Ellen Mueller

Interview with Babak Fakhamzadeh

by Ellen Mueller on October 10, 2023, no comments

man standing in a small room with multiple projectors speacking

Babak Fakhamzadeh in front of a recent walking piece he produced
Photo Credit: Jerry Salas.

As part of the release of the hardcover release of my book, Walking as Artistic Practice (softcover comes out in April!), I’m going to be publishing some brief interviews with the various artists, authors, researchers, creatives, collectives, and platforms whose art practice, written material, or other works I cite and mention.

My eighth interview in this series is with Babak Fakhamzadeh who has been fighting the corporate map for decades. In 2021 he became the first person to win the World Summit Awards for the third time, each time with innovative walking pieces. Recently, he’s been experimenting with using a range of AI tools in facilitating alternative experiences.

EM: First, thank you for chatting with me about your collaborative project walk · listen · create (2019–). I cite this project in chapter one (History of Walking as Artistic Practice) in the subsection on “Contemporary Practices and Collectives.” How would you describe the platform for people who might not be familiar with it?

BF: The platform walk · listen · create (WLC) is the home of walking artists and artist walkers. WLC is a network organisation of artists who use ‘walking’ as an integral part of their artistic practice.

In October 2023, the network consisted of around 1600 contributing creators. Our primary objective is bringing creators together, facilitating a cross pollination between participants, with the objective of seeing the creation of more walking art, that’s more professional, and which reaches a broader audience.

Of all our activities, what might set us apart the most are the two global awards for walking art which we host. An online jury and two Grand Juries award prizes for the best sound walk of the previous year, with the Sound Walk September (SWS) Awards, and the best walking piece created in the previous year, with the Marŝarto Awards.

EM: What are your thoughts on walking as artistic practice?

BF: As part of an artistic practice, ‘walking’ is a very broad concept, with, for one, a big distinction between the artist doing the walk, or the audience having to walk to experience the art.

Either way, ‘walking’, whatever form this takes in practice, is different in that the resulting experience is unique every time it’s practiced. ‘Walking’ facilitates a unique experience for the individual, which can not be replicated, even by the same person attempting to do the same walk. This, because the experience also originates with the individual, as opposed to with a foreign entity influencing, or even controlling, our actions and behaviour.

This also makes ‘walking’, specifically with a heightened awareness, an activity that directly counters the ’spectacle’ in the sense of how Guy Debord and The Situationists considered this, and therefore, by its very nature, is a kind of anti-capitalist intervention.

The Situationists identified walking, or the dérive, as countering the control of public space by big capital. Now, more than half a century later, big capital controls not just public space, but also private space, through our online interaction on social media in particular, and our mobile phones in general. ‘Walking’, and the individual, and unique, experience this provides, also counters this manipulation of the individual in the private space, and provides a path to extract oneself from this control.

EM: Can you tell us about any recent or upcoming projects you are excited about?

BF: I’m not particularly aware of any upcoming projects, but due to my association with the SWS and Marŝarto Awards, I’m quite aware of what’s been produced in the previous year, Consider this an open invite for anyone who’s put something together in which ‘walking’ features prominently, in one way or another, to submit this to our archives, which also means it will automatically be submitted for our awards.

I’m very happy to see that the overall quality of the submitted work has noticeably gone up every year, and, really, checking out the winners of the Awards from the last few years gives a good idea as to what are some of the better pieces that have been produced recently.

What I’m personally excited about is a platform which at WLC we recently took responsibility for, Placecloud.io, a location-based platform for short podcasts which uncover the hidden stories around us. We’re in talks with a few parties to work on projects that are set to unlock several histories of particular societal relevance. Nothing definite yet, but I’m going to be very excited if we manage to get the funding sorted for these.