Carmen Papalia’s “Blind Field Shuttle” is part of a group show at the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) called “Artifacts of a Life Lived by the Living (to Live).” He began the tour in front of the museum, then led the group across Wilshire, into the park surrounding the La Brea Tar Pits.
Artist Carmen Papalia has performed “Blind Field Shuttle” in cities across North America. In it, he leads a conga line of people on a walk, everyone clutching the arm of the person in front. When Papalia organizes these walks, he seeks landmarks as points of orientation. But these aren’t landmarks the average person might think of — like a statue or a street crossing, they are taken from the way things sound. The artist, and those on the tour, respond to a “variation in soundscape, objects that we might be able to use in order to ground our experience,” says Papalia.
The Vancouver artist is blind. He began losing his sight about a decade ago, at the age of 21 and since then, he’s regularly made works that deal with blindness. Last month, he led non-visual tours of the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in New York. In June, he did a piece at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, where he was guided around downtown by a marching band. And recently, he led a tour to the L.A. County Museum of Art, where he ends the walk at Chris Burden’s lamp post installation. Listen to what it was like to be on the tour here:
Works by Carmen Papalia are on view at the Craft and Folk Art Museum through January fifth.
Papalia says he seeks non-visual landmarks for his tours — like the gassy smell of the tar pits.
The group tries to find their way around a structure in the park as a visitor looks on.
For the course of an hour, the chain followed Papalia around with their eyes closed, depending only on his voice and their senses for guidance. The artist has staged this walk in roughly a dozen cities around North America.
The group wound around the tar pits then entered the area behind the L.A. County Museum.
A short detour included a walk under Michael Heizer’s rock sculpture at LACMA.
A young boy watches the group with curiosity. Throughout the course of the walk, Papalia’s unusual human chain drew plenty of stares.
The artist ended the tour by weaving repeatedly through Chris Burden’s lamp post installation “Urban Light” at LACMA. A group of tourists closed their eyes and joined the end of the line.
Papalia ended the walk at Chris Burden’s light installation since he says he’s bumped into a lot of posts in trying to navigate cities.