The Audio Tour

Revealing the city within the city

A randomized interactive walking tour based on psychogeography. In The Audio Tour, both audio passages, and locations for physical listening stations, are chosen at random. Connections observed reveal the "real city" within the city, including your own emotional experience of place.

Originally created for Burning Man 2006, tours have been conducted in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, other deserts, the mountains, and even indoors.

From the project announcement...

The Audio Tour is a form of psychogeography, a type of conscious wandering developed by Guy Debord and the Situationist International. Psychogeography attempts to reveal the 'real city' underneath what Debord called The Spectacle, which can be generally described as the flashy and seductive commodification of ideas. The real city represents your own emotional experience of something, before it has been sold back to you (which in today's Spectacle, can happen even before you experience it).

Specifically, The Audio Tour draws on the concepts of the dérive and détournement. The dérive, or, "to drift," involves walking around and trying to follow the emotional and psychological trajectories of an urban environment, rather than the ones planned out for you (the main highway, the shortest commute from home to work, etc.) To pursue a dérive was ". . . to notice the way in which certain areas, streets, or buildings resonate with states of mind, inclinations, and desires, and to seek out reasons for movement other than those for which an environment was designed," explained Sadie Plant in 1992. It is the perfect approach to Burning Man, and what many of us do there already.

The Audio Tour also draws on the Situationist practice of détournement, which juxtaposes text and imagery drawn from different sources in the media to reveal unplanned meanings; in short, collage. The juxtaposition in this case is not only the random combination of the entries with your location, but of past experiences of Burning Man and elsewhere, with your present. The idea is that we never experience a place or situation free of past memories of similar or dissimilar places, and future hopes of same. In short, there is always an indelible scrim of time and comparison, not in front of, but rather as part of, any location, any interaction. The Audio Tour adds mine to yours, in the hopes of putting this scrim a little more in the forefront of consciousness, so we can see what we're bringing to a space.

In both of these concepts the ideas of chance and unpredictable combinations have a large role to play. It's a few degrees up from completely random wandering, and sometimes of course it "doesn't work," but when it does work it reveals unexpected possibilities; "...the introduction of alterations such as more or less arbitrarily transposing maps of two different regions, can contribute to clarifying certain wanderings that express not subordination to randomness but complete insubordination to habitual influences," according to Debord.

To perform a psychogeography of emptiness, what would that be like? That is the question that inspired The Audio Tour. And although Black Rock City is not fully empty, neither is it full; it is the perfect combination of emptiness and urbanism, of spectacular events that have not as yet been subsumed into The Spectacle. Enjoy your Tour!