Matt Retallick: Going for a walk – an introduction to a method

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As we mark the year anniversary of the first lockdown, I’m going for a walk. For a significant portion of the last twelve months, walking was pretty much all we could do. For me though, it’s a research method, something I’ve regularly deployed to gather information, to excavate the essence of a place. My research residency for Independents Biennial 21 is about understanding Merseyside – geographically, historically, mapping out its cultural landscape. I moved to Liverpool in October last year, and for all the Tier 2 relaxations afforded at that time, I still feel as if I’ve not arrived. By this point I’ve wandered for miles, setting off from my house near Princes Park, to explore the diverse landscapes of the city; the tarmacked, flag stoned urban routes, the dusty park paths, the cobbled docklands. 

I’m a Flâneur, an urban stroller. The writer Edmund White talks about the Flâneur as ‘someone who ambles without apparent purpose… secretly attuned to the history of the streets he walks… in covert search of (aesthetic) adventure.’ I’m a firm believer that in order to get to know somewhere, you need to be in it, to soak it up, listen, see, smell, employ all the senses. 

My research is also reaching out to representatives from the cultural landscape of Merseyside, who will fill in a questionnaire exploring their position in, and relationship to the region. Over the duration of IB21, I will continue to stroll, and gather questionnaire responses. My observations, and the answers I receive will feed into a text at the end of the Biennial. 

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