No Trespassing: the art and politics of walking in New South Wales is a process-based art project in which I walk the roads, highways and footpaths between Sydney and (eventually) Bathurst, New South Wales. The title highlights my sense of trespassing into lands and stories despite my practice of walking in public places and pedestrian zones, e.g. footpaths, the shoulder of the road, tracks and stories published for general access. I activate and share the historical and contemporary stories of these roads as a ‘Pedestrian Artist.’ My artworks are how I transform the roads into places rather than blurred images glimpsed through the windows of a speeding car. My walks are artistic and political acts that resist and confound contemporary habits of speed, spectacle, paranoia and consumption.
I want to acknowledge and pay my respects to the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which I walk, on which I trespass.
Molly Wagner No Trespassing
By Sasanki Tennakoon
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
- John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, conservationist.
Walking, for those of us privileged enough to do so, is an innate movement that almost never warrants a thought. We merely have to hint at the intent to walk, and in what direction, and our legs dutifully shift into motion. The act of walking is one of our oldest modes of transport and intrinsically linked to our wellbeing. Through walking in our natural environments, we expose our bodies and immune systems to different, seasonally accurate elements that help build our resilience and adaptability. Sometimes our reality is ruled by convenience where we tend to shy away from the discomfort of walking outdoors for longer periods of time and, in so doing, shield ourselves from the elements. When our capacity to walk is taken away, by illness, injury, age or environmental factors, only then might we come to comprehend how profoundly powerful this movement is for our entire being.
Molly Wagner has cultivated a practice as a Pedestrian Artist through a sustained and immersive investigation between the body and the environment through the act of walking. While walking has always formed some aspect of Molly’s practice, either as subject matter or a form of thought, over recent years she has been documenting her experiences of walking for cultural and artistic purposes.
In her body of work, No Trespassing, Molly responds to the story of the Wiradjuri warrior Windradyne who walked from Bathurst to Parramatta in 1824. While the historical narrative of Windradyne was her initial inspiration, Molly was concerned about trespassing into a history that she did not feel she had the right to share. She expanded her focus to encompass a variety of histories that informed the routes that became the subject of her body of work. She walked roads, highways and footpaths experiencing the increasingly challenging and often invisible pedestrian walkways, highlighting the significantly different experience of city walking to that of suburban and rural areas. Many of our living environments reflect a favouring of motor vehicles, not pedestrian traffic. Through walking, Molly also responds to the concept of slowing down, seeing and looking to see instead of the autopilot of transit that hijacks our peripheral vision and any meaningful engagement with our immediate surrounds.
There is an artistic challenge in documenting and creating a body of work from these ephemeral, lived experiences. As her work is layered with context and meaning, ranging from social observations and historical narratives to the politics of both physical and metaphorical acts of trespassing, so too are the physical objects Molly creates in a process-based actualisation of her time as a pedestrian. The works in the gallery that accompany No Trespassing are considered reflections on the scope of her journey on foot, a collection of small monuments to memories attached to the small moments that make up of the sum of her experiences.
Sasanki Tennakoon is an arts worker, emerging artist and writer based in the Blue Mountains. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from National Art School, Graduate Diploma in Information Management from University of Technology and works for Blacktown Arts and Sydney Story Factory. http://sasanki-tennakoon.com/