woensdag 28 november 2012

Internalising space from a distance


With much zeal but little talent (the instructor implied I was fat, it took me some time before I realized I was wearing my left shoe on the right foot and vice versa) I have taken up wall climbing a few months ago. 

These screenshots from Dutch TV program 'klokhuis' shows climbers at the Dutch championships lead climbing 'reading' the route to be climbed, a physical process that involves moving your hands into prospected future states (like reading with your finger) and projecting your body in imaginary positions. Internalising space from a distance. It happens that when I climb a route that looks new on the ground will suddenly come back to me when I am climbing it: my mind forgot it but my body remembers it. 

There is a lot of creativity in route building. Sometimes you encounter a route that seems to be built around one interesting move. But the best routes are internally consistent and clearly show the builder trying to achieve a certain effect. With time I am expecting to recognize the hand of the maker in each climb. 

Climbing a route is like taking an extremely intensive, condensed and abstracted city walk in an artificial landscape without views but with body-torquing-novelties and spectacular assemblages of jumps, turns, uncomfortable grips, deviations, distractions and sometimes a little redemption. 

My favourite part of climbing is when I hit a hard or confusing part of a new route and must then try to figure out where to go next, testing different approaches, moving a hand here or a foot there to decide what is the way forward. In reality this is probably bad practise, the best climbers I have seen move with slow (almost slow-motion) deliberation, clean, efficient and precise. Climbing has to do with creativity, learning and knowing place and all those other cliché's of psychogeography.  

When I began it never occurred to me that climbing is a sport (I was thinking of it more as something different to do with your body) and my body is being shocked out of decades of lethargy with lots of pain and suffering. Ouch.

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