documentation and curatorial practice as political engagement

Art & Public Policy, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University



Documentation: Walking (week 5) by Yousra Amin

Thinking about words:

    • filonexia:
      • hospitality
      • filo-: friend (home), -nexia: stranger (familiarization)
    • Silence:
      • A paradoxical lens for viewing the city
      • Silence is the clearing of one’s mind while seeking to understand when we are in urgent need of answers.
      • Silence does not mean the absence of sound. 
  • Key elements of walking in silence are performativity and openness
  • Polis/city (place):
    • place is book to be shared
    • spacial awareness
    • getting lost as a state of mind
    • walk together in silence

New questions raised:

    • Who can afford to walk?
    • How do you not let go, but not exclude?
    • What are the risks of silence in the urban environment?
    • What is the difference between being silent and keeping silent?

Some things that were said:

“Get out of this group and find a new one”

“reading the moment”


walk walk walk walk walk


My response to having to facilitate the class was of distress and anxiety. I’m generally a socially anxious person, and while this is a class I find myself comfortable to participate in, I still do not fare well when in the spotlight. Furthermore, my facilitation came on the day we addressed walking, on the day we addressed the body and emotion, matters I tend to find myself at odds with. I’ve trained myself to be a “neck up” person. Emotion has brought me too many ordeals. And now I am asked to walk in silence, to listen to the city? I wasn’t very confident in my being able to connect to the matter. Then I remembered what I always knew, these are precisely the things I’m trying to change. To decolonize myself, to be a part of my own liberation, means to be neither “neck up” nor a bag full of emotions, it means to gather the dexterity to oscillate between both, and among the cracks. So I felt more ready, a tad excited, but still anxious as ever.

It didn’t help that we then proceeded to what seemed like an endless moment of technological failure, where we were unable to connect to all three guests. How was I to have a successful conversation and keet within time? An impossible feat, I thought.

It, of course, ended up being one of my favorite projects of the semester, and a great class conversation. The guests Geert Vermeire and collaborators were great presenters, and they prepared texts in great detail. I feel like we truly engaged their project in a way that took us to the streets. Maybe it was their demeanor, and/or their storytelling, but I could feel the depth of their silent walks, I sensed the perception that became available to them while walking in silence throughout the city.

I recently find myself deeply moved by practices that ask for what seems like nothing more than a gesture, but ends up being a complete reconfiguration of relationships. I worship direct action and social programing, and think they are essential to transforming our society. But I am finding a particular place in my heartsoul for practices that plead for us to slow down, to listen, to break away from consumer culture. In all ways possible. And this is not just because you’re walking, which is completely free, but it’s because you’re walking in silence and the outcome is immeasurable. Yes, great conversations can be had, and papers can be written, ok, every single thing in the world can be turned into a product, I guess. But the bare act of walking in silence, that raw moment, cannot be translated or completely shared, cannot be analyzed, can only be felt, and it is those moments of comprehension and relation that are not available within a product-focused, hyper efficient, consumerist culture. To walk in silence, to gnaw at fleeting notions of intimacy, is to be in a body that has no urgency, is to not be marketable or measurable, is to exist for the sake of existing.

Looking back at these projects and guests, I find myself convinced at the necessity of living a different life. Of decolonizing/de-centralizing/liberating every single moment of your existence. Of forgetting structure and words. Or should I say, sdfmwelq sdofsdosl sl223030030303030ldlsllsls. Of existing intentionally in every molecule of your being for the sake of justice and liberation. And not worrying about anything else.

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Walking (Feb 24th) – Class Documentation

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