Monday, 25 November 2013

A Walk Through: an audio art tour of the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich

This is an audio tour that I made back in 2008 and which I've just uncovered, so to speak, having thought it lost. It is one of three audio tours that I made for the exhibition A Walk Througha group show curated by the artists' collective OMSK, which was held at Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich. The exhibition and tour was spread around the gallery and university campus, which is on the site of the Old Royal Naval College. It is a major tourist site so this work anticipates the Tour of All Tours in a number of ways. 

The recording was made with James Dunn who was sound engineer on all three of the audio tours. It was made as a single take improvisation walking through the exhibition's locations and repeating the words visible in the space. The full duration is 25 minutes. A tour can be discerned underneath the formal restrictions of the work; the names of the rooms and signs, the background sound of the indoor and outdoor environments.

Below is the artist statement that accompanied this work:

This audio tour was composed in response to the exhibition A Walk Through and its location, The Steven Lawrence Gallery and related sites around Greenwich University. I have to admit that I almost never listen to audio guides in museums or galleries, and very rarely follow guided tours. A degree of my indifference to the form is probably noticeable in this audio tour; it doesn’t guide the visitor around the exhibition very effectively. In fact, for the most part, it doesn’t guide them at all. It is probably better to think of it as an audio work that proposes movement created in response to the exhibition A Walk Through. What’s more, the audio tour doesn’t offer an overview of the exhibition, pulling the many threads together and making sense of the whole. Rather, it presents a deliberately partial and oblique view. In this I was somewhat inspired by a former housemate and British Museum employee’s descriptions of the guided tours that took place at his work which were given by and for Jehova’s Witnesses. They would pass through the museum making observations such as, “this is an ancient Greek statue of a man; of a homosexual man. God said… “ 

The partiality of the audio tour or better tours, as there are three, is explicit in this multiple choice format. Collage as an aesthetic is common to them all, whether it be the collage of perspectives, of words and language, of space and language, or of time frames. I intend that in the quite open-ended space of this collage, room for interpretation may open up. This stems from a desire to create a tour that does not answer or explain. It should instead be thought of as a work in its own right that adds a further layer to the exhibition, should the visitor wish to engage with it. The type of art that this tour has in its sights is an unfinished art, an art of the event or encounter, an art that requires the active participation of the visitor. In this sense it is the prompt to a firsthand experience rather than the document or explanation of an experience that has already happened to another, elsewhere.

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