Ellen Mueller

Interview with Phil Smith

by Ellen Mueller on September 11, 2023, no comments

one person laying down and another standing within a circle drawn on the ground

Crab & Bee, “Webs, Nets and Carrier Bags,” experimental diagrammatical performance

As part of the run up to 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 fourth interview in this series is with Phil Smith, who is a writer, researcher and performer specialising in mythogeographies. With visual artist Helen Billinghurst he is a member of Crab & Bee. He is an Associate Professor (Reader) at the University of Plymouth.

EM: First, thank you for chatting with me about your work and writing, which I mention multiple times in the book. Here, I’d like to specifically focus on a mention of the concept of falling from your jointly authored book with Alyson Hallet, Walking Stumbling Limping Falling (2017), which I cite in chapter ten (Embodiment) in the subsection on “Falling.” How would you describe this text for people who might not be familiar with it?

PS: a dialogue which was a result of two walking artists discovering they were unable to walk – one due to a bad hip requiring surgery, the other due to a mysterious debilitating illness; and so rather than a planned series of walking experiments, we conducted a conversation around our very limited movements before recovery, musing on these temporary moderations of our wanderings and of other minor interruptions, falls, and so forth, and how they had affected our work and art.

EM: I know you have a lot of them, but I wonder what some of your most recent thoughts are on walking as artistic practice?

PS: that it is now so diverse that it no longer constitutes ‘a thing’ in a way that it probably did 20 years ago; if I detected anything coherent from the gathering at the 2019 ‘Walking’s New Movements’ conference in Plymouth it was that many walking artists’ were turning their attention to unhuman others.

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

PS: I am conducting research in two areas: diagrammatical performances and eco-gothic fictions; I am in the early stages of the research, but hope to publish some findings towards the end of 2024; in the mean time I have published some provisional fictions:    https://www.triarchypress.net/silversnake.html