Inclined to wander…

I have always been deeply interested in place, which is what led me into the field of cultural geography. Cultural geography deals with the meaning of place to people, historically and in the present.

Our sensory experience of place has been a key feature of my art practice for a number of years, with work arising from being in certain landscapes. That instinct to ‘be’ in a place in order to make art about place, led to making performance work based on walking. The sensory experience of walking barefoot over and through stone, grass, sand, seaweed and mud was central to this work, and my existing instinct to explore the interaction of body, mind and place was bolstered by studies in feminist theory.

Bryonie Reid, ‘inclined to wander’ (detail), 2001

Bryonie Reid, ‘inclined to wander’ (detail), 2001

Bodily performance by women artists has been, on occasion, controversial. Given the history of the female nude in art, and images of women’s bodies in popular culture, it has not been easy for women artists to make critical visual uses of their bodies. Women who emphasise the importance of bodily experience risk being accused of buying into the idea that women are tied to their physicality while men transcend it. However, the idea that there is a polarised choice between experiencing through the body or experiencing through the mind is unhelpful, and it is worth working to integrate mind and body, or thinking and being, or theory and practice.

For me, aliveness to place offers that opportunity to integrate. Because it is physically around us, and has to be negotiated with the body, it cannot simply be theorised. Thinking about the meaning of place is possible and valuable, but this process can be deepened, enriched and taken in unexpected directions when allied with experiencing place bodily.