The Rock’s Ex-Tensions

I arrived home from Footworks with a rock in my pocket.

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Throughout the next day I would notice it and think,

‘Why is this rock in my pocket?’

Pockets emptied.

The Beach.

Bibi.

That evening I told the story of the rock to my flatmates. Explanation became enactment. My stare intense, I approached Simona at the table, palms pressed around the rock. I passed it into her hands.

Suddenly I realised:

‘Simona, the rock is yours.’

The gesture was too strong—the particularities of Bibi’s approach too linked to the act of exchange. In becoming Bibi, I had to let go of the rock.

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It is not the first time Simona has been involved in a post-Footworks extension. Last year I proposed a walk as a way to ‘continue the exchange’:

Google the name of your town, city, neighbourhood. Notice where Google plants its pin on the map. Put down your phone and leave all maps behind. Walk to the pin. Create a walking instruction in response to your walk. Share your instruction.

Simona, along with our friend Danya, joined me for the Google walk. Together we collaborated on the following instruction:

Wait for a day when the sun comes out after it rains. Walk into the sun and find a wet surface that reflects the light. Listen for the sounds of children at play. Walk towards the sound.

The days and nights spent at Footworks (or at least the two iterations I attended) have already become cherished memories. The privilege of spending time in beautiful locales with amazing food and interesting friends and colleagues is immense. The tension of this privilege, best summed up by Phil Smith’s formulation of ‘leisure walks plus’ (Smith, 2015, p. 81, cited by Hunter, 2015) can be somewhat addressed by vigilance to ex-tension.

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While Footworks certainly contained important moments of leisure, the walks themselves are not known for being ‘leisurely’. Perhaps the labour of epic walks, manifesto making, and engagement with the voices of Hayle and Heritage constitute the important ‘plus’ of Phil’s formulation.

This is not to ignore, either, the labour involved in creating leisure plus moments:

The cooks and servers who kept us excellently fed and imbibed.

The estate agent who took a group of four counter-tourists into a model home at a heritage site.

The cleaners left with a beach-house a bit worse for the wear.

The bus driver who waited patiently as we inevitably ran behind schedule.

The principle investigators’ countless e-mails, grant applications, wet signatures and progress reports in order to fund the experience in the first place.

Indeed the question is how to extend the gesture. Asked to approach a stranger on the beach for advice about manifesto making, I chose a snail. Better not to impose the labour of my leisure on a man enjoying his jog amongst the mostly solitary dunes.

‘Go slow, leave trails’, the snail says.

I might have missed a moment for ex-tension, but the terms of engagement cannot be only my own. I am weary of colonizing the already existing space of local residents with my own counter excursions.

The disruption of their leisure with our labour. Though perhaps that is the point.

Perhaps ex-tension first requires that the invisible tension is made visible.

On our manifesto making walk we were prompted to identify the footprints of the state. They were writ large on the sand—twenty leisure plus walkers laboriously manifesting steps towards the future of walking. The question remains: how do we make the tensions ‘ex’.

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