Walking as ontological shifter | BIBI CALDERARO


 I  - A Walk

On a recent afternoon I led a group of five people on a walk in the woods in the mountains of Massachusetts. Fall was just starting and the air was filled with the smell of the changing leaves. Despite the early hour of the afternoon, the light sifted through the canopy at a steep angle, and the warmth of the sunny spots made the already chilly shade even colder. We walked in silence for about 30 minutes on a forested upward trail, then came to a level place with clusters of standing and fallen trees. Here we stopped, and without much introduction, I asked the walkers to move towards a tree or group of trees and engage with them in whatever manner they felt necessary or called for. What happened in the following 20 minutes ranged from states of stillness to energetic engagement.


All images © Bibi Calderaro

The common denominators were touch and breath—both gestures that have deep implications. As Karen Barad (2012:1) has noted, “So much happens in a touch: an infinity of others —other beings, other spaces, other times— are aroused”. And, in a consideration of what is difficult to describe as purely internal or external, Donald Winnicott (1945:142) includes “breath, which never decides whether it comes primarily from within or without”. In a query such as the present one, where materialities and immaterialities and inside/outside are not such stable categories as we might believe, breathing and touching mark the possibility of a fundamental transformational opening on the part of the walkers—what I call an ontological shift. The result is a subtle, but radical, sense of inclusion[1] of the land[2] within the participants’ embodied spheres of possibilities.

I offer a description of this brief walk to illustrate the following speculative hypothesis: ‘Walking as ontological shifter’ is an intentional practice of walking, a medium that maximizes the conditions of possibility by which our subjectivities may be transformed from dualistic perceptions and conceptions to embodied forms of understanding that are non-dualistic[3].

II  - By way of an Introduction

The maximization of conditions for transformation is the result of the particular characteristics of walking—an embodiment[4] in movement that facilitates the integration of physical and conceptual elements in time as a walk unfolds in space—coupled with the particular characteristics of an environment.

Intentional walking creates the conditions of possibility for recurring points of contact between an interiority perceived as ‘self’ and an exteriority perceived as ‘world’. As the recurring interactions and exchanges of the walker’s physical, cognitive, emotional and affective[5] faculties with a particular environment proceed in a walk, the walker is constantly shifting and reconceptualizing not only themselves and the world outside themselves, but also the supposed boundaries between themselves and the world. The enclosed-embodied walker—the idea of the self as enclosed organism, a body delimited by skin—begins to open to a perception of beyond-embodiment, a sense that the delimitations of the body can expand—conceptually and phenomenologically—to other beings. In this way intentional walking is an activating vehicle, a weaving movement leading to an expanded embodiment in which inside-outside borders open, even if provisionally. Inside and outside as distinct categories mirror the construct of Western philosophy’s subject-object dualism; the softening and indeed dissolution of the boundaries between subject and object, inside and outside, lead toward an expanded, non-dualistic experience of being.

This expanded sense of embodiment has huge implications, given that dualism has dominated our understanding of the world and as such has left a very heavy footprint, affecting how we relate to all that falls in the category ‘other’, whether other humans or other forms of being, effectively reducing all that is ‘other’ to a thing to be tamed and exploited. Shifting fully—by ‘fully’ I mean through and by an epistemological change that brings about an ontological shift, and vice versa, in reciprocal feedback pathways[6]—from this dominant episteme will perhaps allow us to live as a participating rather than a dominating ‘species’, in a non-anthropocentric spirit. Donna Haraway (2003 and 2015) has described this quality of cohabitation as ‘being-with’ and ‘building kin’[7]; Joanna Latimer (2013) speaks of it as ‘being alongside’. These relationships with what lies beyond the human address a distribution of the social that is no longer an intra-species characteristic unique to humans. As recognition of inter-species socialities grows, the categorization of what ‘species’ means is being increasingly challenged in turn.

My conception of walking as ontological shifter as a medium is situated in this space, which grants possible differentiating occasions that allow for the formation and transformation of subjectivities, at once opening to the external ‘world’ and decentering the anthropos. This walking is a practice within an aesthetics that shares conceptual ground with healing and pedagogy[8], in the sense of opening up subjectivities to the world in ways that are both reparative and informing. It responds to, and aims to counteract by way of a new onto-epistemology, the belief that has constituted humans as separate and superior beings from the rest of existing beings—which I believe has engendered what are our deepest problems today: unsustainable economies, social inequalities, global climate change and the political systems that perpetuate these conditions. At stake here is the issue of relationality: what is to be included or left outside of the relational, and how these relationalities might be enacted as new socialities.

