WALKING POEM: LOCAL
LOCAL PROJECTS / ANDREW CANTRELL
This project was an experiment in performing rhetorics of walking in the city using the figure of concrete poetry to structure both the act and the graphical trail of walking. Participants walked a route in the shape of one letter of the word “local” and documented their walks with audio, video, photographs, and collected ephemera. The goal of the performance was to transform the graphical trace of the “poem” of walking from something planned by the production of exchange value into a use value that symbolizes the use values created by pedestrian speech acts.
I chose the word “local” because I was interested in establishing a resonance with labor. The built environment of the panoptic, theoretical city-as of writing-belongs to capital, even as it is produced by-if rarely in the interest of-workers. I was also interested in creating opportunities for communication with other “locals” through the choices people made in their walks. I deployed the figure of concrete poetry to structure the performance because concrete poetries have sought to work against the plan of the apparatus of writing in ways that look to the embodied, gestural, temporal, interactive materiality of writing. In walking as writing, the poem can be concrete without being a shape poem-or, if it is a shape poem, it’s a poem in the shape of itself. This gets to the visual dimension of meaning in writing, and also-since the “poem” of walking can’t be reduced to its graphical trace-to the impossibility of mapping this fugitive materiality of writing “from above.”
Walking in the city is an allegory for what happens in writing. There is the view from above-the official plan of paper, ink, typography, all designed to enable a smooth, calculable production of communicable information-but there is also a fugitive materiality to writing that is obscured by the apparatus of writing. In this project, the medium was two-fold: it was the panoptic plan of the city and it was the “poem” of walking. The “object” produced by the performance was the one-word concrete poem “LOCAL,” an object that disappeared as it was being written.