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Learning Curve Walking into existence

Caspar David Friedrich The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog 1818 (detail), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, photo: Bridgeman Images 

Caspar David Friedrich The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog 1818 (detail), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, photo: Bridgeman Images 

Come on this splendid stroll with Dr Christopher Hartney as he demonstrates how humans have literally walked themselves into modern consciousness.

Over six weeks, and stretched out over 30,000 years, enjoy the biological, mental, artistic, poetic, musical, philosophical, cultural, and psychological conundrums that have led to us becoming us. Christopher will consider how the perimeters of modernity were set by walkers from the Classical Age of Greece through to the strollers of the Enlightenment, right up until the current times.

This lecture series will be held on Friday and repeated on Saturday in the Domain Theatre. Each session will be from 10.30am to 12.30pm with a short 10 minute water/stretch break at intermission.

Dr Christopher Hartney is a senior lecturer in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney where he specialises in Vietnamese new religions, religion and violence, and sacred creativity.

Learning Curve Walking into existence

Friday 9 September – Saturday 22 October 2022

10.30am – 12.30pm

Domain Theatre

Art Gallery of NSW

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Per lecture
$45 non-member
$35 member

Series subscription
$260 non-member
$200 member


Book Friday series

Book Saturday series

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878

Transaction terms and conditions, including cancellations and refunds
If purchasing tickets on behalf of other attendees, the ticket purchaser is responsible for communicating all correspondence from the Art Gallery Society of nsw to those attendees.

  • Walking and selfhood

    Looking over the bones of Lucy (3.2 million years old), we will consider how our bipedalism formed assumptions about our species that are still with us today. With a leap to the Greek World we will consider some of the other central conditions of the emerging Western self. To do this we will examine the conceptual battle for self that erupts between, on one hand, Parmenides and Zeno - walkers in and out of caves, and on the other Plato, Aristotle and the Peripatetic School – a group whose name literally refers to their cogitambulation or thinking-walking.

    Friday 9 September 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

    Saturday 10 September 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

  • Taking the long road to paradise

    In this lecture we will reflect on the Western self as it saunters through the heart of medieval Europe. In the year 1300, pilgrims stream into Rome – a sight that inspired Dante to write the Divine Comedy – technically a walk through the entire Christian cosmos. We will consider the art and inspiration left by this incredible Florentine, but then concentrate on his successor, the poet Petrarch. This man described himself as ‘everywhere a wanderer’ and his description of ascending Mount Ventoux brings into focus a new sense of the self left alone in nature and intensely self-reflective.

    Friday 16 September 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

    Saturday 17 September 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

  • Strolling around Queen Anne’s London

    It takes some time for the emerging enlightenment self to take seriously the beauty, delight, and sometimes horror, or the urban landscape around them. Texts from the early 1700s show how Europeans begin to enjoy the freedom of a fully autonomous self - walking about taking in the world. This is confirmed in the delight expressed by Rousseau as he walks the wilds of Switzerland revelling in his own, God-free, existence. A series of walks that German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has recently suggested is the crucible experience of the modern self.

    Friday 23 September 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

    Saturday 24 September 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

  • Mountains of the mind

    The American Transcendentalists (who deeply inspired Neitzsche) give us a new insight into the divinity of nature itself. The themes they develop play out equally in the Romantic wanderings of the nineteenth century and the nature trekking of the twentieth. Picking apart these works and their call to the sublime emotions we see how a new solitary self emerges waiting to stride towards to the caustic hyperindividualism of the late twentieth century.


    Friday 7 October 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

    Saturday 8 October 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

  • Antonio Gaudi meets the number 30 Tram

    Gaudi, builder of Europe’s last great cathedral, seemed something of medieval remnant as he walked home from the skeleton of Sagrada Familia and was killed by a tram in 1926. His death mirrors that of so many killed by the new element of speed that came to our modern streets. In this week’s lecture we examine how walking became constrained and suppressed by a mechanisation and a digitisation that took us away from the world into fabricated zones such as the mall and the arcade, and beyond this the cyberspace of fake news and conspired co-realities.


    Friday 14 October 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

    Saturday 15 October 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

  • Where are we walking now?

    In the final lecture we look at walking not only as a path to the sublime, but also as an escape from the trauma, the existential angst, and confusion of modernity. Dr Hartney focuses on his mornings walking around a local golf course and his ruminations on the confusions, pain and angst of our present post-Trump existence. Where should we walk to next in our search for a consciousness that is beyond the present hyperindividualist cul-du-sac that looms over us?


    Friday 21 October 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

    Saturday 22 October 2022 10.30am–12.30pm

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