Here I am drawing on relational theories, whose lineage is extensive and varied. Certainly since the publication of Nigel Thrift’s seminal Spatial Formations (1996)—foundational in non-representational theory—the concept of open systems has been addressed frequently by different disciplines. Feminist and queer theories in particular took these ideas further in their decentering of the human, expanding the concept of sociality and positing relational assemblages beyond preconceived notions of species, categories and kinds. I also draw on Mark Hansen’s (2009) proposal of a third relational possibility that addresses the issue of oscillations between closed and open systems. His concept of the ‘system-environment hybrid’ makes use of provisional openings and closings, following Gilbert Simondon’s theory of ‘individuation’. While these are all provocative moves in the face of a failed humanism, I believe the need remains for some sense of coherence in who each one of us is, beyond the requirement for or absence of closure—a relationality that builds a sense of groundedness in place, which the careful experience of time spent in space offers. This careful attendance is analogous to Phillip Vannini’s (2015:13) description of non-representational theory, which “emphasizes instead the power of the precognitive as a performative technology for adaptive living, as an instrument of sensation, play and imagination, and a life force fueling the excesses and the rituals of everyday living”. Call it ‘meaning-making via symbolic mechanisms’, ‘affect’ or ‘love’, it is the kind of existential motivation that keeps the intensity called ‘human’ moving forward with a sense of hope/aliveness/future—as Henri Bergson called it, ‘élan vital’.

If what I am proposing—that is, walking as ontological shifter—has as its goal a remedy to the presumption that human beings are separate from and greater than non-human beings, then there is a second term to be more precisely defined. Borrowing from relational theory, I choose to call this second realm of being that is not human the ‘more-than-human’[9].

In my search for a richer understanding of human and more-than-human relationality, and because epistemic systems ultimately conform to their respective ontologies, I have founded the praxis of walking as ontological shifter on an onto-epistemological move. In this I have followed a genealogy of interdisciplinary and expanded approaches towards both epistemology and ontology. One of the principal frameworks for my model of epistemological process is the neuroscientific concept of reentry. Reentry refers to the biophysical process in most mammals by which neural connections occur, distributed throughout the body and integrated in the brain. It is best understood as the reweaving of neural patterns that in their complexity, differentiation, constant reciprocal feedback and integration allows for the formation of what some call ‘conscious experience’. I see the concept of reentry as a guiding metaphor for meaning-making (learning) via movement, whereby reentry is an eliciting conceptual model for walking as an interface in which the human and the more-than-human co-enact. Reentry provides a framework for considering both learning and being as dynamic and interrelated— a foundational premise of walking as ontological shifter—and situates the practice of intentional walking at the precise juncture where experience is at once highly integrated and highly differentiated[10].

Reentry also provides the context in which I craft walks. I research (or should I say practice?) the geography of each particular location[11] and bring in sensorial exercises aimed at eliciting from the experience of walking through the environment an expansion of the phenomenological and the conceptual, (or should I say, at this point, the epistemological and the ontological?) and the temporary attenuation, if not erasure, of the boundaries between walker and environment. The approaches I bring together for this work are varied and draw from psychology, consciousness studies, contemplative practices, somatic studies, diverse phenomenologies, anthropology and quantum physics, as they respectively understand embodiment, materiality and object relations as generative sites of ‘knowledge’[12]. The intention is to facilitate experiences that have the capacity to act as shifter, within the aesthetic realm of meaning-making, supported by the pedagogical and healing realms of expansion and integration. My curiosity is sparked by the foundational question of how ‘knowledge’ and ways of being are ultimately generated, enacted, related and shared, in other words, how epistemology and ontology are constituted and function at individual and social levels. Here I take epistemology to mean that which encompasses the ways in which humans come to apprehend the world and acquire and produce knowledge, not just the philosophical discipline that studies it. Tim Ingold (2007:xii) captures this sense when he observes that “[T]o move, to know, and to describe are not separate operations that follow one another in series, but rather parallel facets of the same process—that of life itself”.

