A walk on the artistic side
Visiting artist takes a pedestrian view of Enos Park
“I’m not interested in what I think.”
So proclaimed multidisciplinary artist Astrid Kaemmerling when queried about her personal opinions regarding the Enos Park neighborhood and her experiences of Springfield in general during a brief question and answer session at the well-attended opening of her exhibition, “Walking Enos Park: Who is your neighborhood?” this past Wednesday, June 28, at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery.
It might have seemed as if the German-born artist was dodging the question, but Kaemmerling went on to explain that her work is based on collecting and then sharing the perspectives of community members on their own environments, requiring as much objectivity from the artist as possible. While it is understandable that Springfield residents would want to know how a visitor sees us, answering the question would be antithetical to the purpose of the work.
As one of the first two out-of-town artists to take part in the Enos Park residency program for visual artists, Kaemmerling – who is based in San Francisco, California – is currently in the midst of a six-week stint living in a recently purchased two-flat on the grounds of the Springfield Art Association as she creates her site-specific work, which exemplifies the recently minted genre of “walking art” – of which Kaemmerling is one of the originators. Walking art combines research and “psycho-geography” (defined in 1955 by pioneering conceptual artist Guy Debord as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals”) to create a portrait of a place.
For the first few weeks of her stay, Kaemmerling went on twice-daily 60-minute walks with area residents, during which she engaged them in conversation about their impressions of and thoughts about the neighborhood. The conversations were each recorded by the artist on her iPhone. After each walk, she had the participant draw a map tracing the route they had just followed.
The gallery walls during the “Walking Enos Park” exhibition were being used to display handsome mountings of a selection of these hand-drawn maps, identified only by the date and time of the walk depicted. There were also two listening stations, where visitors could listen to edited excerpts of the recorded conversations.
This is only the beginning, according to the artist. “The exhibition will grow over time, and aims to provide insights into the social, economic and demographic situation of Enos Park as seen, told and experienced through the eyes of the community,” said Kaemmerling in a press release . She is currently collecting old iPods for use in the next phase of the project
“Walking Enos Park” will remain on display at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery (Health and Sciences Building room 201) through July 28. The gallery is open Saturdays 12-4 p.m. or by appointment.
Scott Faingold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.