Tuesday, November 24, 2020

A Line Made by WalkingA Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title, A Line Made by Walking, is taken from a performance art piece where the artist, Richard Long, in 1967 created a short, straight track worn by footsteps back and forth through an expanse of grass and builds sculptures which fall apart naturally. He specializes in "barely-there art." The narrator of the book is an artist in her twenties who has read up and delineates with "I test myself" on dozens of such works of performance art throughout her story. Examples are blowing up a shed, cats striking piano keys, man stepping up and down off a stool at thirty steps a minute as long as he can, acrobats hoisting themselves up a flagpole, a studio cell without media or communication for a year (Hsieh), "This way brouwn" (1960-64) about being lost & seeking directions, daily postcards saying "I got up" (Kawara 1968-1979), tiny birds made from fingernail clippings and glue (Hawkinson), moving a cement block wall back and forth across a thoroughfare (Yilin), penis amputation (Schwarzkogler), dress made of electric lights (Tanaka, 1956), What Does an Artist Look Like (New Yorker photos of artists 1999-2001). "Why must I automatically assume that every strange object is a sculpture, that every public display of unorthodox behaviour is an act of performance?" wonders Frankie. She has moved into her late grandma's cottage in the Irish countryside for the summer while coping with her depression and spends her solitary days bicycling, lying on the carpet, listening to the radio, watching TV, reading and thinking about her childhood and OCD impulses. She also has begun a project photographing dead animals and the chapters are labeled for such critters: hare, rabbit, badger, rat. Her mum visits occasionally, as does her sister. She has an appreciation for the quotidian and solitude which reminds me of Claire Louise Bennett's Pond or Kate Zambreno's new novel, Drifts and which I found soothing. It was a memorable reading pleasure.

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