Gerhard Lang’s Walking Stick
An inquiry by the strollologist Lucius Burckhardt (1)

For some time, Gerhard Lang has been using the walking stick not just for strolls but also for performances, lectures and presentations of his work. The first stick custom-cut to Lang’s size was made by James Smith & Sons (2) of London’s New Oxford Street in 1997. All subsequent sticks in Lang’s work have likewise been acquired from the famous umbrella, stick and cane manufacturer (established in 1830). The first cutting was documented, and some of the photographs are shown in this offprint. But what makes the walking stick so important in Lang’s work? We asked the man himself:


Lucius Burckhardt:
And how does the audience respond? Is the walking stick not a multi-coded object?

Gerhard Lang:
First, we see the emergence of visual ”interference” or irritation for the audience. At the same time, the walking stick encourages us to think in wider terms – leading us, so to speak, beyond the current situation in the lecture hall and, for example, into the landscape. My reflections on the walking stick and the landscape help to establish the basis of the lecture. By using the stick throughout the lecture, the different concepts that I discuss are brought together on a non-verbal level as well. The stick itself is always a simultaneous reference to both the landscape and the human element: the two essential themes of my work. But the stick could also be understood as something quite different: as a macho object or as an authoritarian symbol. Indeed there have been strong reactions from some audiences. What makes the stick so interesting for me is its highly ambiguous nature, that it doesn’t have one single meaning; it is never unaccompanied. Things are more than what they appear to be. This is one of various messages that the walking stick has, and this brings us back to the landscape. [...]

[Excerpt from the interview in 1997, in the special publication (Separatum):
Gerhard Lang’s Walking Stick, 2007]

(1) Lucius Burckhardt and Strollology: see Glossary
(2) James Smith & Sons: see Glossary

Ill. I: Gerhard Lang looking for a suitable stick at James Smith & Sons. Photo: Gerhard Lang
Ill. II: With the help of the old measuring stick, Mr Harvey shows how long the walking stick should be – the wrist has to be at hip level. Photo: Gerhard Lang
Ill. III a: The stick mounter, Mr Irish, indicates where the stick is to be cut (measuring stick on top of the uncut walking stick). Photo: Gerhard Lang
Ill. III b: The ferrule being fitted. Photo: Gerhard Lang
Ill. IV: Gerhard Lang’s walking stick (cherry wood), which was cut to Lang’s size by James Smith & Sons, the London umbrella, stick and cane shop on New Oxford Street (7th May, 1997). Photo: Gerhard Lang
Ill. V: In New Oxford Street, photo: Gerhard Lang



III a. / III b.

IV. / V.

Gerhard Lang © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn