On Thursday, Sept. 2, Associate Professor of Art Billy Friebele exhibited his artwork at an event called “Art After Dark” at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. Friebele’s work is often participatory, and one of the pieces shown at “Art After Dark” was created with the help of St. Mary’s Students during a St. Mary’s study tour to Peru this past Summer.
In May, Friebele was one of three SMCM faculty members who led the Andean Study tour to Peru. Students could gain credits for Studio Art, Art History, Latin American Studies or International Languages and Cultures, and took part in several art projects as part of the course work for the trip.
The work that was used in Professor Friebele’s exhibition is a series and a process he calls “Walking as Drawing.” For this project, students were given a map of Cusco, Peru, and told to walk around the city while marking their path on the map. At the end of their journey, they took a picture, and gave both their mapped route and final photograph to Professor Friebele to assemble.
Katie Caffey, a senior art history major on the trip who took part in the assignment, said students “were supposed to get sort of meditatively lost, not actually lost, and experience the walking in a different way.” Students could complete the walk alone or in pairs, and had to navigate a foreign city with their map and basic knowledge they may have had from their time there. Caffey went with a friend on the trip, and said, “There was one part where we were walking, and we got so focused on walking and not really focused on where we were walking that we walked into a not so safe part of town. It was cool looking back on our path on the map, and based on certain paths and lines remember what [our] walk was.”
After students turned in their maps to Friebele, he animated their routes to create a time lapse of their paths and how they interlocked. The “walking” of the students then creates a “drawing” that covers the entire map of the city. This is one of a few “Walking as Drawing” works that Friebele has produced, and the Cusco project is one of four works that was shown at the “Art After Dark” event (animated maps of Miami, D.C., and a city in Indonesia were also shown).
With the students’ project, Friebele said he was interested in seeing “how Americans would move through a foreign city,” and get a “sense of moving around in unfamiliar territory.” The projects as a whole are exciting to Friebele because “you think you’re so free, but you’re being funneled through a larger system in a city.” The animated paths of the city maps in Friebele’s work, including the Cusco work that students participated in, show how individuals’ paths converge, cross, and cover many routes upon city maps in a way that truly defines the city. Friebele also said, “For me, there is something interesting about an art project happening in space, but no one knows you’re doing it—sort of like a secret.”