III  - Some Other Considerations

Physically, walking is best described by the dynamics of a double pendulum. The first pendulum motion begins when one leg leaves the ground and swings from the hip; the second pendulum motion occurs as the foot from the swinging leg lands on the heel and rocks forward to the toes, thrusting the body forward as the opposite leg swings from the hip in its turn. The thrusting forward motion of the body is an inverted pendulum, with the center of mass above the pivot point—the foot/land point of contact. In physics the inverted pendulum is understood to be an inherently unstable system whose upright position is achieved by continual acts of active balancing, which can include moving forward. Human walking can be understood as a balancing act that keeps us from falling, in which our upright stature is grounded downward in forward-moving waves. Walking is movement tending to equilibrium, composed of a specificity as particle in the grounding foot and a continuity as wave in the forward movement. These aspects of walking—the particle in spacetime (the grounding down of the foot and the vertical uprightness of the body against gravity) and the wave movement in spacetime (the continual thrusting forward within a discontinuous balance)—are not only co-constitutive, they would not be able to exist on their own. This tension of grounding and verticality combined with forward movement may be understood as an embodied coexistence of waves and particles, a metaphor for the dynamics of walking as ontological shifter, in which seemingly disparate realms are physically and conceptually integrated.

Vitally important in this relational proposition of expanded socialities is to delineate the environments in which intentional walking is to be practiced. I propose a minimum of certain characteristics are intrinsically fundamental to maximize the conditions of possibility for an ontological shift to occur. These may be recognized to exist primarily in natural/green spaces[13].

These natural/green spaces:

  • have a majority of their surfaces covered in soil or other material that, for the most part, has not been humanly fabricated/manipulated;
  • contain and foster biodiversity, which tends to be maximized in the presence of respect for difference;
  • contain extremely little or no textuality as human system of significations based in written language [14];
  • absorb sound, partially or completely, especially the vibrations and reverberations of engines[15];
  • cleanse the air of carbon dioxide—act as carbon sinks—and provide oxygen, due to the presence of plants, a resonant factor if one considers breath as liminal zone between inside and outside.

The above-mentioned materialities evidence ‘soft boundaries’, inviting a ‘healing reconciliation’—the integration of dis-membered, fragmented parts. Concrete and glass—most current urban materials—have harder boundaries than soil, plants or animals; the former’s sharply reflective surfaces do not give and take in ways that afford beneficial transformations. The bouncing off of energy—in its most common manifestations as light, sound and heat—from such hard surfaces is fast and sharp, with the effect of recharging the environment with reverberations and perpetuating a sense of time that is dislodging, perhaps because these hard surfaces themselves do not hold time. This speculative explanation of natural/green spaces’ absorbing and reflective capacities as constituting a beneficial environment for walking as ontological shifter draws on studies of the effect of nature on wellbeing, for example, a study that shows that regular walking on a treadmill in interior, built spaces does not yield the same benefits that walking in nature does (Duvall, 2010). The importance of a natural/green environment in my model is also well supported by numerous other studies coming from the health, wellbeing, medical and educational research indicating that there is indeed a measurable beneficial effect that occurs when humans enter into a relationship with natural/green environments on a regular basis (Haluza, Schönbauer and Cervinka, 2014; Kaplan, R and Kaplan, S, 1989; Kaplan, S, 1992).

Walking as an opening up to a new relational mode —as a new onto-epistemology— is a process that necessarily comprises what is called learning. It is provocative to examine the connection, through what I call ‘languaging causalities’[16], between walking and learning in the root of ‘to learn’, which is from the Old English leornian, itself from the Proto-Germanic liznojan. Liznojan connotes finding or following a track or path; it is also related to the Proto-Germanic and Old English for footstep, footprint, track and, in Old English, also the sole of the foot (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=learn, accessed 7 December 2016). Tracing the etymology of the word ‘learn’ is enlightening, as it points to a deep relationship between knowledge production and traveling a path on foot, a tracing both in the sense of looking for traces and leaving traces, in an activity co-constituted by the interaction of land and feet. I believe the link between learning and walking is grounded in this profound relationship of human movement and land as perceived, organized and elaborated through our bodies in time.

