The wanderer’s dilemma – drawing by walking

A site-specific installation by Bjørn Wangen. I draw by walking until a path is formed, i.e. a stroke or line. That’s what a drawing artist do, draws lines. The route forms a long winding track. The curve is based on the mean temperature at the site, on a weekly basis from January 2023 and on. I will extend the length of the trail each week until the end of the exhibition period in November 2023. After that, the trail will slowly disappear.

The work can be hard to see at a distance. Follow this map on Google and you’ll find it:

This site-specific work is part of [X]sites, an international land art project with art made by artists at different sites along bicycle trails at the Swedish west coast.

Path meandering over grass

26th of October

It ends in a downward fashion, as expected… The mean temperature is descending fast, so the path is getting quite close to the last three now.

Soon this path will enter a new phase. Fugitive, as most paths are, this one will probably slowly disappear. I don’t think any locals will take over to keep the path open. Why would they? This path has no clear function. It doesn’t lead to somewhere and it is not a short cut. This path occurred one day as from nowhere, started in the middle of the turf, and will stop there as well. A short thread in the weave of time. It will soon be gone.

15th of October

This project is heading towards its end. There are still four weeks left of the 20 week exhibition period though. I have trampled a path which is now, with all its windings, divisions and loops, about one hundred meters long. I will prolong the path with four new meters until the 5th of November. The mean temperature is going down quite fast now. The line will probably end quite close to the last plane three.

This is a Google maps image with the five plane threes. I added a temperature curve, drawn by hand. Blue is zero degrees Celsius. The orange curve shows, left to right, the mean temperature on a weekly basis, from January through today, the 15th of October. The path is based on this curve. I have hoped for Google to take an image of the path from above, but not yet.

8th of October

I solved the trouble, partly formulated as a cry for help on where I should go. I realized it was a missing movement before the division, a smaller convulsion which gives way for a larger one. This may sound theoretical, but is indeed very concrete and linked to the practice of walking and drawing. It makes sense when I walk the path. It’s physical.

21th of September

Where should I go now? Will I find my way? The path splits in three directions. I’m in trouble. A colleague recalls what I once said: doubt has always been the engine of my work.

In the times we live in certainty and facts seem to be the only answer. But art must raise questions, not only on topics, but even on its own becoming and being. I was thinking about this when a woman came by. She had seen a school class walk along the path a couple of days ago. She said it reminded her of some lines from a poem by the Swedish poet Lars Gustafsson(in Swedish at the bottom):

/…/ That is the whole point of being a path. That it has been done
before. Who made the path? 
/../ All and none of them. We make it together,
you too make it on a windy day when
it is early or late on the earth:
We write the paths, and the paths remain,
and the paths are wiser than we are,
and know all we wanted to know.

from Ballad of the Paths in Vastmanland by Lars Gustafsson

in Swedish:
/…/ Det är hela meningen med att vara en stig.
Att det har gjorts
 förut. Vem gjorde stigen? 
/…/Alla och ingen. Vi gör den tillsammans,

också du gör den en blåsig dag, när det är tidigt eller sent på jorden: 
vi skriver stigarna, och stigarna blir kvar,
och stigarna är klokare än vi,
 och vet allt det vi ville veta.
ur Balladen om stigarna i Västmanland/Lars Gustafsson

24th of August

I measured the total length of the path so far. It is now 80 meters long. I’m quite amazed. It’s by far the biggest drawing I’ve ever made. But it is the trace from a persons walking activities which amazes me the most.

9th of August

A huge pool of water has occurred in the recessed area next to the walked line. The area serve as a reservoir in order to prevent flood. Suddenly I got a little lake neighbouring my work.

I have been walking a lot these days. I had a nagging feeling that the trail isn’t sufficiently visible. I guess I tried to balance my desire to keep it discreet with some fantasy that it must be fully present. Or I just want to have full control… To my relief a woman came by yesterday and said that the trail is so clearly visible. She passes there every day. She said that she is so excited to see the path extend.

3rd of August

About Participation.
A couple came by the other day and said that they have been walking the path many times now. They want to help to keep the trail open. I thanked them and I really appreciate their initiative. Then they said that the line is very narrow and hard to follow. I said that they can widen the path to their liking. I think I heard some hesitation in their answer. Maybe we came very close to a limit between participation and creation, if there is a division between those. Between following a line and the responsibility of shaping a line. Sure, there is a difference. But is participation limited to following some rules put up by someone else (the artist)? No, I don’t think so. So they do participate when they walk the line? Yes, they participate, they contribute to the result. Do they create? Yes, they consciously shape the path.

Maybe there is no division…

About visibility
Due to the heavy rain the vegetation is growing fast and strong. I like it when the path is just grass laying down instead of a muddy trail with grass at the sides. And I want to avoid doing unnecessary damage to the plants I step on. When I saw the site for the first time I reacted with a thought that this place needs something big. Then I realized the opposite. This place is perfect for a piece of art which operates on a more intimate scale. There is not much going on visually in the surroundings. It is almost a white box (white box = typical gallery space for art) or rather a green box if you like. So I followed that thought about making something not so visually obvious which demands some attention from its viewer.

Barely visible

18th of July

A man came by and said he had been looking for the trail earlier on (he had read the text on the nearby signpost) but couldn’t find it. The path is almost invisible sometimes, depending on the distance to it, the light conditions at that moment as well as the growth on site, so one has to look carefully after the pathway. I showed him the trail and then we came to talk about statistics. He referred to a fun video on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNboV7Uhg-8 which shows some monkeys (stand-ins for people) who are partying on the results of their efforts in the company, represented as a nice ascending sales curve on a board. Another colleague comes in (a man, I just wonder why?) and says that the board is oriented wrongly and turns it right, now showing that the sales are down. The man leaves and after that the monkeys turn the board back again and continue to party.

The temperature affects us in our everyday life. The mean temperature affects the climate on a larger scale and only graspable and visible in very long time spans. The temperatures here in Löddeköpinge right now are quite cool but just a couple of days ago the mean temperature on this planet reached an all time high.

I think about walking in many different ways. The controlled modes that I have explained, and now I come to thinks of the variants that Harry Dean Stanton performs in the movie Paris, Texas.  Especially his walking in the desert, towards some imagined horizon. I try to desert walk like Dean Stanton at the site. It is a very different way and I’m going to investigate that walking mode further. I realize that I always keep my eyes on the ground (control) but his eyes are fixed to the horizon. Walking is the future. The trail is history, the record. I now realize why demonstrators walk. It’s about the future.