Going Back Home


Originally this work was intended to be completely different. It still incorporated the same elements such as walking, collecting the stones, however it had an entirely different concept.

The original idea was that I walk along the Victoria Lines, starting from the Binġemma Fort and ending in the Madliena Fort. It symbolized the 'invisible' yet heavily felt boundary between the North and South of Malta. I started taking the photographs and collecting the stones, as well as recording the audio as planned. However this plan was interrupted by the fact that the path leading to the fort was blocked by hunters and rottweilers. Upon deciding that it was too risky, I decided to turn back abandoning the initial plan and trying to find a new route.

However this proved to be more difficult than I thought, as the GPS was only showing routes which are registered, and not the ones which are actually there. It also does not mark which paths are blocked and which can actually be used. It was at that point when I decided to turn it off and find my way back using only my instinct. There was the initial few minutes of panic, however I managed to track my way back successfully, until I reached the main road.
It was at that point that I realized that I had no other way to get home, other than by walking the distance. I had no one to pick me up, and no money for the bus, and I needed to do my project some way or another. Thus I decided that I will walk home using the usual routes which one normally drives through, and continuing the process of collecting stones and taking photographs. It was at this point that the project became about going back home, rather than just going from one place to another.

One of the most noticeable differences in the transition from one project to the other was mainly in my perception of place. Whereas in the beginning when I had the intention of walking the Victoria Lines, I was glad to see buildings go out of sight, as it meant that I was going in the right way. However when I felt lost and wanted to find my way back, I was happy to see buildings as it meant I was on the right track to go back home.

Although it seemed like a long way, from one side of the island, Mġarr, to the other, Msida, I was very surprised that I walked the distance in only 5 hours and 30 minutes. It was 15.3 kilometers long, and that's basically as far as it goes. It seemed unreal that a whole country can be crossed in such a short period of time by walk. I was hit by the realization of the extent of how small Malta actually is, and the fact that nowhere is really far away from anywhere. Everything is so reachable, literally within walking distance. 
The initial idea was that I pick up the stones every 200 metres, yet since I turned off the GPS I had no exact way to measure the distance. I did not want to use time as it would change with my walking speed, and would thus be reflecting my physical relationship with the action. I was more interested in exploring the physical place itself, its real scale without being distorted by transport, and also things one would never really notice while driving by. Such an example would be that from Mġarr to Msida there is a pavement all along the way, something which I never noticed and for some reason I assumed was absent. This made it not walkable in my mind, basically for the sole reason that I was always in a car when passing through the road.

When walking I also noticed that there were traffic signs indicating things such as speed cameras, traffic lights, roundabouts, etc all along the road. These signs indicate how further ahead the afore mentioned objects are, usually at 2 separate times, either at 200 meters, 100 meters or 50 meters. I used these to get an approximate indication of the distance walked, and the place where I was supposed to pick a stone. After pinpointing on the map the exact locations where the stones were picked, it was quite noticable that the distances where approximately the same. The average distance between the points is 216.4 meters, a distance which is quite close to the initial target, especially given that it was not measured using a GPS.

One of the most annoying parts of this walk happened to be the ritual of the stone picking. My walking rhythm was constantly being interrupted by this, which involved picking up the stone, taking out a pencil and marking it, and finally putting it in a plastic bag which I had in my side pocket. This did not allow me to get into the state of rhythmic movement where my body seems to be moving on its own. 

After I got home, I placed the stones I collected one after the other, according to the order they were picked up in. The walk started from Tas-Santi, limits of Mġarr, a rural place in the middle of the fields, and upon observation, the stones showed this clearly. Although the conditions of the roads in the area were varied, the stones all seem to be larger and browner, due to being stained by the soil. They seem to reflect the place that they came from, a more natural one, and are recognizable that they came from rural areas.
The ones that came from more urban areas are evidently smaller, and greyer, in fact some of them are pieces of concrete which fell from the joint lines in the walls or pavements. The exception is the stone marked 49, which actually came from around some bushes and in fact is a bit larger and also browner, supposedly with the soil.

However the most prominent is number 29, the one which is in fact not a stone, was found in Triq Sir Temi Żammit, Mġarr. This is the only time that a small stone was not found, and hence this piece of metal was picked up as a replacement. However, by complete coincidence it happened to be almost exactly in the middle, and also separating the ones found in the rural areas from the ones found in the urbanized areas. Number 29 suddenly becomes a new boundary, one which separates the rural from the urban, the quiet from the noisy, the clean from the polluted.

This project provided a lot of interest points and a lot of different discoveries, detaching this experience completely from being just a walk on a sunny day. It provided me with a new kind of exploration, removing the glass and metal barrier of the car, and being placed directly in the place when you cannot but not notice that which usually means nothing, such as the pavement. A new level of consciousness was achieved, being made aware of the actual scale of the island, continuing to shrink further and further. Opposing the usual idea that technology made the world smaller, by detaching oneself from technology and going back to the simple act of walking, the smaller place was felt even more