Signaled by the etymological connection between feet, land and the process called learning, walking can be conceived as key to an understanding of learning as an embodied process, that is, occurring as we enact experiential connections with what surrounds us. Embodied learning through walking integrates physical movement, cognitive activity, emotion and affect with the more-than-human elements encountered in the walk, in constantly recurring and reorganizing ways (Bruner, 1990; Dewey, 1916; Edelman and Tononi, 2000; Thelen, 2005). In this sense, walking shares something with Vygotsky’s (1978) ‘zone of proximal development’ in that it places the walker in circumstances where thresholds of comfort—which are analogous to the limits of understanding—are continuously challenged, where the familiar needs to be renegotiated in the presence of new physical and conceptual elements. Intentional walking within natural/green spaces brings the walker into contact with unexpected non-textual elements, where changes in the external landscape maximize changes in the internal landscape as different elements are encountered through movement per se in space (Ingold, 2004; Scrimsher and  Tudge, 2003; Vygotsky, 1978).

Walking as ontological shifter, in its capacity to provide a path beyond a dominant epistemological and ontological set of assumptions, offers a broader understanding of relationality as a reciprocal dynamic based on respect. The word ‘respect’—whose root means a looking back, a looking again—points to the making and remaking of connections, as in reentry, which constitutes a continuous learning as integration enacted in a spirit of respect for difference[17]. This spirit of respect not only speaks of a learning that is an expanding of the terms of relationality, it also points to the temporal dimension in the ‘looking back and again’ as instances within a present.

IV - Aesthetics as context

I situate this hypothesis within genealogies of aesthetic practice while aiming to expand its range well beyond binaries of producer/audience. My view of aesthetics consciously departs from the genealogies and praxes that historically fall under the term ‘modernism’, which continue to focus primarily on the unique experience of the artist as sole maker/generator or the individual viewer/member of the audience. In contrast, and drawing on aspects of Dada, anti-art, Fluxus, Oiticica’s and Clark’s Brazilian neo-concretism, and social practice, my praxis of walking is inscribed within a genealogy of participatory art. Boris Groys (2008:28) looks to the coincidence of bodies in space to analyze the participatory, adapting Wagner’s gesamtkunstwerk to explain different levels of agency and control granted and taken for granted in the axis artist/audience. Groys points to a common physical denominator in participatory forms, where despite “historical, ideological and aesthetic differences [these forms share] something that unites [the artists’] attempts to stage the gesamtkunstwerk: they all presuppose the material, corporeal presence of the artist and the audience in the same (real) room. Be it a Wagnerian opera, a futurist scandal, a Fluxus happening, or a situationist event, each has the same goal: to unite the artist and the audience at a particular location”. In the hypothesis of walking as ontological shifter ‘in the same real room’ and ‘at a particular location’ grow into the expanded relational field inclusive of the human and the more-than-human. However, because of the extension of vital differentiation granted in my hypothesis to both these terms, it is also crucial that I replace Groys’s ‘unite’ with ‘co-enact’—the former term collapses differences in a strand of non-dualism that proposes unification via a totalizing move, whereas the latter respects the integrity and coherence of different entities, and includes the temporal dimension in which these highly differentiated entities relate in co-constitutive ways.

Walking as ontological shifter proposes an aesthetics that carries a force, the kind of potency that Hansen (2006:27) insists upon in his discussion of work that “mounts an aesthetic, indeed properly philosophical, challenge to the mainstream”. By an aesthetics of ontological capacity I mean an aesthetics that is embodied not just in the materiality of an external object but crucially in the body of those engaging in mediation with(in) an object/situation/act called artistic, understood as an expanded temporal field[18]. This aesthetic, in its ontological capacity, facilitates conditions conducive to the transformation of those who experience it.

Embodiment is the way in which humans inhere in the world. It follows that walking as a performative and participatory aesthetic endeavor, occurring in and through the body, opens up a deeper understanding of the crucial relationship between epistemology and ontology. Walking is an embodiment that necessarily unfolds within movement in time and through space: it is in this moving that the unique capacity of intentional walking to act as an integrative vehicle lies. This capacity allows us to assign to walking the stature of a medium. In the traditional vocabulary of the arts, the word ‘medium’ is used to refer to the materials by which an artist expresses an idea—the artist’s skill lies in transforming the medium from non-form to form. The medium is the site of the artist’s role as translator of the largely illegible world into a legible form. Within more conceptual aesthetic practices, multiple materialities are understood to be at play in form-making artistic processes, including immaterial ‘materials’ such as time, movement, chance, erasures and other media with symbolizing capacities. It is in this latter tradition that walking can be inscribed as a medium, because of the potential it carries as meaning-making gesture. My claim is that walking constitutes such a medium because it not only facilitates the intelligibility of ‘world’, it does so by enhancing the conditions of possibility for integration[19]. Walking is a medium that puts together, in new ways, in and through the body, the spatial with the temporal, not just as physical elements outside the body but as embodied material and conceptual elements felt with(in) the body. Walking allows what is typically understood to reside inside or outside the body to pass through the boundaries of the body; in these passings that are reentries, the integrative is enacted as inclusive transformation[20]. This integration occurs in movement—in spacetime as one walks in the environment and in the spacetime of the neural processes as theorized in the concept of reentry. This integration is both epistemological and ontological.

