Concentric Days consists of a square Ordnance Survey (OS) map over which five concentric circles have been drawn in graphite pencil. The circles are labeled with printed text: the innermost circle is labeled ‘FIRST DAY’, the second circle ‘SECOND DAY’, the third circle ‘THIRD DAY’, the fourth circle ‘FOURTH DAY’, and the outermost circle ‘FIFTH DAY’. Below the map, on the off-white paper mount, several lines of text have been carefully handwritten, with pencil guidelines visible above and below the letters. The words ‘CONCENTRIC DAYS’ are written in red pencil. Below this the following words are written in graphite pencil:
EACH DAY A MEANDERING WALK SOMEWHERE WITHIN AND TO THE EDGE OF EACH CIRCLE
The work records a walk undertaken by Richard Long in the southern part of the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland, north of Pitlochry. At the very top of the map is Cairn Toul, the second highest peak in the Cairngorms, which appears to the right of Long’s photograph Cairngorm Stones 2001 (Tate AL00211). The map itself is OS 43 (1:50,000), ‘Braemar & Blair Atholl’, a map used by Long in other works such as As the Crow Flies 1979 (reproduced in R.H. Fuchs, Richard Long, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1986, p.97). Long has been making works in Scotland since he was a student, most notably Untitled [Ben Nevis Hitchhike] 1967 (Tate T02065), for which the artist hitchhiked and walked from London to the peak of Britain’s highest mountain. For Long the Scottish Highlands are an ideal location for such walking works, since most of them are ‘still wilderness, most of the Highlands are still possible for people to walk.’ (Quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.71.)
The structure of Concentric Days is based on the series of concentric circles drawn on the map. For each of the five days, Long walked within the boundaries of the circle designated for that day. In a similar work, A Walk of Four Hours and Four Circles 1972 (reproduced in Wallis 2009, p.51), Long did not walk – as here – within the circles, but around the perimeter of each circle in exactly one hour. The central circle was walked very slowly, and as Long worked his way outwards he adjusted his pace accordingly, so that he walked the fastest on the outermost – and thus the longest – circular perimeter. This was Long’s adaptation of John Cage’s one-minute stories, which he had first heard as a student in the 1960s. As the artist has recalled:
Cage’s ideas were new to me then, and later there was a taped lecture by him called ‘Indeterminacy’, where he told sixty stories. Each story was a minute long, so if it was a very long story he had to speak very fast to get it in and if it was a short story he would speak very slowly, so it was about pace and rhythm and humour and formal ideas about time, and so from many points of view it was really interesting.
(Quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.97.)
Though Concentric Days takes a slightly different form from A Walk of Four Hours and Four Circles, the works are linked conceptually by their use of time in relation to spatial parameters. In Concentric Days the territory over which Long moved became larger as the days went on, meaning that he passed from a thorough examination of a small piece of land to an expansive and perhaps less methodical exploration of a wider area. By exploring the land in this way Long was able to avoid the usual routes followed by walkers, allowing him to see the landscape anew. As he has said:
I am interested in walking on original routes: riverbeds, circles cut by lakes, a hundred miles in a straight line, my own superimposed pattern on an existing network of roads – all these are original walks … The surface of the earth, and all the roads, are the site of millions of journeys; I like the idea that it is always possible to walk in new ways for new reasons.
(Quoted in Fuchs 1986, p.73.)
In Concentric Days this newness derives from the concentric circles superimposed upon the map. This is a structural formation that Long has used elsewhere, for example in sculptures such as Small White Pebble Circles 1987 (Tate T07160). The use of concentric circles could also be seen as an intensification of Long’s frequent recourse to the circle, a form he regards as ‘beautiful, powerful, but also neutral and abstract.’ (Quoted in Alison Sleeman, Richard Long: Mirage, London 1998, p.13.)
Throughout his career, Long has found maps a straightforward way to summarise, document and present walks as artworks. One reason the artist makes map works in Britain is because here, as he puts it, ‘you can get good maps’ (quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.84), referring to the Ordnance Survey range established in the eighteenth century that covers the entire British Isles. Long sees any walk he completes as an additional layer ‘laid upon the thousands of other layers of human and geographic history on the surface of the land’ (quoted in Tufnell 2007, p.18), a history evident in detailed maps. But although the artist provides the relevant maps, it is not his intention that others should repeat these walks, since they belong not only to a certain place, but also to a certain time. Instead the viewer is left to experience Long’s walk imaginatively through the layers of information provided by both the map and the text.
Richard Long, Walking the Line, London 2002, reproduced p.109.
Ben Tufnell (ed.), Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews, London 2007.
Clarrie Wallis (ed.), Richard Long: Heaven and Earth, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2009.
The University of Edinburgh
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