Mallins’ Night Walk


Mallins’ Night Walk


Audio walk

15 minutes, 40 seconds

Curated by Joel and Sherry Mallin.

Janet Cardiff

This piece is called Night Walk because many times after dinner I would wander into the darkness, walking as deeply as possible, against my fears, into the forest. A forest is a very dark place under the stars, filled with memories of mythic tales, and every sound that a squirrel or mouse makes frightens you. Logically I know that I’m safe but it is impossible for your body not to respond physically to the rustling leaves. Your instincts force you to retreat back into the light. Because of all of this fear I think it became my most violent and scary walk.¬ One night while staying there I also had a very strange, physical dream of someone trying to pry open my mouth, and I decided to work with the idea of night walking as a metaphor for dreaming and drowning.

sound of walking around room, sound of music box, ominous, weird

Janet I awoke again with the feeling that my mouth was slowly being opened. In my half sleep my jaw struggled to close but insistent fingers seemed to open it again.

Janet Some people believe that ghosts enter your body through your mouth while you’re sleeping.

sound of man singing in distance

Janet I open my eyes and look over to see a man asleep beside me. His arm above his head, his skin glowing from the moonlight. I lean over and cover his mouth and nose with my hand and watch his body struggle to breath. I take my hand away quickly so that he won’t wake up.
sound of trees blowing in wind

Older Woman There is a woman who still wanders here, night after night searching through the dark forest, following her lover’s footsteps, listening for his voice.

sound of crickets loud, sound of someone moving beside you

Janet A red stake in the ground. A bright red leaf. A rubble pile like in every forest. sound of man singing

Older Woman She thinks that he comes here to love another woman but his words are only songs to the wind.

Janet Moss-covered cement blocks.

Older Woman She saw the torches approaching through the trees. Men on horses were riding towards her.

sound of horses running etc, scary music

Older Woman Realizing her mistake she raced through the bushes to find him. Thinking that she was a wild animal he threw his spear towards her, hitting her in the chest.

sound of bullfrogs by lake

Janet It’s night again. I’m standing by the lake, listening to the frogs talk. Each one separate but their voices creating a whole world for themselves. There’s a plane flying over in the night sky. One small blinking light amongst all of the stars.

Sherry and I first experienced Janet’s work at the Skulptur. Projekte in Münster in 1997. After arriving back in the U. S., we contacted Janet and invited her to our country home, Buckhorn, which is located in Pound Ridge, New York. Janet arrived with George and stayed with us for the weekend. They wandered all over the 15 acres of property that contains both manicured areas and woods. Janet also went down to the local historical society, because she wanted to get a sense of the history of the area as well as to see if there were any local myths that could be used for the story she was writing for the walk.

Over the next three years, Janet came periodically for weekends with George, but sometimes alone, and walked around the property carrying a severed head with earphones attached to its ears. Occasionally, she enlisted my assistance to produce noise by walking through autumn leaves, or she prevailed upon Sherry to gather up all of the grandchildren to run and laugh simultaneously. The walk, which meanders through the woods, is approximately twelve minutes long and is best done at dusk. The illusions inspired by the myriad voices seem to be more real and surreal as the light begins to fade. We have shared our walk with many of our friends and visitors from the art world, all of whom have fallen under the spell woven by Janet and George.

Joel Mallin

Related Publications

Janet Cardiff
The Walk Book

Thyssen_Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna in collaboration with Public Art Fund, New York