Last Friday, Conor McGarrigle walked Colfax Avenue -- the longest continuous commercial street in the U.S. -- and drew a 26.2 mile line captured in a satellite photograph. The walking art performance, named Walking West, was conceived as a catalyst for a discussion of the role of Colfax Avenue in the cultural, social, economic and political life of Denver. But McGarrigle also had a more personal mission.
Originally from Ireland and now a media professor in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Department at the University of Denver, McGarrigle is a new-media artist and researcher working at the intersection of digital networks and real space. Walking West was designed to integrate digital technologies into aspects of our everyday lives. He marked his route by drawing a line as he walked from the intersection of East Colfax Avenue and I-70 through the heart of downtown toward the west. The action was captured from space by a commissioned, high-resolution satellite photograph.
According to the artist, the project was the first artistic performance documented by satellite, and it produced one of the largest drawings ever made. But the goal was not to set a record: McGarrigle saw the piece as a way to get to learn about the city, uncovering the stories, connections and associations that transform city streets into neighborhoods. "I am just very new to Denver, so for me to get to know Denver it seems like I need to walk the city and explore the city to kind of get that connection," McGarrigle says. "By walking, we can experience the city itself, at a human pace, as a space of discovery and encounter."
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Since McGarrigle is a recent immigrant -- he moved to this country in September 2012 -- Walking West also had a personal resonance. The act of walking the length of Colfax symbolized the historical migrant's westerly journey along a street named for Schuyler Colfax, the seventeenth Vice President of the United States who opposed Irish immigration in the nineteenth century.
The satellite photo of the piece should be available in the next few weeks. Other works by McGarrigle have been exhibited internationally in over seventy shows, including the 20011 Venice Biennale, the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art and FILE Sao Paulo.
For more information, visit the Walking West website.