Walking As Pedagogy: Two Days In Dundee

‘The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates the odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.’
Rebecca Solnit, from Wanderlust: A History Of Walking (2005)

MFA studios, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee, 2014. Photograph: Emma Bolland
MFA studios, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee, 2014. Photograph: Emma Bolland

On the 11th and 12th of February I spent two days working with a group of students from the MFA ASP at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (part of the University of Dundee). The course encourages a diverse range of practices and places emphasis on ‘[challenging and extending] its students’ work and relationship to the visual world by providing the creative and intellectual framework for the exploration of current attitudes and phenomena in the context of contemporary art, culture and society.’ It has a high student/staff ratio, and includes periods of professional placements, and theoretical and practical grounding in teaching and learning practice in Higher Education, with students also exploring curatorial strategies. I proposed a two day programme that started with an orthodox lecture / presentation, and went on to include one-to-one tutorials and a hands-on lo-tech group ‘play’ activity around disruptive mapping, and finished with a walk. For the teaching / activity outline click Teaching Outline Emma Bolland DJCAD. For notes on the reading list click here. For a transcript of the lecture with illustrations and links to moving image material click Trespassing Knowledge presentation Emma Bolland 2014. At the core of the two day programme were the ownership and definitions of research, knowledge, expertise and the ‘academy’, and the creative fertility of the states of ‘not knowing’ and ‘getting lost’.

In the studio maps were torn, worked over, reconstructed in an afternoon of play. A photocopier was filled with toner and given over to us for an hour – three flights of stairs up and back again to enlarge and shrink and copy. Theory was usurped by tomfoolery, and finesse replaced by slapstick crafting.

The next day we walked abroad. Myself, Duncan, Laura and Dominique set out into the grey rain. Emil and Jane led the others as subversive sat-navs, the whole of us communicating through a specially created Twitter account: WalkeeTalkeeDundee:

“where are you out there?”
“we are here out there?”
“has anyone seen Duncan?”
“we can’t find the airport!”

We walked to the airport, navigating the anti-ambulant environments of dual carriage and ring-roads that do so much to split the activity of walking into that of the city and the country, the everyday and the leisured. The airport was small, and gloriously blue; the world of our walking wonderfully large. We ate chocolate, and walked back again. Three hours of drizzle. Perfect.

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Thank you to Professor Tracy Mackenna for extending the invitation to visit the course, and to the students who joined me over the two days:

Ingrid Bell
Dominique Cameron
Duncan Campbell
Kate Clayton
Laura Donkers
Joanna Foster (PhD researcher)
Jane Murray
Emil Thompson
Drew Walker
Lada Wilson


A ‘walking as pedagogy’ tactic has been used in the project Place and Memory, of which I am a mentor. Eight emerging artists and writers who all have experience of mental health problems worked together to produce a group exhibition, texts and films that explored their relationship with the city of Leeds. They are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to be supported in producing a publication and exhibition to complete the project. They have until March 12th to reach their target, and would greatly appreciate your support. To find out about the project click here.


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