What would happen if some thoughtful people added some real art to the idea of the audio guide. What if you ditch the whole name. What if you took the best parts of Radiohead’s OK Computer, flashmobs, our fears of mortality, our reliance of technology, confronted 50 people with the idea of a city, and took them through the parts of a city we often ignore?
You’d end up I think with something like “Remote Houston”. An experience put together by the arts collective Rimini Protokoll based in Berlin. The idea is adaptable to different cities, and each tour is modified to account for the quirks of different cities. “Remote Houston” begins in Evergreen Cemetery, and ends in the heart of Houston’s downtown.
What you get out of each tour will be personal and different. I was struck by how the tour was tied so closely to the idea of life and death and the passage of time. All concepts that we teach in law school, with are given arcane names with course titles like “Trusts and Estates” and cover concepts like “dead hand control” and the like. These doctrines are integral to our courses and doctrine, but never really made tangible. At least not in this way.
As Molly Glentzer, an art critic for the Houston Chronicle discussed during our recent tour together pointed out in her review:
All cemeteries mark time, but Evergreen feels especially poignant, tucked into a modest neighborhood in the shadow of industry. The oldest headstones, revealing the histories of Anglos and Germans whose lives straddled the 19th and 20th centuries, mingle freely with the flamboyant, colorful and more personalized resting places of Hispanics who are still arriving.
To discuss too many of the details of the tour would spoil some of the surprises. But the artists responsible for this tour have done a remarkable job of showing a city in a new way, offering up new experiences, and getting us to think about what it means to live in a city with other people. Broad concepts to be sure, and ones that can be a little kitschy or overbroad if done badly. So the remarkable thing about my tour was how much fun we had, how silly much of what we really do is.
If you are in Houston, go see it; or if not, seek out a performance if it comes to your town. The Tours run through May 13.
And here is a short interview with one of the creators, Stefan Kaegi: