A Narrow Road to the Deep North is a durational writing performance conceived as a meditation on the urban landscape, the experience of place and the power of walking. From 11 November 2019, Illimine wrote 10km of linked poems along the Upfield Bike Path in Melbourne, Australia, stitching together the north and the south of Moreland, two areas usually divided by the symbolic border of Bell Street. The writing is the result of the encounter with people and places, inscribed on the landscape that it narrates.
A Narrow Road to the Deep North is the title of a travel book by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). Basho’s narrative gives an account of his travels deep into the remote north eastern region of Japan; the changing seasons, the beauty and simplicity of nature and the mysteries of the universe. Basho’s travels aim to strip away the trappings of the material world through Zen Buddhist poetic practice.
The artists embarked, like Basho, on a journey of discovery of the surrounding landscape and shared their experiences through the writing. The title is a playful pun on stereotypes about the North of Bell Street as a remote, suburban land; while positing it as an open destination, a place of new encounters and discoveries, a place to be narrated, a site to be explored and a site for self-exploration.
Day by day, the audience was able to read the unfolding story, thus participating in the journey both through the narrative and physically, as the readers did, literally, step by step, replicate the journey written by the artists.
Coverage of the project by The Age, one of Australia’s major newspapers can be found here.