Walking as ontological shifter is where an epistemology and an ontology meet and give shape to one another, where how we come to grasp and perceive becomes mutually constitutive with how (and who) we are. Walking as a medium not only enables the symbolic—our meaning-making capacities—it also integrates those processes felt as body with those felt as mind, the internal with the external realms, the human with the more-than-human. Historically it could be claimed that, at least within Western culture, we have privileged binary understandings of the world that enforce exclusionary paths, which sever mind from body, humans from nature, rural from urban, culture from wilderness and the primitive from the civilized. With walking as ontological shifter I am attempting to find an alternative to the modernist episteme that has been dominant for too long and has offered only either/or onto-epistemologies. I am proposing intentional walking as an integrative aesthetic practice that brings multiplicity and synchronicity to experience and being in an expanded sociality.

Time and space are punctured and traversed by a plurality of vectors, and it is within this complex matrix that walking is available to us as medium of integration, understanding and transformation[21]. As an aesthetic endeavor, and by definition open [22], walking as ontological shifter is characterized by intention only, with no fixed destination in time or space. Because the medium of walking is comprised of the multiplicities that are time, movement, land and affective and cognitive processes, the results it yields are necessarily open and indeterminate. This is not only due to its emphasis on the procedural, itself by definition constantly shifting, but also because the process implicates materials that are unpredictable, unfixable and immeasurable. In this process answers to questions regarding outcome will be necessarily deflected by the indeterminacy of the new entanglements. ‘Where to?’ guides the materialities and immaterialities involved in this type of walking towards an acceptance of embodiment and temporality as open. Walking as ontological shifter is an intentional turning towards a set of radical positions:  the non-linear perception of spacetime, the pre-conscious as affective force with ontological capacities and the integration of these elements to build a future that allows for difference. What the aesthetics of walking as ontological shifter offers as an alternative to modernist criticality situated in the realm of the self-reflective is the activation of reparative processes that incorporate and respect difference.

This is a speculative hypothesis that proposes an aesthetics founded in a change of pace. This understanding of walking—as an experimental, relational and integrative practice—guides the walker toward the ontological shift I have proposed. This shift is made available when the walker’s onto-epistemic core expands to encompass difference in alterity, uncertainty and indeterminacy—through an epistemological shift, followed by an ontological shift, which in turn elicits further epistemological shifts, leading to further ontological shifts in a process of reciprocating feedback. The embodiment on which it relies is the subject’s ever-increasing awareness of the entanglement of myriad materialities and immaterialities in spacetime.

V - Reentry

The complexities involved in the diversity of orders that I claim integrate in the act of walking have led me to conceptual frameworks beyond aesthetics. In particular, I have drawn on current research in neuroscience that investigates what might be happening at a neurological level in the formation of higher levels of discernment, with the goal of grounding some of the processes present in walking[23]. These processes are analogous to those at work in the concept of ‘reentry’. Advanced by Gerald Edelman and Giulio Tononi (2000) within a larger field of research, the premise of reentry articulates the relationship of the physical realm of the material world, which includes the human body, with the metaphysical realm of awareness of oneself in the world. Reentry is a reciprocal feedback process in which neuronal activity continuously generates new paths, which form progressively larger and more complex networks, to create what Edelman and Tononi refer to as ‘consciousness’. I want to argue along with these authors that these processes are distributed along the whole of the body, and by extension to claim that their conditions of possibility are enhanced by the movement that is walking. I have adopted this model to ground my speculative hypothesis of walking because it specifies movement as a key component in the formation of more highly—in the sense of more complexly—integrated levels of understanding, of ourselves and the world around and beyond us. Reentry is supported by the discovery, via new imaging technologies, that the routes that occur in neuronal connections are not re-tracings with fixed linearity but instead a changing set of paths, which follow new routes that incorporate difference and allow higher degrees of flexibility in their connections. Reentry is by definition relational, contextual and dependent on prior experience, and hence time based[24].

