Review: Andy Goldsworthy’s Walking Wall

What does the simple act of stacking and re-stacking thousands of stones, five times to be exact, have to do with contemporary ecological art making?

Well, ask Andy Goldsworthy—a British born sculptor with a knack for ephemeral natural compositions. Typically, Goldsworthy works in nature and with organic materials to enhance the beauty of the landscape. The cyclical nature of his projects reinforce natural ideas such as death, decay, and the passing of seasons. He works with natural objects to create visual poems commenting frivolity of nature.

Since March, Goldsworthy has been working on a major project on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Titled Walking Wall, Goldsworthy’s newest project transforms before the viewer’s eyes in five separate stages that takes place over eight months. Simple in nature, the installation is only comprised of stones stacked atop one another to form a wall.

In March 2019, construction of the wall began on the east side of the campus and inched forward every few months. The wall wasn’t constantly in motion. Instead for ten or so days in March, May, July, September, and November workers edged the work along. After the initial construction was finished in March, workers then removed rocks from the back end of the installation and placed them at the front to make it seem as if the installation was literally walking around the grounds. During the periods of movements, crowds flocked to the installation site to observe and ask questions. The sensuous act of watching someone construct a physical entity with nothing more than their hands was an entrancing act.

Left in the wall’s wake is a trail of dead grass, crushed by the weight of itself. These footsteps traipse over the small rolling hills of the institution, reminding us all of our intertwining histories with the land and our similarities with each other.

In a time of decisive discourse surrounding walls and borders in the United States, Goldsworthy definitively connects the act of building a wall with nature rather than as a man-made divide. As polarities continue to rise throughout the country, works like Goldsworthy’s attempt to remind us all that we’re apart of something bigger––bigger than our families or our citizenship. But apart of a global support system that relies on camaraderie between humans and the ecosystems in which they live so that both may flourish.

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