In 2003 Lee Walton completed One Shot a Day, a project which, true to its title, involved Walton in a single round of golf that took him almost 5 months to play. One shot a day. On one San Francisco golf course. This project, like so many others he showed on the 16th, is driven by the brute and rigorous imperative of a phrase or a rule. Or rather, the imperative drives Walton. Once he decides upon this constraint—for example, 18 holes, but only one shot per day—the rest simply follows. And yet the rest is anything but simple: each day San Francisco weather, his day job, other golfers, course professionals who (try to) chase him away, greens-keepers who move the holes on the greens—each day “the world” intervenes. Five months of days. Pressure builds as the sheer compulsion to finish and to “do well” in a game that is golf but is not, a game that no one else will ever play, takes over.
Walton has developed systems for making drawings and systems for navigating urban spaces, and he has filmed himself performing the Facebook status updates of his Friends. In these works the big Other takes over. Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, and Yoko Ono gave us chance operations, aleatory processes, diffused attention, and surrendered agency. Walton’s scripts often emerge from systems that preexist the artist: professional sports, urban landmarks, clichés, and the conventions of social media.
But Walton’s work don’t exit the success/failure paradigm; he doesn’t opt into chance to opt out of performance anxieties, vulnerability, ridicule, and possible humiliation, but to heighten these, to test the limits, not of his own endurance, but of just what one can care about, what one can learn about a game, a norm, a phrase by taking it much too seriously. One Shot a Day is pointless and yet the point is perfectly clear: to finish the round.
On the project page Walton writes, “The amount of pressure that weighed on each shot was unbearable. Sinking the final putt on hole #18 was the single most incredible accomplishment of my entire life.” The single most incredible accomplishment of his entire life? Still? Really? Does it matter? That it shouldn’t matter, that the round of golf looks small, a folly, unrepeatable, witnessed by no one—untrue: a pioneer of social media, Walton posted the daily shots online, which were then witnessed by hundreds in 2003. Witnessed then by some, the “effort” is both small and inordinate, ridiculous and awesome, at the same time, a slacker work and hard work, an unseemly gift to sport and a fan’s total devotion. And so One Shot a Day allegorizes both useless expenditure and total commitment. His game puts “choice” out of play by making him a mere player—a good-enough player but not a master builder, not a sovereign. Unlike Duchamp’s Monte Carlo Bond, which plays on the idea of system constitutes a tenuous gap between artist, gambler, and financier, Walton’s enthusiasms and agonies exemplify a relation to system that is neither ironic, cranky, aloof, nor dutiful. Walton’s operations are all-in and painfully sincere, while making this very sincerity a strictly hyperbolic rite.