by Jazmine Reynoso
Memory Walks is an exercise that intertwines the memories we keep in our mind to the memories we hold in our bodies. Can you remember a walk that you would take all the time and suddenly the walk becomes a routine? You stopped having to look down at directions or remind yourself when to turn right, and instead, your body begins to lead the way. This exercise will take you back to a familiar walk to your grandmother's house, childhood best friend, elementary school, bakery, the secret cove at the beach, treehouse in a forest, etc… and to reencounter that path. Together we mapped Berlin with our memory walks to see where these old familiar paths take us in our present day. The final product of the exercise was a "memory map" of places close to our hearts. You can see it below:
"Jazmine began with a short introduction about how the connection between memory and physically moving through the urban environment informs her practice. She then asked us to lie down, close our eyes, and try to think of a walk that is of particular importance to us. That could be a favorite route of our childhood years or a walk that included a surprising incident that stigmatized us• maybe a walk during which we took an important decision or gained clarity in something that had been troubling us. Then, Jazmine asked us to mentally recreate the walk for the next ten-to-fifteen minutes. We would have to get to the final destination from a specific point of departure and then return to it. She had brought a kalimba with her, which she used to play a few tones with to indicate when we would have to be reaching our destination, and when we should be on our way back, close to the point of departure. When our mental journey was completed, we welcomed some movement in our bodies, opened our eyes, and sat, waiting for her instructions about the next stage of the act. She divided us into groups of two or three, and then she instructed us to take our partner(s) on a journey, trying to recreate our walk in the city. When we would reach our supposed destination, we would have to collect some documentation of the place, and then the other person would take the lead and recreate their walk, showing us the way to their point of arrival.
I was partnered with Dalia, who allowed me to lead first. I had chosen to recreate the first part of the walk that motivated me to start writing this very text. I explained that to her, and I let her know that we were now in my hometown in Greece, and we would start our journey from the apartment where I grew up. We would walk straight, then take a turn right, then a turn left, and then walk straight, going uphill, passing through the old town, and moving on to where the zoo is. The differences between what I saw, smelled, and felt while trying to navigate us through the same “urban choreography” in Berlin were profound and I think that was mainly what I talked about with Dalia while on our journey together. In her turn, she also chose to transport us to her hometown and recreate what became one of her most frequent “pandemic walks” of last winter. She acted like we were there and gave me a very detailed tour of what I would be seeing if we were in Vilnius, Lithuania. We passed by the house of a famous, intimidating theatre critic, the medical university campus, a bridge, a large park. Very little of that imaginary, spatial information was corresponding to our actual surroundings, and that made me feel very absorbed by the experience. We both found ourselves using these “tours” as a conversation starter for more personal topics, like describing relationships with family members in great detail or analyzing experiences we had growing up that feel important in the present moment.
We were the last pair to return to our studio base. We sat around a large table and talked about how we felt during our walk. Most of us agreed on having struggled a little to pick one particular walk to recreate in this relatively short amount of time. We all agreed on how most of the walks became the catapult for self-reflexive and personal conversations. These chats would not have occurred, probably, between people that were almost strangers to each other a day ago, throughout a random stroll in the city, if not have been provided with this specific memory context."