Navigating Venice and its biennale requires a fair amount of walking, and so it seems only proper that the British artist Hamish Fulton, who made walking the core of his art practice exactly 50 years ago, in 1967, is having a show in the city right now. It’s on Giudecca, right next to the Icelandic Pavilion, at Galleria Michela Rizzo, and it is titled “Unlike a Drawn Line a Walked Line Can Never Be Erased.”
The works in the show are classic Fulton, mostly prints, photographs, and wall-drawn text pieces mapping out or describing walks that he has taken, many of them in Italy. These are walks that should fill any sensible person with both admiration and envy. One wall piece begins, “A GUIDED CLIMB TO THE 3343 SUMMIT OF THE MARMOLADA DOLOMITES ITALY OCTOBER 2004.” Yes, please! Another: “A SEVEN DAY WALK IN THE REGION OF THE CARRARA MARBLE QUARRIES ITALY 2007.” I would be delighted to try that one out, as well, yes, absolutely.
Perhaps the most tantalizing reads, across a few lines, “AN 8 DAY COAST TO COAST ROAD WALK ACROSS THE NORTH OF ITALY FROM BOCCA DI MAGRA VIA THE SEMINARIO TUNNEL ENDING WITH THE FULL MOON OF MARCH AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE PALAZZO DUCALE IN VENICE 2007.” In between each line, in huge capital letters, is this very perfect and beautiful Venetian-appropriate message: “NOT BY CAR.”
Leaving the show, and feeling quite high from the experience of reading about Fulton’s walks, I set out along the water toward the Basilica del Redentore, enjoying my steps and the smell of the water. No one was around. After a minute or two, though, I noticed a thin gentleman with a laurel of white hair around his head moving at a formidable pace down the path in front of me. Could it really be? Yes. But the moment I was sure it was Fulton, he quickly turned down a side street, never breaking his step and continued on his way.