Jun 29, 2012

Color Walking

Last month, we ran across a delightful experiment while working on the Colors show, and we decided to try it out.

Back in the day, William Burroughs dreamed up a tool to inspire his students: color walks. It's a pretty simple idea. Just walk out your door, pick a color that catches your eye, and watch your surroundings pop as you follow the color from object to object. While you walk, you'll be struck by the red of a bicyclist's shorts, the sunburn on a woman's shoulders, the pealing paint on the fire hydrant.

We decided to give it whirl, and allow ourselves the flexibility to switch from color to color: a woman’s lavender handbag might draw us to the right; a yellow cab could pull us down a side street; a green pistachio ice cream cone could shove us into the park.

We started our walk at WNYC, in lower Manhattan, one Sunday afternoon. Stepping out the revolving door, we followed blues which led us to pinks, which pulled us toward violets:

At the end of the afternoon, the colors hung in our brains and eyes. We walked away seeing a world brimming over with colors: the rusty orange of a rooftop water tower in the sun, a bright blue mohawk, and the humble yellowy greens of a new leaf all jumped into our eyes.

If you’d like to try a color walk yourself, here's our advice:

  • Give yourself an hour of uninterrupted time, no commutes, no errands, just eye time.
  • Pick a color, or let a color pick you--follow the one that makes your heart go thump-thump.
  • If you get lost, pick another color. If you get really lost, you're on the right track.

We first ran across color walks in this blog post from Sal Randolph, which features two great quotes from Burroughs: "Color: William Burroughs Walking on Color". The timeline feature above was created with Timeline JS. Map tiles by Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0. Data by OpenStreetMap, under CC BY SA.

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