First Study for a Long Walk: Castle to Castle

Lynn Xu and I are married, and we’re also poets. For the past year we’ve lived in an interdisciplinary residency in Germany, in a community of artists and all sorts of people we don’t usually get to hang out with: architects, new music composers, choreographers, filmmakers, even a chess Grand Master and a video game sociologist. Soon we will return to the States and to the small vacant lot in West Texas that we call our home. In order to continue conversations we’re having, and to drag art further into our life together, we’ve come up with a project called Architecture for Travelers. At its center is a collaboration with our friend Alan Worn, with whom we’re designing a house and a cottage where we can host residencies for creative people. There will also be poetry, photography, and a long journey involved. We’re not crowd-funding, but we are taking pre-orders for limited-edition photographs and books to help out with expenses. ( For more detailed info, visit our website.)

Beginning in November, I’ll spend a month or so walking 700 miles from my birthplace on Galveston Island to our property on Galveston Street in Marfa, sometimes accompanied by family and friends. Today Lynn and I went on a practice walk, and for the first time incorporated another aspect of the planned trip across Texas: taking photographs each hour on the hour (5 today, about 240 in Texas). We set out from our studio at the Akademie Schloss Solitude and four hours later arrived at Schloss Ludwigsburg. This is the second time I’ve traveled between these two castles on foot, the first was this past winter with friend, collaborator, and artist Charlotte Moth. Robert Walser wrote “A walk is always filled with significant phenomena, which are valuable to see and feel,” and both trips from Schloss to Schloss have lived up to this proclamation. During the first some of our ideas were dreamed up, and this time some details became clearer. Here are the five photographs from today’s walk, along with written sketches about our time on the road.

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1.

PracticeWalk1

We left at eleven this morning. Heading down the big hill Schloss Solitude sits atop, we could see the straight-as-an-arrow path we’d be following stretched out for six or seven miles, after which it disappears over a wooded hill. I turned around and photographed our starting point. It made me think of Wallace Stevens’s “Anecdote of the Jar”: “It made the slovenly wilderness / Surround that hill.” Despite a forecast of showers, the weather was perfect and the skies were blue and clear all day long.

2.

PracticeWalk2

At the one-hour mark we were crossing through the outskirts of Stuttgart. There was some interesting architecture to be seen, but as the clock tolled the best thing around was a tree that Lynn spotted in a front yard behind a white picket fence. It was terrifying. It looked both totally out of place and too perfect for the suburban landscape. As we walked on, we talked about the best way to display the 240 photographs that we’ll have at the end of the Texas journey.

3.

PracticeWalk3

After two hours of walking, we found ourselves skirting the wall of Stammheim Prison. If you’ve ever seen Gerhard Richter’s ghostly October 18, 1977 paintings, then you’ve seen evidence of this place’s infamy. On that date several leaders of the Red Army Faction reportedly killed themselves, but many believe they were murdered by German state police. Across our path from the prison, fields of corn and vegetables stretched out into the distance, small huts scattered across them.

4.

PracticeWalk4

Three hours into the trip, we reached the end of Solitudealee, where there’s this small monument stating its length: 13,032.14 meters. It was commissioned by Duke Karl Eugen in the 1760s, as a private avenue between his hunting palace (where we live) to his primary castle (where we were headed). He was a patron of Friedrich Schiller and a fan of gardens and libraries. Otherwise, nothing seems to distinguish him from the awful crowd of oligarchy.

5.

PracticeWalk5

We stopped for a spell to eat Vietnamese and Thai food in Ludwigsburg, then reached our destination just after three o’clock. The main palace is three hundred years old, enormous, and apparently one of the largest examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. I usually like to avoid figures in my images, but I saw these five people standing together, perhaps discussing the human condition, and thought they looked like a Gary Winogrand photograph. After taking this, we walked around the terrific garden that surrounds the castle. We saw bee hives, bonsai trees, and flamingos, before coming across a pumpkin festival in a large field, where 15-foot statues made out of pumpkins and squash played all sorts of Olympic sports. We rested on straw bales, then walked to the train station and made our way home.

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Joshua Edwards was born in Galveston. He’s the author of two collections of poetry, Imperial Nostalgias (Ugly Duckling, 2013) and Campeche (Noemi, 2011), translator of Mexican poet María Baranda’s Ficticia (Shearsman, 2010), and his third collection, Architecture for Travelers, will be published by Edition Solitude in November 2014.  He directs Canarium Books.

Lynn Xu was born in Shanghai. She’s the author of Debts & Lessons (Omnidawn, 2013) and June (a chapbook from Corollary Press, 2006). Currently a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, she co-edits Canarium Books.