The fine art of walking

Their ages range from 22 to 47. They work in photography and performance, the Internet and eggshells. Some of them aren’t even art majors. But this week at the Oliver Gallery, and across the Tampa Bay area, local artists will put their heads – and feet – together to offer students some new perspective on an everyday act.

Rising and Falling: How We Walk in, and Around, Tampa is an interactive art show that explores the many ways we walk. This week, students can participate in a series of walks and become part of the art during the reception Friday at the Oliver Gallery. With such a diverse group directing the action, gallery-goers can expect to lose themselves in the variety of meanings these five students have found in the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.

The show took root in fall 2007, when the group met during a course taught by associate professor Rozalinda Borcila. The course, called Site Performance Installation, taught students how making minor changes in their mannerisms, such as speaking or walking, affected their perceptions of one another. These lessons encouraged the five to create their concepts for Rising and Falling.

“When you take something very simple and you transform it, it creates a self-awareness,” said senior Raul Romero, a communication major specializing in performance. “You’re taking something that you do every day and altering it just enough that it might create a different perspective on thinking about your actions.”

Romero’s contribution to the show, “Desert Walk at Sulphur Springs,” will consist of videos of a public performance where participants walk on the cracks of a Sulphur Springs parking lot. The performance encourages walking as a meditative, introspective act rather than a means to move from one place to another.

No less intriguing is “Project Sleep Walk/Talk,” an interactive Internet piece by Desiree D’Alessandro, a fine arts major with a concentration in electronic media. It follows the nighttime journeys of volunteers who are awakened at odd hours to stroll about their neighborhoods while providing a stream-of- consciousness commentary to a night vision camera. The walks refer to surveillance and the sharing of personal information.

“I picked up this political edge to it because it made me think of why people would be so willing to be so personal with me,” she said. “It made me think of things like videos on YouTube – how people just pour their hearts out.”

Meanwhile, in Old Hyde Park, communications graduate student Laura Bergeron will take participants on a tour of the neighborhood under the premise of finding their “dream home.”

“The environment is lush with triggers and prompts for ideas, expectations, memories and feelings about the notion of home,” she wrote in her artist statement. “With the current homeownership climate in Florida, this stroll stimulates further questions of economic agency and value.” Once participants have selected a home, they will receive keys and have a photograph taken and framed as a souvenir.

But the award for the most conceptual piece may go to fine arts graduate student Victoria Skelly. Her “Engaging Interim” stems from the writings of sociologist Erving Goffman, whose work explored the use of drama and theater in everyday social situations. The idea of social theater will play a large role in her work.

“For my work, anyone and everyone is a performer,” she said. Details of her project suggest that participants will perform arranged tasks in public spaces where attention to one’s surroundings will play an important role.

Rounding out the show is senior sculpture major Ginger MacConnell, who will present a documentary-style video called “Our Condition.” While MacConnell has asked that the details be kept secret until the reception, she will be collaborating with the other artists on an exciting – and somewhat quirky – secondary installation piece.

Taking the phrase “Walking on Eggshells” literally, Ginger will place 100 square feet of eggshells on the ground outside the gallery. This work and others, such as “Cake Walk” and “Walk the Line,” will play on walking metaphors that visitors can act out as they approach the gallery, adding a new level of interaction to what is already the most diverse art show of the semester.

“All of our different ideas and ways … none of us are the same, and to put all this together in one show is phenomenal,” said MacConnell. “It’s wonderful.”

With so much content to engage viewers’ attention and so many ways to interact with the work, Rising and Falling promises to be a show that has something everyone can relate to.

The exhibit will run through the Friday. The reception will be held at the Oliver Gallery Friday from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.