This paper explores the notions of the virtual traveller through the physical manifestation of an exhibition Anywhere is Everywhere is a Circular Tale presented in the tAd Gallery in Denton, Texas. It is the narrative of a journey linking the eleven places called Denton in England and presents the 1,026 mile, 21 hours and 57 minute circular journey negotiated via internet-based maps. These provide the 301 steps of detailed instructions. Postcards, photographs and other ephemera from the journey are presented to form a comprehensive retelling of the tale. However, the places have only been visited virtually, the sights are seen through others’ eyes, the descriptions are second-hand and the impressions gained only through what is seen on my computer screen at home. It is a tourist guide that, by way of its virtuality, creates a false reality, destroying, perhaps, a desire to visit but presenting a new sense of community.
This work can be read on two levels: firstly as a straightforward road trip linking places of the same name. The second reading of the work is one that relates to the opposition between real and virtual, its position in-between here and there and concerns of space and place, as well as exploring facets of contemporary tourism. Artistically, it relates to the ready-made and questions of authorship and value.
The circular journey to the places called Denton is a binary opposite to the notion of the flâneur. Here, the directions minutely laid out leaving no space for wandering and following interesting paths. Yet, by the motion of the viewer within the gallery space, it can again become an act of wandering. This has some similarities to the act of Internet browsing. Franklin writes ‘We surf the net routinely, whizzing about the world at fantastic speeds and this does indeed cancel distance, but the point I want to make here is that we surf like tourists and the Web is set up in a touristic way’ (Franklin 2003:8). Contemporary artists such as Richard Wentworth and Francis Alÿs have used the concept of the flâneur to encounter first-hand everyday activities whilst here it can be said that the wandering takes place within the exhibition space but the basis of the exhibition is a kind of Internet flâneurism. The act of viewing, and wandering, also relates to the act of walking. There seems to be a relationship with the act of walking as to how places are created. De Certeau says ‘to walk is to lack a place. It is the indefinite process of being absent.’ (De Certeau 1988:103). It could be seen either as the constant creation of place or that each step removes us from our ‘place’, from what we know, however temporarily. Questions arise as to how this aligns with the knowledge of places through the web? How does this journey, the virtual narrative of actual places align to the concept of travel as a leisure activity? Is it pleasurable, will it create along-lasting impression, a memory to be unravelled at various points of life for the benefit of others, an indulgence?
The aim in this paper is to explore these ideas through presentation of facets of the exhibition.