1/23: Walking With Vertigo Maps

1/23: Walking With Vertigo Maps
Hand drawn map from a walk on October 12, 2022. Ink on 8x10 Mixed Media Paper

Happy New Year! I'm Bryan and this is my newsletter on art, walking, mapping and mindfulness. The plan this year is to send out one issue per month with project updates, reading links, and any longer articles or interviews I publish. And this year, I mean it!

Trigger Warning: This article talks about vertigo and recovering. It's not medical advice, and you should skip this article if this is a sensitive topic.

"The dolly zoom is commonly used by filmmakers to represent the sensation of vertigo, a "falling-away-from-oneself feeling" or a feeling of unreality..." - Wikipedia

One of the aspects about walking I love the most is how it changes my perception of time. It happens at just about any duration of walk from 5 minutes to 5 hours.

I am convinced it involves the dynamic between 'clock time' and 'event time.' It's a topic that has crossed my radar a few times over the years, the first time when I read 'Mind Management by David Kadavy.'

Essentially 'clock time' we schedule our tasks and events based on an external clock, with 'event time' events and tasks start and stop in relation to the other events around them.  

It's a much more complex topic and I need to do more research, but intuitively, as a walker, I know that a long walk is most certainly on 'event time.' In fact, for me, the long walk is really one of the only times I can work in 'event time.' The clock rules the rest of my time, for now.  

My theory is that switching to 'event time' and making a long walk creates an altered state of consciousness. If we're lucky, we'll entire into flow state as well.

Of course, there are numerous ways to enter an altered state of consciousness  from meditation to psychedelics to love to dreaming.

I think long walking fits somewhere in the meditation territory (dreaming a close second.)

Of course there's walking meditation, kinhin, which is a lot like pacing from my observations. Pacing is relaxing and helps kick lose the mental fog from time to time, but I prefer longer walks (sometimes with chanting.)

One method of altering the state of consciousness I hadn't thought much about until last year was vertigo.

Until then, I most associated the term vertigo with the famous Hitchcock film which was ranked the greatest of all time by Sight and Sound from 2007 to until just last year, (when it was over taken by Chantal Akerman’s 'Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975),' a film I have regretfully have not viewed yet, but I have spotted it on HBO Max so that might change soon.)

MLV, St. Cloud, Minnesota, October 3, 2022

Last October I scheduled a two day vacation around my birthday. I planned a couple long walks around town and was going to spend time editing projects, and relaxing.  

A week before my vacation, I was cooking lunch when I burned my fingers during an unwise cabbage cooking experiment. I bandaged them up and considered giving up cooking as it now seemed much more dangerous.

Beyond the wound to my pride, I figured my burned fingers would heal in a few weeks.

However, the next night I started feeling dizzy and woke up nauseous with the room spinning. I thought maybe my burn was infected so I made a visit to the urgent care clinic where the Dr. informed me there was no connection between the burn and the increasingly unpleasant dizziness.

"Probably anxiety over the burn," they said.

St. Cloud, Minnesota, October 12, 2022

As I was on bed rest, I started reading up on vertigo and learning about how the little crystals in your ear sometimes float out of place and cause this unpleasant sensory disorientation that messed up my vacation plans, and now had me reading everything I could about vertigo.

I decided against re-watching the Hitchcock film, although it was almost too tempting to pass up. Looking back now, I should have taken the trip, next time, perhaps.  

I eventually learned about the epley maneuver and how it helps move the little crystals back into their proper home in the ear. I was willing to try anything. It seemed sensible, from a floating crystals perspective.

St. Cloud, Minnesota, October 12, 2022

After a few more days of rest, some meds and practicing the epley maneuver I was back up to making short walks. After a few days, I was convinced the short walks were helping re-train my brain to find its orientation in the world.

I told myself that if I really believed the mantra 'it is solved by walking,' then I would have to turn to it in suboptimal situations, like a vertigo spell.

Those early vertigo walks were bizarre. They weren't pleasant. It kind of felt like trying to walk on rocking boat with a bad hangover, except everything moved much slower.

Each walk, I would slow down and work on building my steadiness while scanning the landscape, working on holding my focus. I could feel the vertigo slowly ebbing, although I am sure the natural life cycle of ear crystals probably had as bit an impact as the healing walks.

“…even just doing a loop on my neighborhood streets—all those make for wonderful “thinking paths” in my experience. The key is to be physically active but not so active that you have to think about it.” - Steven Johnson on the "the secret to a creative workflow."

'The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography.' 

On October 12th, I was feeling stable and well enough to make a longer walk to the local library to return a book. It was a pleasant fall day and the last day of my sick leave/vacation, so I wanted to make the most of it.  

I was a bit bummed to be returning the book. It had rattled my mental furniture and felt like the right type of creative inspiration at the right time. That's the best feeling.

If you can find it at your library, I recommend you check out 'The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography.'

I wish I could share the entire book. It was inspiring to see so many different perspectives, and learn the different ways artists have used mapping communicate ideas about how we live.

I am sure I will turn to it again, and share more about some of the individual artists that resonated strongly with me. I need a bit more time to integrate the ideas, and learn more.

