Why Walking Bundles?

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Why do I make Walking Bundles… I think I’m writing this post as much for me as for you, writing helps me to process and make sense of what I do, whilst walking and making gives me time and space to act intuitively.

My Walking Bundles are a kind of documentation, evidence of an experience, an embodied, situated experience. My body moves around a place, my eyes notice a fallen stick, feather or clump of moss, my hand and arm reach down to pick it up, my fingers feel if its ‘right’ for the purpose.

I might smell it to see if its scented or if its ‘clean’, or if like yesterday it smelt a little too much of fox pee. If it feels ‘right’ then I stop for long enough to tie and bind it on. And then I walk on again.

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Noticing is important to my work, and making a bundle focuses my noticing in a particular way. What is noticing? Noticing to me is prioritising an opportunity to pay attention to my environment, and to allow myself to be drawn to details that catch my eye (or ear, or nose).

When I’m walking to bundle, then I’m walking to notice. The purpose of my walk is to pay attention.

It’s about relationship, the relationship between my body and the place, and when I am in that state of flow, walking, pausing, touching, binding, then I feel my edges soften, my boundaries blur. I feel that the place is seeping into me and me into it.

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So from writing this, it starts to become clear that it is a practice,  a spiritual practice perhaps, a way of being present, of opening up to all that is, and one that benefits my sense of wellbeing.

And the bundles themselves, later when I look back on them, have a kind of gentle power that I find satisfying and reassuring. The different elements of my experience are all fused together. The bundles capture something of what happened in that particular place at that particular time.

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Sometimes they remind me of little bodies themselves. Sometimes I start with a little body, a plastic doll, or a wooden brush, something that stands in for my upright form as I move through the landscape. Bundling an embodied experience onto a little body gives it an extra resonance, extra power.

Sometime I’ll use a different toy. My Walking Bundles are small handheld objects that form themselves through interaction with my hands, and build themselves to fit. Toys are made to interact with children’s hands and bodies too. There’s an equation in there somewhere, child’s body + toy = ? or my body + place = bundle.

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I’ve worked with children for years exploring how playful interaction with place and material impacts on their learning, and the contrast between man-made sterile environments and plastic toys, and rich, open ended, living environments and organic materials. My toy bundles draw from that.

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So all my bundles are about embodied ways of knowing, and about losing that body in the moment, going beyond it to an experience of unity, going ‘Beyond The Binary’.

I’m not sure what other people get from them, what they suggest or what power (if any) they hold? If you’ve any thoughts I’d love to hear them. Thank you.

4 thoughts on “Why Walking Bundles?

  1. I think your Walking Bundles are very powerful. Like mini-totems, or talismans that mark a place/memory/experience. They are ‘of’ a place, and yet not from it. Accidental, or deliberate – each item may have blown from far away, or been dropped by a person or animal.

    In my own work, I have ‘sensory bundles’. Images, shapes, colours, sounds: the trees, wind, clouds, sky, birds. Each flash in my ‘noticing’ becoming relayed into painting later 🙂

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  2. I really liked your explanation James, and love seeing your bundles and the emotional descriptions of the places you’ve walked through whilst making them. Your deep connection to place is always very strong . Thanks for sharing it. I always pick up leaves, sticks, stones pebbles,etc and bring them home – and have never really understood why (except I like the way they look), but there is definitely something sensory and about the memory of the moment in there too. Never realised that til now!

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    1. Hello, I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for taking the time to respond, its always good to connect with people and hear what their interpretation of the work is, or what they do in their own lives that plays a similar role.

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