Animal Locomotion at GOMA
She is sitting on a bench, a willowy figure
in waiting, I ask an attendant what’s happening.
Helka asks visitors to suggest an everyday movement.
I suggest walking, Tai chi walking.
She says it’s better if I perform it with her
or I can just give her instructions.
I stand with her shoulder to shoulder
and try to explain, but using language
in this way is like using Wellingtons to en pointe,
as a poet I realise the limitations of words that
can clunk or mime or soar abstract concepts
that hoodwink- freedom, love- those surges
of hope refusing to take one step at a time.
‘Slowly lift the left foot’ – but to begin
you must begin with gravity and single weighted,
but that’s not how it began. I suggested a walk.
“What do you do with your right foot?”
It’s awkward, I have to go back, retrace my steps
not to my toddling but tai chi practice (I am lapsed)
and beyond to falling out of the trees and that murky
hypothesis standing tall among the savannah grasses.
We owe it all to our cerebellum, camouflaged as grey jelly.
“What do you do with your arms?”
‘Nothing’. “Where are you looking?” ‘Straight ahead,
eyes unfocussed, but aware of the surroundings.
”The Way Things Go”, Video Installation by Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Inside a warehouse, a precarious structure 20-30 meters long was constructed from various items. If this is set in motion, a chain reaction ensues fire, water, gravity and chemistry determine the life-cycle of objects and things. So begins a story about cause and effect, mechanism and art, improbability and precision. First Apparition: 1987. DVD liner notes.
Frederick Taylor, a machinist and foreman at Midvale Steel, Philadelphia
was bothered by, what he called, ‘worker soldiering’ – or la perruque
purposely slowing down, which Taylor thought was intended to keep
their employers ignorant of how fast work can be done.
Taylor popularised economic efficiency using a stopwatch to measure
workers’ productivity with his principles of scientific management. 1895
His methods depended on management controlling and replacing craft skills
of workers with a mechanised method of production, and his redesign of work
immediately started a war… which as time went on grew more and more bitter.
Man was made to do his daily work with his muscles; but we see him now, (Jacques Ellul
like a fly on flypaper, seated for eight hours, motionlesss at a desk . . .
He was created for a living environment, but he dwells in a lunar world.
There were confessions published in the Ladies Home Journal: 1912
For years I never realised that I actually made 80 wrong motions
in the washing alone, not counting others in the sorting, wiping and laying away.
The paradox of consciousness
“The more consciousness one has, the more layers of processing divide one from the world – is, like so much else in nature, a trade-off. Progressive distancing from the external world is simply the price that is paid for knowing anything about the world at all. The deeper and broader [our] consciousness of the world becomes, the more complex the layers of processing necessary to obtain that consciousness.’ Derek Bickerton, Language and Species
“The walk is the art that is created and also serves as a stimulant for the creation of artworks. The walk can be everything, and it can also be nothing. The purpose is simply to walk.” Hamish Fulton
Earth might be a spinning top
and we are really floating
but movement has to stop
Venus that Goddess is too hot for mortals
lightning sparks its sulfuric acid atmosphere
clouds hurtle round the orb at over 200 miles an hour.
. . . but we all come to a rest eventually.