let this be us
2012, 7’44”, single channel video installation
3 May – 11 May 2016
“During the making of let this be us I was thinking a lot about the Kelsey essay Landscape as Not Belonging in the book Landscape Theory [ed. Rachel DeLue and James Elkins, 2007]. Kelsey proposes the idea that over time we have fantasised ourselves into a situation whereby we feel alien to the landscape so that we can then desire to ‘belong’ to the landscape. Of course, we are nature, we are not separate from it; we have just conditioned ourselves to think and act this way. I like thinking about a situation where someone, somewhere, against all odds actually becomes ‘one’ with nature. However, because this would mean breaking down so many of the perceptual boundaries that we have culturally constructed, their existence and sense of self becomes very different.” Richard T. Walker.
Shot in the Anza Borrego desert in Southern California, let this be us is an elegantly composed narrative in which the artist is seen traversing the desert while carrying what appears to be a photograph of the same landscape mounted on a poster board. After apparently aimless wandering, the board is erected on its camera tripod legs and the scene in the poster board photograph and the actual landscape fall into line. Then Walker begins a wordless song that, as the video progresses, gains layers of instruments and voices, both generated within the work and as an added sound track.
The final scene begins with the artist partially obscured behind the poster board sign so that just legs and the back of the head are visible. As the music draws to a close, he walks away towards the horizon, swiftly vanishing entirely behind the sign and into the work/world.
Walker’s films show the artist alone, his back to the viewer, in the centre of a dramatic landscape contemplating the infinite, awe-inspiring mysteries of an impersonal natural world- a position reminiscent of a classic romantic figure. As the film’s narrative unfolds, accompanied by Walker’s musical compositions, viewers find themselves becoming beguiled by the gentle wit and drawn into the artist’s intimate relationships, as he apparently picks over the intricacies of his personal life in the face of an emotionally detached nature.
Describing his work, Walker states, “I think, or I hope, that the viewer becomes simultaneously pushed away and pulled towards the landscape. There is a sort of redemption in the music – the idea of the Sublime is re-appropriated, re-positioned and I think the initial relationship to the Sublime becomes questioned.”
“Although Walker’s work obviously participates in the tradition of ‘land art’, he has staked out a position very much his own. It goes without saying that his practice is at odds with the monumental inscriptive gestures of the first generation of earthmoving American land artists, and even those approaches with which he has common ground – the ambulatory poetics of Hamish Fulton or Richard Long, for instance – still have at their core a subtle yet unmistakeable impulse towards colonisation, even if only linguistic, and a kind of self-seriousness that is in Walker’s work always tempered by a tacit acknowledgement of the absurd mismatch between the individual and the world that is the flip side of any attempt, however serious or lyrical, to draft nature into an artistic programme. Indeed, this disparity lies at the heart of the gently humorous caricature Walker enacts… [more here]” Jeffery Kastner, 2013.
Recent solo shows, group exhibitions and performances include everything failing to become something, Carroll / Fletcher, London; In accordance with things, àngels, Barcelona; the fallibility of intent, Di Rosa, Napa, USA (all 2015); the predicament of always (as it is), The Contemporary Austin, Austin, USA (2014); the predicament of always (as we are), ASU Art Museum, Tempe, USA (2014); the security of impossibility, The Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco, USA (performance) (2013); in defiance of being here, Carroll / Fletcher, London, UK (2013); let this be us, Des Moines Art Center, Iowa, USA (2013); and Stage Presence, SFMOMA, San Francisco, USA (performance).
Richard Walker at Carroll/Fletcher here.
the speed and eagerness of meaning (excerpt)
2011, 9′ 58″, three channel video installation
“… embracing each thing with the type of meaning only words can provide; beautiful and concise, they hide their limitations with perfection. It all begins to seem very predictable as everything manifests all too comfortably inside the guise of recognition. You think how there was no hesitance and how the speed an eagerness of meaning appeared almost desperate. As you try to assemble what is now before you, you mourn a little for what you have lost, for you could never again acquire the not knowing that so beautifully placed you in the centre of it all.” From the speed and eagerness of meaning.
“He can’t describe anything he sees because nothing fits into words anymore. He occasionally experiences feelings that are associative to the things in front of him but they exist between and beyond emotions, so translation is impossible. He wants to see things as they were. With the ability to ascribe meaning and names to objects again, finding purpose and justification even if it isn’t true. He wants everything to be just what it was.” From the speed and eagerness of meaning.
outside of all things (excerpt)
2013, 7′ 51″, two channel video installation
In contrast to the configuration of the screens in the speed and eagerness of meaning, in outside of all things the two screens are installed on opposite walls. Although outside of all things and let this be us are stand-alone works that can be exhibited separately, the two works are conceived as companion pieces – the soundtracks of the two works have been designed such that when the works are installed in adjacent rooms the sound bleed between the two rooms harmonises to create a single soundtrack, and the conceptual content and emotional register of the works resonate to create an immersive ambulatory experience in which the audience moves between the two rooms.
proximity of longing, 2013
I have become far too familiar with these places
I have forgotten the beauty of a vista or what is actually meant by a view.
Distance is now just a matter of fact.
A selection of small shapes extracted from a greater series of shapes;
Artefacts that interrupt an otherwise perfect line of sight.
Being here feels like an assertion of every moment.
And I have wanted nothing more than for these few moments to become less and less identifiable;
Acknowledgements of existence that I can project onto, but nothing else.
We have to create a new situation.
One where we can once again convince ourselves that I am alien to all of this.
We need to return to the understanding that I am a completely separate entity.
Then we can long for a time when we can be together again.
For it is within the proximity of longing that I remember the experience of our unity being the most palpable.
We must establish this as a space that exists outside of all the things within it.
Including, most importantly
myself. yourself. ourself.