‘Invitations to Listen’ exhibition uses walking as a way of listening


Tyler Smith

This “Invitations to Listen” sign stands outside of the Petro Allied Health Center on campus. Ten more signs were placed around the walking route as a part of the campus experience.

The “Invitations to Listen” campus experience is a 1.25 mile walk paired with a sound performance by artist Rachel Epp Buller. While taking a stroll around campus, the Washburn community will have the opportunity to step out into the cold and experience the campus in new ways.

The walk is a part of Buller’s “Invitations to Listen” exhibition at the Mulvane Art Museum and goes along with the WUmester 2023 theme of health and healing. Sara Stepp, academic curator at Mulvane, worked with Buller to put together the campus experience.

“Her art is sort of about using mindful movement,” Stepp said. “In her case, it’s listening while walking as a way of connecting with and attuning yourself to your surroundings.”

To make the walking experience, 10 signs were placed along Washburn’s 1.25 mile walking route. Each sign displays a photo taken by Buller and a QR code that will give walkers access to a sound performance created by the artist.

“So it’s about a 25 minute sound performance,” Stepp said. “And probably most walkers can’t quite get through the full 1.25 mile walk while doing that, but it should accompany them for a good portion of their walk.”

Stepp encourages listeners to try using senses other than sound during the walk.

“It’s not just listening. It’s not just your ears. It’s walking, too. It’s paying attention to the phenomena, the sensations around you. Not just with your ears, but with your full body.”

The sound performance Winter Walking begins with the sound of snow crunching underfoot. Frozen leaves and twigs can be heard snapping as the listener starts their walk. Buller’s voice then comes through in the audio.

“There are many ways of walking in response to precarious conditions,” Buller said. “Meandering, free flowing, a short simple stroll, empathic and connective, a written sequence of moves, points of departure from individual paths.”

The audio performance continues as birds can be heard calling in the background.

Buller talks about walking and the many ways it can help connect you to the world.

“Have we forgotten to listen?” Buller said near the end of the performance. “The rhythms of our bodies offer tools to repair, to recognize old kinships and practice how to respond.”

Buller’s “Invitations to Listen” exhibition is currently open for viewing at the Mulvane Art Museum and an opening reception for the exhibition will take place on Friday, Feb. 3 from 3-5 p.m.

Edited By: LeSha’ Davis and Aja Carter