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TECHNOPIA TOURS – WORKING MELBOURNE
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TECHNOPIA TOURS – WORKING MELBOURNE

COMPANION CURATOR > Meredith Rogers

RESPONDENT > Paula Hunt

Tours that reveal Melbourne at work.

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Wear an orange safety vest as your Technopia Tour guide accompanies you on a journey that unfolds to reveal something unfamiliar.

Visit an artist’s studio, a librarian at the State Library, a beekeeper in the CBD or a kitchen in a five-star restaurant. Through a Technopia Tour, the concealed working parts of Melbourne open up. Participants contribute to a progressive collaborative drawing as the events unfold.

Several tours are offered daily. Select your tour from the Performing Mobilities website or from the Technopia Tours representative in the foyer of RMIT Gallery. Tour sizes and duration vary according to the destination. Bookings can be made by email prior to departure with a gold coin donation confirming passage on the day. All proceeds go to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Sharing one of the fundamentals of her own art-making practice through the hand-drawn record of the journey as an ‘alternative’ documentation, Kim Donaldson merges the work of the artist with the work of others in the city, and places both within the frame of the language and tropes of the tourism industry. The tours investigate an industry, a city, and a set of work processes through the sharing of artistic, curatorial, and performative practices – a ‘persistent form of seriousness’.

1 -3  Jacques Ranciere, ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, in Artforum International, vol. 45 no. 7, 2007, <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA160874380&v=2.1&u=monash&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=9a95f6ab02e94ddba796914cd3a96034>, accessed 13 May 2016.

 

  • Technopia Tours, 2015. Photography: Zihan Loo.

  • Technopia Tours, 2015. Photography: Zihan Loo.

  • Technopia Tours, 2015. Photography: Zihan Loo.

  • Technopia Tours, 2015. Photography: Zihan Loo.

  • Technopia Tours, 2015. Photography: Zihan Loo.

  • Technopia Tours, RMIT Gallery, 2015. Photography: Mark Ashkanasy.

The Emancipated Tourist: Kim Donaldson’s Technopia Tours

Respondent > Paula Hunt

Everywhere there is that flickering fluro orange there are workers.

In factories and on construction sites in the late 1980s, there was no hi-vis (high visibility) clothing. By the late 1990s, it was ubiquitous. At first, the builders, forklift drivers and machinists wore featherweight synthetic vests, but donning and ditching the vest every time you entered or exited the worksite became a boring rigmarole, so a panel of hi-vis material was sewn permanently into the uniforms. Initially there was resistance – who wanted to be branded in the lolly-coloured outfits in public – but over time, the branding has come to designate a tradesperson and labourer, expertise and activity. There are still hi-vis vests, temporary identifiers for the occasional visitors, the managers and politicians. Workers call them tourists.

Kim Donaldson’s Technopia Tours are all about the hidden workings of Melbourne. Donaldson takes her tourists below (the plumbing tours), behind (to the creative workspaces of artists and chefs), to before (the library archives), and to after (processing food scraps into fertiliser). The first thing we did on joining the plumbing tour is put on our orange Technopia Tours vests. Guided by generous and enthusiastic expert-workers (tradespeople and engineers), we descended down into the cool underground of Melbourne to encounter the pockmarked underbelly of the main pool in the City Baths, and the black water treatment facility at the City of Melbourne.

Rubbernecker. Day-tripper. Tourist. Like the worksite visitor, the tourist is classified as just an observer, passive, uncommitted, a spectator. But in a Technopia Tour there is a disruption to this truism, achieved not least by the ambiguous orange vests supplied by Donaldson. Sure, the vest marks you out as just-a-tourist, but it maintains its illuminating authority and its signal of activity. The vest may denote a distance between the expert-workers (who, in the case of the plumbing tour, were not wearing any hi-vis clothing) and the tourist, but it supposes communication. As Jacques Ranciere has said, this distance is not a barrier but a necessity, and the normal condition of communication.1 The expert-workers provide the tourists with their knowledge, but the tourists arrive with their own knowledge and experience, through which they interpret the expert-worker. The tourist, like Ranciere’s emancipated spectator, ‘is active, just like the student or the scientist: He observes, he selects, he compares, he interprets.’2 Emancipation, Ranciere reminds us, can only occur through this position of intellectual equity. The equality of intellects is the common power, and is acknowledged by the vest. It allows us to work ‘through unpredictable and irreducible distances…through an unpredictable and irreducible play of associations and dissociations.’3

On the plumbing tour, we discovered the black water treatment system was an experimental leap that failed to become operational, but the project provided information that allowed other successful systems to be developed around Melbourne. The tourists, many of whom were artists (although certainly not all), understood through their own practices the necessity of failure.

1 -3  Jacques Ranciere, ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, in Artforum International, vol. 45 no. 7, 2007, <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA160874380&v=2.1&u=monash&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=9a95f6ab02e94ddba796914cd3a96034>, accessed 13 May 2016.

 


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