Reentry explains how ‘consciousness’ is formed in the whole of our bodies, where neural paths, articulated in a meshlike web, recurrently come and go to the brain while continually taking different paths. It is a re-entering into the same port differently that builds a ‘consciousness’, an awareness, a sense of our subjectivity and of our surroundings, to which we are constantly responding. Simplified, reentry is the continual reweaving of neural paths, which in their movements allow for the creation of meaning. It is “the ongoing recursive interchange of parallel signals between reciprocally connected areas of the brain, an interchange that continually coordinates the activities of these areas’ maps to each other in space and time” (Edelman and Tononi, 2000:48). My hypothesis that walking maximizes the conditions of possibility for multilevel integration rests on the idea that embodied movement echoes conceptually and enacts and enhances physically the neuronal movements as set out in reentry.

A Conclusion, An Opening

Noting Evan Thompson’s (2014) statement that “We need to radically change how we think about things in ways that are still not clear to us” and Ingold’s (2007) concepts of the embeddedness and situatedness of knowledge, along with his emphasis on their relationship to movement and path-making, it becomes clear that what is needed is a radical change of epistemologies and ontologies. Integrating spatiality and temporality, the more-than-human and the human, walking as ontological shifter is a process that mediates between the walker and the ‘world’ in particular and complex ways. The analysis of walking’s cognitive and affective possibilities couples the performative with the environment in a dynamic embodied reciprocity. The walker is in co-enactive relationship with the more-than-human, and grows to the terms of respect in difference rather than opposition. Ingold’s (2004:219) description of relational thinking resonates here: “It means treating the organism not as a discrete, pre-specified entity but as a particular locus of growth and development within a continuous field of relationships”.

Walking as ontological shifter is the practice of expanding the tensility of our physical and metaphysical boundaries to meet provisionally with other subjectivities in their vulnerable capacities of being, tending to a non-dualistic, non-reductive, non-essentialist onto-epistemology. Walking is a medium by which to pursue the integration of the supposed interiorities of our human order with the supposed exteriorities of the more-than-human order. This pedagogical and healing model is a generative field situated in the aesthetic realm.

I believe that given the state of our humanity today, in all its inhumanness past and present, walking as ontological shifter is a simple way of activating and cultivating a different approach towards a future in which ‘human’ and ‘more-than-human’ may grow beyond duality, in which the conditions of possibility will exist for an onto-epistemological space that holds both/and—a multiplicity of human and more-than-human fellows.


Bibi Calderaro is an interdisciplinary conceptual artist and researcher whose participatory and collaborative practice aims to expand epistemological and ontological frames beyond the human; her work circulates internationally since 1995. She is a PhD candidate at The Graduate Center, CUNY and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

www.bibicalderaro.com | www.coastalreadinggroup.com | holesinthewallcollective.org




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[1] By inclusivity I mean openness and respect for difference, the unknown and the uncertain. In this I follow Hansen (2009:115) when he speaks of a “higher level of inclusiveness—which is to say through a constitutive relation with alterity” (his emphasis).

[2] What I propose is that the land includes both the material and the immaterial, both what can be consciously felt and that which lies beyond and beneath cognition.

[3] Non-duality is used here not as an essentialist concept where an either/or duality is reduced to an all-encompassing oneness; instead it is a container of multiplicities where the oscillations of duality expand to hold the array of potentialities, known and unknown, in time. I draw on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987) and Whiteheadian process philosophy.

[4] I use embodiment to encompass spatial and temporal dimensions as occurring in the bodymind, both as physical responses and as phenomenological and post-phenomenological processes.

[5] Here I follow affect theory’s distinction between ‘affect’—pre-conscious, pre-verbal, felt, embodied processes—and ‘emotion’—the conscious, verbal, felt, embodied processes. Going back to Spinoza via Deleuze and Massumi, Richard Ek (2010:426) gives a succinct definition “Affect is a form of usually indirect and non-reflective thinking, its own kind of intelligence and consequently a capacity of interaction, a force of emergence. Affect is therefore a transpersonal capacity, a force in and between bodies. The body (not necessarily a human body) can both affect and be affected”. Followed by …”affect is non-cognitive, pre-reflexive, pre-conscious and pre-human”…

[6] See my discussion of the concept of reentry, pp. 15-16.

