Walking Days, Bristol 2020.
Courtesy of the artist.
Since the ’80s the documentation of his walkings took the form of notations, formal text compositions which represents his direct experience of the world as he passes through it. They have a narrative trend and a profile that recalls the movement of a walk, more specifically, This too will pass contains the vertical word ‘walking’ to underline this peripatetic practice and the sense of the walk like the process of progressing through life.
When we are talking about life we are also talking about mortality and, of course, about the existential timeline. Like a Janus Bifrons, Long experiences the present contemporaneously looking at the past and the future during his walks since each notation is time-based. They are related to the previous, lived in the present, and a directly consequent response to that ‘existential space’ (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1962). This dichotomy, between being and time, actually is nothing more than a unity of being-in-the-world (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, 1962).
These observations introduce Richard Long into a generative path of sense. The system of signification reveals the living transience through the metaphor of walk. It is possible to represent this symbolic meaning of life via the Greimas square: «life» vs «death» (contrary «human»), «non-life» vs «non-death» (sub-contrary «supernatural») and «life» vs «non-death» (euphoria deixis «animate»), «death» vs «non-life» (dysphoria deixis «unanimated») to obtain the narrative path performed by the artist in his walking itineraries through these phases of Being-towards-death.
Time is dominating the scheme as a reverberation of the process of walk through life and its events. And one of the most recent and unsettling events is the pandemic that as the artist remembers This too will pass referring in these few hermetic words each concept part of his philosophy and poetry: the sense of movement and the flow of time.
I consider appropriate to describe Long’s relationship with time using the words that Rosalind Krauss used to describe the earthwork sculptures: «[…] creates an image of our psychological response to time and of the way we are determined to control it by the creation of historical fantasies.» Particularly his text work attempts to supplant historical formulas with the experience of a moment-to-moment passage through space and time. «In every case, the image of passage serves to place both viewer and artist before the work, and the world, in an attitude of primary humility in order to encounter the deep reciprocity between himself and it» (Passages in Modern Sculptures, 1977).
In this new text work is literally included the idea of passage like also a message of hope. Even if This too will pass sounds like a “memento mori”, Richard Long finds a strain of expectation of seeing this strange line of sorrow moments being over.
Richard Long was born in Bristol, England where he lives and works.