When Melissa was a child, she wanted to be a detective, “so I could satisfy the enormous curiosity I carried for the world and people around me.” As an adult, she took up her camera instead. Drawn by her recent series called The City is a Choreography, we asked Melissa to further investigate the streets of her hometown. This image is called The Bump and features dancers and best friends Christina Mastori and Susan Hoogbergen. “When I roam the streets,” Schriek tells us, “I create moments that say something about the way we, as inhabitants, relate to the city and to others, often strangers, that live there too.”
Seoul-born artist Sunjoo Lee recently created a piece called Machine in Flux—Wood, where a robot made drawings of tree rings in ink by responding to changes in light, wind, temperature, humidity, and sound. For our odyssey, she reprogrammed or “de-machined” her robot, allowing it “choose” its own path for a seven-hour “walk” in her studio. It literally takes a line for a walk by responding to a live feed of sounds from an endangered rainforest that is part of the SAFE Project in Malaysia. In the line peaks on the paper, says Sunjoo, “you can see the moments of birds chirping and all the noises that the insects make.”
Growing up in the Bavarian countryside, local folklore and landscapes have powerfully influenced this German artist’s work, alongside psychology, literature, and art history. Inspired by the oneiromancy traditions of her matriline, this latter-day Artemis goes out to hunt with her camera during the longest, darkest nights of the year, when magic is said to be at its strongest, “to visually examine this ancient lore and tradition while contemplating past events and new beginnings, and reconnect with my family, childhood memories, and my female lineage.” Her resulting work is as full of portent and enchantment as any ancient legend.
The Berlin- and Seoul-based artist Jeewi Lee was on a sojourn through Senegal when we caught up with her. She chose to make a bark rubbing from the oldest baobab in the country for her piece, freezing the moment of her encounter with the majestic tree “like a fingerprint.” She used a special hanji paper, made with Korean mugworts, which she can remember collecting as a child with her grandmother on long walks through the outskirts of Seoul, to use for cooking and healing. “I see old trees as witnesses to the past,” says Jeewi. “They can’t walk, they stand still: waiting, watching, listening, and archiving in their bodies what is happening around them.”
Nico lives in South Africa, in a small village called Stanford. It is a bucolic, poetic setting next to a river close to the Whale Coast. “Of course, I would love to dance along! A walk a day is therapy for the soul!” he says, when we ask him to join our odyssey. For the subject matter, “I was thinking of connecting the ocean and the river pictorially in a walk as a line of exploration,” he adds. Nico’s work is a collection of prints of his own and found material, which he then collages live onto a scanner bed as it is moving, like a pictorial DJ. These collages he made for us are his “mixes” of that 20-kilometer walk from his village to the sea.
Julian Knox, aka Julianknxx, is an interdisciplinary visual artist, poet, and filmmaker. His family fled civil war in Sierra Leone for Gambia when he was nine years old, before later settling in the UK. In his practice, he uses his personal history as a prism through which to deconstruct dominant perspectives and explore themes of inheritance, loss, and belonging. After we discussed the odyssey project, he went out walking around his neighborhood and through London under lockdown to write this poem. “I walk and listen to my eyes, legs, and heart to find new language and imagery,” he says, “the magic in the ordinary and the beauty in our day-to-day.”
Walking has been the focus of artist Foster Spragge’s work for over 20 years. When we contacted her, she sent us a poignant drawing called Roger Present, which comes from her most recent series of walking drawings done in real time, called Walking Home. “Thinking at two miles an hour allows the mind and body to move together, laying a path for the unexpected... These drawings move between conversations and observations,” she explains. Focusing on all things yellow and her friend, the late sculptor Roger Ackling, this piece is a remarkable expression of mental shifts occurring while walking: ruminating, repeating, remembering—and healing.
This Copenhagen-based artist is a recent graduate from Glasgow School of Art. While there, she developed a project called In Search of Getting Lost in response to long solitary walks in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands. “These walks have been a search for terra incognita—unknown land—as a mental experience and a reflection of the idea of lostness and the unknown,” says Sofie. Questioning her position as a woman in the landscape, and the common masculine narrative of the explorer, Keller’s powerful photographic images shift topography and orientation, magnifying the sense of the sublime in this dramatic environment.
Designer Octavio Barrera was building a new studio back in his native Canary Islands when we caught up with him on the tiny, rugged volcanic isle of El Hierro. He created a work for us there that he calls Unforgettable Paths. Check out his story below.
Usually at home in Montreal, visual artist Charlotte Fos is currently spending time in the city center of Paris. She has a strict daily 5,000-step walking routine to keep in shape. The regular route she was taking as she created this digital collage, starts in a park containing the ruins of an ancient arena and finishes in a botanical garden with a large greenhouse and museum. She sees her work as a walk through time, filled with encounters from different eras communicating with each other. These cityscape rendezvous feed into the visual elements of her piece alongside a preoccupation with the visual culture of the Parisian gay club scene of the 1980s.
Before he moved to Tokyo at the age of 18 and went on to become an award-winning photographer, Yoshinori Mizutani grew up in the countryside in Fukui prefecture with “a mountain just behind the house.” His eye for color and detail in the natural world, found even in the most mundane of city parks, comes from his childhood: “With the help of my father, I lived in harmony with nature, out in the rice fields, catching insects, or playing in the snow,” he explains. Today, he never leaves the house without his camera. Walking, for Mizutani, “is the most important thing in making my work, which is born through dialogue with the city and nature.”
“My Own Private Odyssey’’ is a story in the 2021 issue of Directions, our annual magazine that looks at movements in travel, art, design, food, and wellness. This year’s issue “Odyssey’’ explores the central theme of Walking by inviting a broad range of voices to take a conscious exploration of this simple act.