Art of Travel: 7 Trips to New Worlds

September 20, 2007 by

Places to Go, Travel Advice & Inspiration

I’ve noticed that some artists choose to live and work in one place, rarely leaving the confines of ‘home’. Others take journeys in their hometown, or to foreign lands. Others travel inside their own body or create virtual journeys through sound. Some artists even make travel an integral part of their work and life.

This got me thinking about different ways people — all of us — “travel” day after day, week after week, year after year. Sometimes we travel without meaning to; sometimes we travel and go nowhere; sometimes the journey takes us to unexpected places. Here are the stories of a few different artists, all working on the many different meanings of “travel”.

Art Travel Tours
The Art of travel: The world from a new angle

#1: Trading Places

There are journeys you make every day: to get to work, to pick up the kids from school, to run errands. It’s a form of travel that quickly becomes mundane through repetition and familiarity. Yet what if someone else took your daily route, how would their experience differ and what new perspective might they bring to your well known landscape?

Re-Place in Berlin offers the chance to do just that, to take someone else’s “Transit Route” and undertake the rituals of their everyday routine. What is this special or important about this route, how long does it take? Other people can download and follow your everyday journey, documenting themselves in the places along your familiar paths and providing a new perspective and experience for both of you.

#2: DIY Artist in Residence

Then there’s Sydney artist Lucas Ilhein, who decided to create an artist residency at home, not leaving the boundaries of his inner-west suburb for 2 months. His blog became an important tool for building a new sense of community, taking up challenges from readers, sharing his daily adventures, recipes, local news and politics.

“Each day, I blogged about what went on: who I met, what we did, things I saw going on. There was no set structure to enable me to ‘work in publi’ or ‘interact with the public’. I was the public! For those two months, I ranged around the neighbourhood, drifting anywhere invitations, attractions or curiosity pulled me. Like any artist, I sought out the limitations of my own rules, trying to locate the exact location of the borders, the invisible walls of my cell.”

The “artwork” is not just the resulting blog, or the the printed out text in book form. It was also a charged period of public time, during which the project was living and breathing. Each day, dozens of readers would log on, wondering “what Lucas was up to today”. And a stray comment you left in response to the blog might send Lucas off on a new and unexpected adventure, which would turn up as tomorrow’s story. The show was alive.

“Paradoxically, the restriction I placed on myself – not to leave Petersham – did not reduce my freedom. It actually resulted in an explosion of possibilties within an area I might previously have thought to be indistinguishable from others, and thus unremarkable. As you can see from the thousands of words which make up the resulting blog, Petersham is far from unremarkable.”

#3: Chasing Helsinki

Helsinki resident Wojtec Mejor gives a voice to his city with the project Locating Helsinki, a collaborative effort offering journeys in everyday Helsinki from people who live there. A series of categories including ‘history, leisure, walk route, show a foreign friend, romantisch’ and ‘not romantisch’ allow you to select various locations and types of adventure. These explorations of the urban environment can take you anywhere from walking in the docks and a new harbour construction area, to a Polish and Estonian food shop, via an 18th-Century museum in a Gothic mansion, ending up in a bunker left over from the Crimean War.

#4: Travels with Paavo

Taking their interests further afield, a group of Finnish artists decided to traverse their entire country from the Northern most town Nuorgam to the Southern Hanko. Traveling with Paavo, a stuffed reindeer, Mikropaliskunta is an attempt to investigate the contemporary Finnish identity and sense of place through directly experiencing the country.

“Who is Finnish? What are the symbols of Finland? How has the image of Finland changed? And who defines it? The expedition travelled by a biodiesel car that was packed with five artists and protagonist of the project; a stuffed reindeer Paavo that was searching for new members to its herd.” One of the artists, Mika, says, “In Lappland, nobody survives alone. You need to collaborate. Everything is subject to a process of negotiation, and takes time, while in the city, you have access to instant fulfilment for practically any desire or need”.

#5: Next Stop: Utopia

As part of Informal Architectures, the artist Hugo spends time working in developing nations learning from the shanty towns and temporary structures that spring up in an adhoc fashion through necessity. Arriving in Berlin to take part in Transit Lounge, Hugo talked about creating mini utopias that could actually exist in the world, through a series of informal architectures. It was a joy to see this idea transformed into his green and white stripey fold-out movable creation out on the Berlin streets, where kids played on it, punks kidnapped and stripped it to make skirts, and old men sat in it to read the paper. This is a beautiful small-scale urban intervention that changes the shape of your everyday world for a moment, giving access to a beach holiday or playground through this very simple structure that can be infinitely reconfigured to suit your desires and dreams.

Then there’s the Utopia Travel Project, a mobile video unit traveling in a taxi from Vienna to Cairo, passing through Ljubljana, Zagreb, Saravejo, Belgrade, Sofia, Istanbul and Beirut. The taxi is equipped with a monitor, providing a temporary projection space and community platform for open dialogue between local and visiting artists, plus the video archive contains material produced by over 120 artists and film directors living in countries along the way. The video works reflect fragments of the cultural, social and political reality in their society and location, with geographic borders and historical influences producing a diverse range of visual documents.

#6: A Place to Rest

The Sarai Initiative in Dehli, India, is an online network and community and a real-world physical hub for ‘research, practice and conversation about contemporary media and urban constellations.’ Traditionally the Sarai was a space in the city or along the highway where travelers and caravans could find shelter, sustenance and companionship. The tavern, public house, oasis or meeting place which was both a destination and a point of departure, or a place to rest in the middle of a journey. The contemporary Sarai offers a place for artists, researchers, historians, media theorists, software designers and digital communities to discuss, create and reflect on the urban international city.

#7: Audio Adventures

audio tours travel
Listen carefully, go someplace new

Sound Transit is an audio voyage of discovery around the world. Select your itinerary and number of stop-overs in this elegant interface to experience a journey through field recordings uploaded by various artists and musicians. Recent sonic journeys include a trip taking you from Bali, Indonesia; listening to local tree frogs, via Lyon, France; and the sound of winter manifestations against the anti social laws of 1995 French Prime Minister Jean Francoi Cavro, through Leipzig, Germany; a bicyclist crossing a bridge, to Seltjarnarne, Iceland; and Jon’s 80th Birthday with children singing at a family party, finally landing in Yokohama, Japan, with flags fluttering in the wind at a wharf.

A darker memory of sound is created by Jacob Kirkegaard in his recordings of four abandoned public spaces inside the ‘zone of alienation’ in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Jacob records the ambience of a church, gymnasium, auditorium and swimming pool, then plays them back into the original space. Each is re-recorded up to ten times, and so builds a detailed intimate portrait of the desolate and uninhabitable town.

In his latest sound piece, ‘Labyrinthitis’, Jacob journeys into his own body, the work consists entirely of sounds generated in Kirkegaard’s own ears. Deep inside the labyrinth of the inner ear in a spiral tube called ‘cochlea’ there are thousands of microscopic hair cells functioning as sensory receptors. When sound enters the ear, they begin to vibrate in the watery liquid surrounding them like underwater piano strings. Thus, the hearing organ does not only receive sound, it also generates it, just like an acoustic instrument. A journey deep into the sonic resonance of the ear.

Jodi Rose

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