"We are all tourists here", announces the intro page for Touring London, a web-based art project by Iniva (the Institute of International Visual Arts). A click further in and the project's manifesto is spelt out further: "Tourism is the most authentic reaction to urban life", and "The only way to experience contemporary London, the global city, is as a tourist. ..."
Taking inspiration from a classic London guidebook of the 1950s, Harold Clunn's The Face of London, eight artists were commissioned to create online artworks exploring the themes of travel, displacement, discovery and performance inherent in the act of tourism. The journey, following the route of Clunn's "Ninth Walk" from High Holborn to Theobald's Road, via such tourist hotspots as Oxford Street and Russell Square, finds graphic representation in the site's navigation. Each artist offers us access to experience through a series of nodes on a map, reminiscent of stops on the London Underground, that spirals around according to the movement of the mouse.
The artists include Erika Tan, who exhibited on 'Juncture' last year in Cape Town, and Isaac Julien, a participant in the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale. In Tan's "performance" of the Ninth Walk, the sounds of scattered conversation, orders for cappuccinos and lattes, and the sights of passing traffic are recorded in the numerous coffee shops that now line Clunn's route. Julien collaborates with Zeigam Azizov in a conversation about the area - and artistic history - of Bloomsbury. Cai Yuan and Jian Ju Xi, notorious for urinating in Marcel Duchamp's urinal and bouncing on Tracey Emin's bed, pose naked in the British Museum and lie down in Tottenham Court Road. Emma Kay describes the walk from memory, in a text which is sprinkled with inaccuracies and mis-rememberings.
The project captures the experience of "Touring London" - the struggle for bandwidth echoing the frustration of negotiating London's crowds - better than any holiday snaps, while commenting cleverly on the construction and mediation of this "decadent performance".