[7] The concept of ‘building kin’ also has a lineage of indigenous praxis that runs parallel—and is perhaps prior— to the one more readily available via academic discourses. Among many others, some references in this regard are Kim Tallbear (Eve Tuck, 2016) and Lewis Williams (2013).

[8] I use the term ‘healing’ instead of ‘therapy’ because the former implicates a reciprocity that the latter lacks due to its imbrication in practices that connote authority. This is important to note because the distinction points to a similar asymmetry in art-making practices, that is, the paradigm of the artist/creator and viewer/passive observer versus more participatory, symmetrical and reciprocal ways of experiencing and co-creating the aesthetic as process. Pedagogy as methodology is also key to walking as ontological shifter as a practice necessarily entwined with a process of embodied learning; see my discussion of embodied learning in pp. 9-10.

[9] This term points to the non-technological, non-human environment. I have decided to use this term rather than ‘non-human’, as the latter is a definition ex negativo often used by relational theories that engage with the technological. In this context ‘more-than-human’ has no value judgment or hierarchical standing attached to it; the ‘more-than-‘ is not a superlative valence of the ‘human’; ‘more-than-human’ is a matter of excess.

[10] Referring to neuronal dynamics in higher vertebrates, Giulio Tononi et al. (1994) establish the term ‘neural complexity’ to describe the interplay of highly segregated functional areas and integration at specific times. Later Olaf Sporns et al (2000:899) describe the process as follows “Complexity measures the extent to which a pattern of functional connectivity produced by units or areas within a neural system combines the dual requirements of functional segregation and integration”. What captures my attention to this research is the ability to explain in physical terms how difference is eventually integrated.

[11] This geographic account takes up traditional elements of human geography (economic forces within social and ecological dynamic systems), bioregional elements as well as phenomenological and post-phenomenological forces, along with local indigenous practices where available.

[12] I am interested in the approaches of these disciplines when they are affiliated with an ethos of relational theory, versions of affect studies, new materialisms, queer and feminist theories and also with non-academic views such as indigenous practices.

[13] My recommending these spaces is different from a Romantic and dualistic notion of nature as salvific space and from concepts of landscape as the site of the sublime in that these concepts generated within a Modernist anthropocentric teleology of transcendence, whereas I adopt a relational, non-anthropocentric and immanent stance. Neither do I want to work within an oppositional frame of urban vs. natural spaces, as there are plenty of urban corners where these characteristics are encouraged and as many rural or so-called natural spaces where domestication and domination are the rule.

[14] David Abram (1997) claims that it is in the alphabet and writing that our culture has lost the capacity to maintain an open relationality with the more-than-human and thus remains in a never-ending loop of significations as reifications.

[15] By ‘engine’ I mean all combustion and electrically fueled machines whose byproduct is inevitably heat as waste. In this sense, natural/green spaces are an-entropic spaces or spaces where entropy tends to a minimum.

[16] Reading etymology in the context of the phenomenological roots of words. An experiential history of words with a generative power.

[17] Be it amongst fellow humans or with other more-than-human beings, in these newly forged relationalities.

[18] ‘Expanded temporal field’ pertains to the idea of open works as discussed by Umberto Eco (1962), as well as to process-oriented art in the sense that it is durational, where ‘results’ cannot be said to be fixed in time nor materialized at any given moment.

[19] What is integrated retains internal coherence yet transforms as the process is co-constitutive. Ultimately it is a question of parts-to-whole and their interaction, by which ‘difference’ may be invited. Simondon’s process of individuation is a pertinent framework here, as interpreted by Hansen (2009); also Deleuze’s difference and repetition as interpreted by Ansell Pearson (1999).

[20] Inclusion then is not just the integration of other humans and other beings within a new onto-epistemology, it also refers to opening to other ways of understanding space and time. Biochemist and geneticist Mae-Wan Ho (1994) explored these possibilities in her inquiry about Schrödinger's question, “What is life?”.

[21] I am not proposing here that those who are mobility-disabled would not be able to experience these transformations, but only that walking is a medium that maximizes the conditions for such transformations to occur.

[22] See note 18.

[23] My aim is not to reduce embodiment or phenomenology to a neurological level; I just find this theory particularly pertinent because it bridges the scientific with the metaphysical relationally and complexly.

[24] The notions of plasticity (the ability for profound reorganization after damage to the brain) and aggregate (the combinations and interactions between specialized areas of the brain) are important as background here. See McIntosh, A.R (2000).