The German term Walz originates in the late Mediaeval period and describes a mandatory period of itinerant apprenticeship that was undertaken as a stage on the road to becoming a master craftsman. In the course of industrialisation the Walz lost its significance. The possibilities afforded by the Walz to discover foreign places, cultures and above all skills lost their importance in the face of mechanisation and increased specialisation in the workplace. Meanwhile the realm of fine art – once a traditional craft – has become ever more influenced by globalisation and technical innovation.
Today, through social networks and online video- and photo portals, millions of people across the world simultaneously contribute to and participate in new trends and ideas. New possibilities have come into existence for exchange and interaction, without the need to travel. The significance of travel and how we conceptualise that which is distant or foreign have shifted; without having physically experienced a distant place, we are led to believe, through the virtual information available online, that we can know and understand it. The foreign is made easily accessible. And yet the time and motion of the journey, the scent of the air, the gradual progression from one region to the next, the changing characteristics of the surroundings and the people on the way cannot be replicated. Visited online, these are not the same places: they are atomised, mediated images and recordings, encountered only as cropped views on the computer screen that only partially engage our senses.
This summer we are embarking on a project that brings back to life the ancient tradition of the Walz by undertaking a contemporary Wanderschaft, or period of wandering. We will set out in our camper van to explore Europe. The aim is to participate in residence programmes, visit art fairs and make contact with galleries and other artists. Above all we will be creating new works in various media – photography, video, found objects – during the journey that are informed by the places and the encounters that we experience on the way. We will exhibit these works in the places where we make them, and in ever-developing forms in the course of the Walz.The questions that the Walz seeks to answer and that the works will explore are thus: What does it mean to be a “European” artist? How can we produce art that engages with specific localities and their interaction with international trends?
The project is thus a form of continuously developing dialogue with the places and people that we encounter on the journey. It lies in its nature that the Walz that it and the works that it generates – photographs, collages, objects – will constantly develop, mutate and grow. The journey itself, manifested for example in the splattered flies on the car bonnet or in cutlery stolen from service stations, will be the glue that binds the project together. The specific route will be dictated by the artist residencies for which we successfully apply. We want to use these residencies as a platform to engage with actual currents in the art world and to interact with specific local practices.
Our artistic approach is particularly attuned to registering and manifesting the often barely perceptible but essential differences and peculiarities that distinguish the places that we will visit. Our aim is to observe local patterns of everyday life and to learn from and creatively appropriate different ways of seeing the world and doing things – based on observations and encounters that are only made possible by travelling.
The focus of our art is the discovery of the special in the everyday. Thus in the work of Erik Weiser everyday objects such as video cassettes, car indicator lamps, toy cars or bicycle and breakdown reflectors mutate, through various processes of conversion, into art objects. Such so-called ‘upcycling’ processes recur again and again in Erik’s way of engaging with his surroundings and with the everyday objects around him. (www.erikweiser.de)
Likewise in our long term collaborative project peripheral visions we engage with the everyday, in this case through the photographic documentation of objects in the public realm that are normally ignored, such as traffic cones or discarded mattresses. Through humour the photos, which we are constantly rearranging in an ever-growing archive, point to the absurdities of the normative parameters by which we order the world and at the same time to its wonderful and surprising variety.
Julia Weiser’s photographs draw attention to things that normally remain invisible amidst, or beneath the surface, of everyday occurrences and places – be they objects or situations, or in the case of the project Dora (2010), through the re-appropriation of a neglected photograph. (www.juliaweiser.de)
The documentation of the Walz and of the exhibitions that we will create on the way is an important part of the project. Whilst on the road we will constantly be sending objects and photographs from the journey back home to Germany, these will be deposited in a recreation of our living room, complete with TV, sofa and shelves. The room will thus gradually be filled with mementos of the Walz, alongside an ever-growing pin board collage that documents the journey. Our live blog will be broadcast on the TV. Through this fixed and yet constantly changing installation we will keep in contact with our hometown whilst we are away.