Walking through Film

29 January 2013

Walking to work is not normally a topic for in-depth discussion, let alone a master's thesis, but this routine activity has been the obsession of local artist Martin Butts for the past three years.

His film installation, An Encounter with Lived Experience: embodied explorations of walking through film (8 February - 2 March at Toi Pōneke Gallery), explores the experience of regularly walking to and from work.

After moving house five years ago, Butts started walking to work. He began taking photographs and occasionally filming while he walked, and used the images for a series of paintings, before deciding to research his activities more thoroughly towards a Masters of Art and Design through Auckland University of Technology.

Butts says it was initially the familiarity and memories of walking to and from home and school that struck him.  

"It's a particular type of walking as a means of getting from A to B - something I don't think a lot of people experience these days. In your car, you're in your own little world, totally shut off from your surroundings. You get in at one end, and out at the other. With walking there is more time involved and you get into certain states. I get a lot of comments from people, when they find out what I'm doing, about how walking clears the mind, or is a chance to unwind and reflect."

Creating the pieces of film on display was a lengthy process involving separating short pieces of footage, recorded while walking, into individual film stills and then passing each one through a photo-release process by hand. The resulting grainy images were then re-photographed and pieced back together using film-editing software. Further digital manipulation followed before the works were finally edited and rendered as film.

"The resulting works have an ephemeral, hypnotic quality and attempt to evoke a sense of walking in the viewer," says Butts.

More broadly, the exhibition asks us to contemplate how we operate during some of the more mundane moments of our everyday lives. The works themselves are the end product of a sense-making process to try to understand the experiential aspects of walking.

Butts has previously exhibited in group shows, but this is his first solo exhibition. An Encounter with Lived Experience: embodied explorations of walking through film opens at 5.30pm on Thursday 7 February, at Toi Pōneke Gallery, 61 Abel Smith Street, and runs until 2 March.