Valentina Karga

Exercises in Walking and Talking

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On May 3rd 2014, during the opening of the exhibition A THOUSAND DOORS, I released the following Open Call. For the following four weeks, I engaged in ‘walking and talking’ on the theme of education every afternoon with visitors of the exhibition and the library, or people that work for the participating institutions and some of the participating artists, around the library’s gardens. The engagement of walking as a meditative act, one that will help us focus on our real time communication and also on our inner knowledge, was precisely the essence of the exercise, which was performed freely and was every time unique. To complete the exercise, we revisited our conversation, by recalling and synthesizing key points discussed in a typewritten transcription of the dialogue. Using carbon paper, the typewriter can produce two copies of the transcriptions; the original and its imprint. The original scripts of the conversation are with the participants; scattered among the homes of the ones that participated, becoming their personal, co-authored proof of the work of art, which exists solely in their memory and my memory. The duplicate copies of the transcriptions are gathered in a second work of art. The publication has entered the library’s collection indefinitely for people to find it there, among the over 120,000 books and rare bindings, archives, manuscripts, and works of art.

The exhibition ‘A THOUSAND DOORS’ was an initiative of NEON Foundation in cooperation with the Whitechapel Gallery and has been curated by Iwona Blazwick. The work Exercises in Walking and Talking was a commission by NEON Foundation. @ Gennadius Library, American School of Classical Studies

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Installation view of ‘A Thousand Doors’ exhibition at The Gennadius Library, American School of Classical Studies in Athens, 2014

Courtesy NEON and Whitechapel Gallery. Photo credit: Nikos Markou

Photo: ©NataliaTsoukala

Photo: ©NataliaTsoukala

Photo: ©NataliaTsoukala

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Photo: ©NataliaTsoukala

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The conceptual construction of this artwork revolves around the overlapping of art and education and whether a classroom can be presented as a work of art, or a work of art can have an educational character.

The ‘Exercises in Walking and Talking’ is a collaborative practice between the artist and public, who meet in the same time and space and produce the are work of art together. It has a theoretic background based on principles and core ideas from thinkers and educators as I understood them:

– Real engagement in conversation with someone is a form of collaboration that manifests through mutual pleasure, even if we are not thinking consciously that we are collaborating. 1

– Practicing “dialogics” and not “dialectics”: Dialogue can help us discover our own voice through possible disagreements with our collaborator and it is not the aim to persuade him off our beliefs through rhetoric. 2

– “True dialogue cannot exist unless dialoguers engage in critical thinking” and “only dialogue that requires critical thinking is also capable of generating critical thinking”. 3

– We can teach what we don’t know. 4

– Everything is in everything. 5

– “To emancipate an ignorant person, one must be and one need only be, emancipated oneself, conscious of the true power of the human mind.  [..] And that can be only performed by someone who effectively knows no more than the student, someone who has never made the voyage before him: the ignorant schoolmaster.” 6


1.Idea adapted from: R.Sennett, Together; the rituals, pleasures and politics of cooperation, Yale University press, 2012, p.5

2.’Dialogic’ is a word coined by the Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin to name a discussion which does not resolve itself by finding common ground. Though no shared agreements may be reached, through the process of exchange people may become more aware of their own views and expand their understanding of one another.

3. Paulo Freire,  1970, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum press, New York, 2005, p. 92

4 & 5. From the Universal Teaching method of Joseph Jacotot (1970-1840), online source.

6. Jaques Ranciere, The ignorant schoolmaster; five lessons in intellectual emancipation, Stanford University press, 1991, p15, p.29


In the following publication you can find my interpretation of the main topics we discussed and statement we reached, organized by week.


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Installation view of ‘A Thousand Doors’ exhibition at The Gennadius Library, American School of Classical Studies in Athens, 2014

Courtesy NEON and Whitechapel Gallery. Photo credit: Nikos Markou



The participating artists in the exhibition were: Edward Allington, Matthew Barney, Christian Boltanski, Pavel Büchler, Michael Dean, Nina Fischer and Maroan El Sani, Ceal Floyer, Isa Genzken, Shuruq Harb, Nigel Henderson, Georg Herold, Susan Hiller, Hannah Höch, John Latham, Mark Manders, Juan Muñoz, Giuseppe Penone, Elizabeth Price, Michael Rakowitz, Annie Ratti, Meriç Algün Ringborg, Daniel Silver, Francis Upritchard, Adrián Villar Rojas, Jane and Louis Wilson, Jannis Kounellis, Nikos Navridis, Paky Vlassopoulou, Kostas Ioannidis and Valentina Karga.

Many thanks to all participants that engaged in the exercises. Without their contribution this works wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you also to NEON Foundation, the Whitechapel Gallery team and the team of volunteers for their support.