Blonde hair, green pond and red winged blackbird

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When I talked with curator Julie Courtney before going on Janet Cardiff‘s walk in Central Park she gave me this advice.

“Don’t do the walk last after seeing 20 shows.” Since this is what Libby and I and most art lovers usually do on day trips to the city (look at 20 shows) we took it to heart. (top image is young Stella and her long blonde hair)

Good advice.

Courtney, who’s bringing Cardiff in to Eastern State Penitentiary to make a new piece in 2005 also had this to say about the Central Park walk, “Her Long Black Hair.”

“It’s a very nice piece for observing — people, nature, the park,” she said. And indeed it is. (right are some little people from Asphalt Green Day Camp. Don’t you love the name?)

Libby told you much about the walk in her great post so I’ll try not to be redundant. Look for my piece in the Weekly (PW) next week for more of what I thought.

I’ll just add a few people observations and a few pictures. Central Park never looked so good as it did on the sparkling day we were there.

When Cardiff is purring her stories at you and alternately telling you “Don’t look back,” or, my favorite, “Close your eyes and walk forward,” just feel free to ignore her. (I took this picture (left) of some sandbags and later on of the skater taking a meeting (below right) while I was ignoring some directive.)

Don’t ignore the “left, right, go down the stairs” part or you’ll get seriously out of sync with the audio tour however.

At one point, juggling camera, notebook and trying to digest the real world I got lost, somewhere between tracks 4 and 5.

Cardiff’s piece has death on its mind.

Near the beginning, she tells a story about how the city had to shoot wild pigs that had come into the park.

When? Not recently but I missed the details as I fixated on the shooting wild pigs part.

You don’t see any pigs but you do see wild animals, and lots of pets — and their people.

Kittyman, pictured here (left), is one of the more poignant examples. The sign on his cart asks for help.

There is much talk about walking. Walking is the major thread in the walk.

Walking is life — your footsteps, the artist’s footsteps, those of the historical figures she tells you about. You’re all on the same path, from birth to death. Cardiff tell you about philosopher Soren Kirkegaard who was a walker. Every day for several hours he walked the streets of Copenhagen, she tells you. Runaway slave Harry Thomas was also a walker. He made a three-month walk to Canada and to freedom. French symbolist poet Beaudelaire walked the streets of Paris. Cardiff says “I like to think of them walking together.”

She tells you “Sometimes I watch my husband when he’s asleep,” and compares it to watching someone who’s unconscious. What is unconscious if not dead?

At the Bow Bridge over the most matte green pond I’ve ever seen in my life (image right), Cardiff point out the Dakota building overlooking the park and speculates about John Lennon and whether Yoko was with him that day. She can’t imagine getting that news. Nor can we.

Right after this there’s a story about a man in Iraq, I believe, whose son was killed by a bomb. He found his son’s arm in a tree. We don’t want to imagine that either. But there it is hovering as an idea, an image in your mind right there at the Bow Bridge.

I don’t want to put you off the trip but all those stories and dark ideas weave themselves into Cardiff’s walk.

At the end, when she’s speculating darkly about the lady with the long black hair and you’re down near enough to the pond to jump in it and disappear forever like the lady, wander over to your left and look at the black plastic whatisit floating in the lake. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a red winged blackbird perched on top like I did. (look closely at image. it’s there) It was like receiving a poke from a friend drawing you back to the real world and out of a dark reverie.

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