Introduction


The Tour of All Tours is a guided tour like no other: it is a performance that takes the form of a guided tour the subject of which is the other tours (guided and otherwise) available locally. It provides an engaged alternative to the conventional tour that can be of interest to the local and visitor alike. It looks at the tourism industry itself and also at the other forms of tours (political/historical/religious etc) and in doing so, opens up questions of globalisation and the meaning of these exchanges between local and visitor. At the same time, it really does provide an effective summary of the tours on offer and so does fulfil a touristic role, albeit in a novel way.






Video of The Tour of All Tours in Bath 2014 + YOUKU




Rationale


Conventional tourism typically attempts to imagine itself as invisible, the local sites, stories and characters being the objects of attention. By shifting attention onto the tours themselves this brings into focus the ‘elephant in the room’ placing the tourist and tourism industry that surrounds them into the spotlight. One reason this may be of interest is that contemporary tourism can have a complicated relationship to its host cities. Some people, but not all, will economically benefit from the tourist economy but the character and identity of the city changes for everyone as a result of mass tourism. City centres can, at worst, become kitsch museums, a parody of a meaningful place of cultural and economic exchange for the local population. This can in turn lead to a passive aggressive relationship towards the tourist. From the other perspective, tourism always promises a taste of authenticity yet is often unable to provide it except when things go wrong. The mass tourist experience is therefore all too typically frustrating, boring and superficial. The Tour of All Tours remedies this.






The Tour of All Tours in London




The Tour


The Tour Of All Tours brings tourists and local residents into the same frame as equals. It achieves this by focusing upon something both are familiar with: the mechanics of the tourism industry. In this way The Tour Of All Tours can function as a conventional tour for tourists, who will be only too familiar with the mechanics of tourism as they will be in the middle of it, and at the same time also engage local residents in order to destabilise both groups and create a meaningful encounter between them. It makes a playful and highly self-referential commentary upon contemporary tourism that extends its gaze to the wider society and city itself. It is given in a engaging and simple manner, an approach Aitchison has championed as site-sensitive.




Critical Response


The guided tour is a mode of tourism and exploration centuries old, with familiar conventions of leader and audience, imparter and recipient of knowledge. Through both utilising and subverting these habitual conventions Aitchison reforms the guided tour into an engaging and truly unique medium for art outside of the institution and in the public sphere... For 90 minutes, Aitchison interrupts and utilises this stage to show us, the audience, the layers of branding, expectations and reality of which it is comprised Aitchison’s quirky and peculiar mix of disclosure and captivating storytelling offers fun and enlightenment outside of the stuffy and all-too-familiar confines of Beijing’s art galleries


Time Out Beijing feature article on The The Tour of All Tours


In its appearance as kind of a preview on the whole tourist industry in town, it offers an ironic breakthrough for the honestly interested visitor. Especially when there aren´t that much attractive sites, which unfortunately seems to be Stuttgart´s destiny. So The Tour Of All Tours would certainly work as an instrument to draw a map of the unexplored tourism destinations - I guess anywhere. As it seems to be that the "normal" tours in a way accidentally hide the things they are originally supposed to expose. That means: It makes only tiny difference whether we follow the traces of the Habsburgs in Vienna or the Preussens in Potsdam etc. By that we take a distance to the place we visit right now and do some time travelling and focussing etc. As there is no tour like that in The Tour Of All Tours, you are completely drawn into the streets and left to the opportunities you yourself will have to take. In general you get the chance to make sure about your way of perception. An inspiring, funny and witty performance, in the full sense of the word "site-specific" and mind-opening towards our mostly fast-forward relationship to urban living.


Stuttgart spectator response


History and heritage like rocks and sponge cakes comes in layers and Bill Aitchison’s Tour of Tours in Bath took us in and amongst those layers. Layers of interpretation and layers of experience.


We heard stories of cartoon cockneys on tour buses responding to each phrase of the tour guide with “thats what the doctor ordered” and of a young Chinese tourist obsessed with spotting Tescos. Bill had spent days taking all the tours Bath has to offer including experiencing a tired guide going onto auto pilot and describing everything he saw and relating that back to his own life experience. Before long we were indeed wondering where the official heritage discourse ended and a more personal one began.


Exploring a city as defined and described by tour guides, led by Bill, witnessed by the barker outside the Jane Austen Museum who heckled, by a man who might have been a freemason going into the old Theatre Royal, who said the commentary sounded reasonable, and in the tour party a guide who does tours of Bath, in Russian. A wonderful and surreal experience.


Bath Blog Review




Resources


The Tour of All Tours blog is regularly updated with features, ongoing reviews of tours around the world, updates on projects, calls for work, publications, and much more on critical tourism and performance.


A review (in German) of the Stuttgart tour can be read HERE

 



Video interview on the Tour of All Tours in Bath


The project also features in the Artangel 100 is discussed in the article Escapists and Jet-Setters: Residencies and Sustainability in C Magazine and excerpts of the Stuttgart tour are published in the book Tourists Like Us: Critical Tourism and Contemporary Art  edited by Federica Martini and Vytautas Michelkevičius.




Production History


The first tour was made in Stuttgart in April 2013 supported by British Council Germany and presented by Arttours who continue to present a German language version of this tour. Subsequent tours have been given in various forms in London, Beijing, Cambridge, Bath and South Dorset Ridgeway with a presentation of the project at On Hosting and Displacing a symposium on Critical Tourism hosted at Nida Artists Colony Lithuania.


The Beijing and East London Tour of All Tours are available for private group bookings subject to availability. Email for availability and rates. 






The Tour of All Tours in Beijing




Commissioning a Tour


Further Tours of All Tours are under negotiation and being prepared for other locations in 2014 and if you are interested in having a tour created in your destination then you should consult the brochure Commission a Tour.