e e l e r

Zone of Terrestrial Engagement


photos by Stewart Clements


Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself
into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have
walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so
burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still,
and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus
if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”
-        Søren Kierkegaard

"Language is like a road, it cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read.”, writes Rebecca Solnit in her tome Wanderlust, on the history of walking. However long the road might be, language however, may not be the way to understand complex situations. Sometimes we have to literally just walk the road, circumvent conscious thought, and walk ourselves into understanding beyond language.
Walking can be an act of meditation, it can be an act of political resistance, and it can be a transformative experience. To walk is to prepare to open up space in the mind, to shuttle between the real, the imagined, and the impossible with each wandering step. A distracted body, a wandering mind. For centuries philosophers have written on the value of walking, from Rousseau’s reveries to Kierkegaard’s daily health walks. Today we see walking increasingly as a political act, from collective gatherings to solitary meanderings, our bodies are compelled to walk as an act of resistance.
In this group of objects, the walking stick offers a point of departure. An array of walking sticks engraved with text fragments from Scottish anthropologist Tim Ingold’s essay on animism*, lean against the walls, asking to be brought out for a walk. Video documentation from just such a walk, which turned into a dance, with MassArt’s Experimental Ensemble is embedded in a slice of oak. Ingold’s text fragments, burned into wooden sticks, sitting alongside other man made objects, introduce a vital question to ponder on the road; does everything have a soul? Everything? He suggests: “Intuitive nonanimists have been selected out, due to unfortunate encounters with things that turned out to be more alive than anticipated.”. Grab a stick, and let that unfold as you walk about.

This project is being made by many hands. Special thanks to the following: Sincere Speciality Casting, Anneloes Van Beek, Alanna Robbins, Peter Evonuk, Daniel Wheeler,The Experimental Ensemble, Kevin Sweet, Elaine Buckholtz,Aimee Good, Jane Marsching and Ellen Miller.



link to video: https://vimeo.com/186149650