Hope Esser

Walking Milwaukee (2010)
set of 80 35mm slides of durational performance

In June 2010, I walked 24 miles over the course of ten hours. I traveled the length of Milwaukee Avenue from its origin in downtown Chicago to Buffalo Grove, Illinois. I used this former Native American trade route as a site of reenactment where the only trace of its history lies in the names of streets and towns. What I discovered amidst the construction and moving vehicles was a landscape that is no longer walkable.

What does it mean for a lone woman to be walking along a highway? In addition to experiencing a compromised landscape, I was also aware of my own body as compromised. I sought to question my relationship with the land that I inhabit, but Walking Milwaukee also highlights gender relationships, as I was often yelled, whistled, and honked at.

By conducting a performance in which the audience is unaware that they are an audience, I implicate myself and the others around me. In exhibiting this piece in venues that are on Milwaukee Avenue, it becomes part of the history of the route and a reminder of what is outside of the gallery space.

The piece is exhibited with a Kodak Carousel slide projector. Each image captures different locations, encounters, and terrains of Milwaukee Avenue and is shown in sequential order.

© Hope Esser