Editor’s note: Recently, CDH has been teaching a fantastic class about street art at the University of Melbourne alongside Lachlan MacDowall. One of the projects to emerge from that class is a sort of alternative/subversive way of thinking about the “street art tours” that have become ubiquitous in many major cities all over the world. Today, we have guest post from, J. Isaac, the man leading that project. – RJ Rushmore
Hello everyone, I’m an independent researcher working with students at the University of Melbourne where we’ve just finished a project called Street Art deTours that RJ has been kind enough to let me share on Vandalog. It’s a crowd-sourced website that lets audiences create, or follow, their own self-guided ‘detours’ around public spaces in Melbourne. Unlike regular tours, these detours aren’t informational, and they don’t give background on any images or street artists. Instead, they’re participatory adventures that use the city to create new ways of understanding its physical spaces.
Some detours, in fact a fair number of them, do use street art and graffiti in order to guide their viewer, but they focus on the experience of moving through public spaces rather than on the artworks, which themselves are always changing. A mural could be painted one day, tagged the next, and buffed after a week, giving the viewer three different readings of the same location. Time of day can also affect your environment: taking a ‘murder mystery’ detour alone at midnight would be extremely terrifying compared to starting that same detour with a group at noon. Different people taking the detour will thus have different experiences, and as the city changes so too will the detour itself.
The detours themselves can be regarded as a new type of street art through their physical appropriation of the city. Much of early street art was focused on using public space in a new and innovative way; it directly confronted our understandings of what was allowed and what should exist. But as the movement has grown in popularity, street art has become valued more for its ability to transform its surroundings into an open-air gallery, rather than its potential to activate the city as a source of adventure. The project reincorporates this temporary suspension of the city’s rules by allowing participants the opportunity to let their imaginations take over their realities. It’s not just about visiting the stops on a detour, but how you move from one stop to the next, and how much you decide to play.
A lot of the project borrows its ideas from Situationist International, a 20th century avant-garde group that argued in favor of creating new experiences within our everyday lives. So much of how we understand our urban environment is based on rigid schedules around work, around eating, around traveling, that eventually we end up auto-piloting through most of our day, not noticing anything we don’t have to. This project is meant to create an imaginative detour into everyday life, interrupting our concentration to offer us something new about the city we think we already know. The plan is for the project to be updated regularly by students, but also by anyone in any city who wants to create their own detour as well.
So come visit the site: take a detour, make a detour, and experience Melbourne (or any city for that matter) with a fresh perspective.
Photos courtesy of Street Art deTours