Naomi Adiv's Beating the Bounds project

 Photos Uncategorized 2008 03 02 096  Rr Crossing  Photos Uncategorized 2008 03 02 089
As her UC Davis graduate school thesis, my friend Naomi Adiv is walking the Amtrak Capital Corridor rail line between the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento, the state's capital and documenting it. She was inspired by a 5th century English tradition called "beating the bounds," where, according to Wikipedia, the community in a parish would "walk the boundaries of the parish, to share the knowledge of where they lay, and to pray for protection and blessings for the lands." Naomi studies community arts and public space, and I think her project is an exciting hybrid of psychogeography, journalism, cartography, and performance art. Her blog is a raw feed of her photos and field notes. (She's not doing the walk all in one shot.) Naomi says:
In this project, I consider how we “beat the bounds” now... I plan to walk from one end of the region to the other along the tracks, exploring how a seemingly marginal space that seems to serve only as an “in-between” can really be ameaningful place with a life of its own. How do we come to know a place, and what does it mean to know a place in a way different from how its builders intended? Another way of stating this question: how does the experience of walking change one’s notion of a space produced to exclude human participation? How do we re-think and re-purpose landscape and landscapes through embodied practice in our daily lives?

In addition to walking and photographing and blogging, I'm working with artists from across the region to put up an art show in the spring in Davis, reflecting on the space of the railroad in the places where they live and work.


  1. My friend Neil has a similar project – he is walking the length of all London tube lines. He reckons it will take more than a year to complete! Check out his blog here. The ‘merged’ progress map is here . Gadgets page here.

  2. Beating the bounds is earlier and later than the 5th century. In many places in England there is still a beating the bounds ceremony performed every year. Some of these parishes have always performed the ceremony and in others it is a modern revival of the ancient practice. See here:

    and here:

    It is one thing hijacking religious ceremonies from long-dead ancestors… I think you’re on tricky ground as an artist when you exploit a current ritual for art, although fortunately both the Church of England and the Pagans who could both lay claim to it, have a history of good humoured tolerance… when they aren’t persecuting and burning each other at the stake etc.

  3. I”m not sure what psychogeography is. Wouldn’t it see parish boundaries and railroad tracks as completely different landscapes? One “place” surrounds and limits something felt as Home and walking it is an act of protection. The other is a path away or through. Walking it might be an escape–or an invasion.

  4. I believe there is still a law in Massachusetts that requires the selectmen of each town to “perambulate the boundaries” together with their counterparts in the surrounding towns. As I recall, this was done about every 10 years. The selectmen (probably now “selectpersons”) are the elected officials that manage the town.

    Most towns also had (have?) a “fence viewer”, whose duty is to inspect all fences between properties within the town.


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