It's been a few months now and I feel fully recovered. The vertigo spell was an anomaly in an otherwise healthy year, so I feel fortunate. It's one of those moments we all face when we realize we can't ever take our health for granted. I'm lucky, for now, but now I certainly have more empathy for those that suffer from vertigo.  

As I reflect on the vertigo experience, I've been thinking about how even the most routine walk can feel novel with the right frame of mind. It's not just about the long walks and 'event time.'

The short walk, the pacing, the vertigo walk, any type of walk can alter our state of consciousness. I guess that means, the walking might not have anything to do with it.

My hunch is that it's more about practicing mindfulness, and embracing awe as much as you can. There are numerous paths for getting there. Novelty is infinite if we want.

“The best walkers I’ve seen have been in their 60s and 70s, with few sports or other injuries. A well-cared for body is capable of near indefinite, simple locomotion. Again, this is what got us here.” - The Body on a Long Walk by Craig Mod

Morning Light Viewing

St. Cloud, Minnesota, Six MLV photos from October 6, 2022 - January 14, 2023

For awhile last year I would watch TikTok for about 30 minutes at night as I wound down for the day. The wicked smart algorithm eventually fed me a steady mix of unusual animals, financial scammers, artists in situation, urbanism policy rants and tips from young neuroscience students about how to optimize cognition.

One of them, whose name I can't recall, posted a video about the 'three human protocols' to follow every day: Morning Light Viewing, Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) and Cardio. Seems straight forward, other than NSDR, which sounds like taking taking a nap. I didn't look too much into.

“Circadian researchers generally suggest getting as much sunlight as you can during your day, especially upon waking, dimming the lights before sleep and making your bedroom dark. Front-load your calories earlier in the day.” - The Quest by Circadian Medicine to Make the Most of Our Body Clocks

From what I understand from that article, and the young neuroscientist with the protocols, it would seem that going outside shortly after you wake up in the morning helps you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

It made sense to me. Mornings are my optimal walking time and those first 30 minutes tend be the most productive for organizing my thoughts and developing new ideas and solutions.  

Along the way I started to make a single photograph at the same point in the walk as a way to keep note. It seemed like an appropriate application of that trope.

I suppose the variable that might change eventually is the location, for now it's the sidewalk right outside my apartment building, the first few steps when I hit the sidewalk.

Decades: 1992, 2002, 2012 by Steve Williams

“Decades” photo series chronicles changes to Freedom Park area over 30 years

“Decades” was created by photographer Steve Williams who has lived in Atlanta since 1983, moving to the city after studying photography in college. His first place was near Freedom Park which, at the time, was a vacant lot. For over 30 years — from the ‘60s to ‘90s — the plans were highly opposed, with residents rallying against the original plans for Atlanta’s freeway system which would’ve taken I-485 and the Stone Mountain Freeway through the city. - “Decades” photo series chronicles changes to Freedom Park area over 30 years

I love this project because of the connection between time and public parks. It's a simple project template that offers so many possibilities. 30 years is a long time to work on a project. The discipline alone is admirable. But most importantly, it's a thoughtful record about a a public park that will hopefully be around for generations to come.

Once the plans were settled, Williams continued to document the area — revisiting those same sites, each a decade apart, to showcase the neighborhood’s changes over time. Williams selected 24 sites for the project, choosing locations that could represent the area as a whole while also considering the photo’s composition.

I like projects where the location is planned in advance.

Art Inspiration

‘I’ve drunk from every river on Dartmoor’: land artist Richard Long on changing the face of art: “Making art by walking has given me the freedom to work anywhere in the world. But I’ve come to realise that if I’d been confined, for whatever reason, within a 10-mile radius of Bristol, I could still have achieved everything I’ve wanted to do as an artist.”

Mary Kelly’s Revolution Is Ongoing: “The work is divided into six sections, 135 parts, with accompanying essays and footnotes, and like much of Kelly’s output it feels museological, even archaeological.”

Michael Heizer’s ‘City’: A Visit to a Ruin Being Born: "City, on the other hand, is not “nothing”: it is an environment of monumental sculptures that measures 1 ¾ miles in length and ½ mile across, roughly the size of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The project commenced in 1972 and, 50 years later, opened to the public this past September. Yet City is not public art: Heizer’s Triple Aught Foundation calls it “a private sculpture,” and access is extremely limited."

The Optimistic Art of Mary Mattingly: “Right now, people are looking at landscapes to see who they’re serving and not serving, and why,” said Lindsay Campbell, a research social scientist with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service who has collaborated with Mattingly. The artist, she said, reinvents the possibilities of urban life “to imagine other worlds and other ways of being.”

The Best Public Art of 2022: "A monumental kinetic installation by Los Angeles–based conceptual artist Charles Gaines, Moving Chains features nine rows of custom-made steel chains, continuously rolling atop of a wooden structure resembling a ship’s hull. Situated on New York’s Governors Island, along the waterway of the New York Harbor, the installation is a powerful commentary and critique of the history of slavery and systematic violence inherent within racial capitalism and foundational to the United States."

Urbanism Roundup

I’m an artist and marketing strategist from Saint Cloud, Minnesota. This is my newsletter on art, walking, urbanism and mindfulness.

Each issue, I share new work from my projects and try to make connections between ideas, articles and people that fascinate me. You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram & Mastodon.