Public Art Park ‘23, Testing Grounds

We’ve all done some sightseeing. But have you ever experienced ‘site-being’? We at Site-Being Tours specialise in alternative sensory tours of Melbourne’s favourite places. Our inaugural tour will kick off at Queen Victoria Markets! We will guide you to tune into the smells, sounds or textures as you weave your way through this popular destination. At the end of the tour, you would have a chance to take home or send someone a souvenir of your very unique experience. Come with us to enrich your memory bank!

Site Being Tours is a public art project that plays with how we engage with places of tourist interest. The project adopts the visual language of ‘guided tours’ and the performative aspects of being a tourist, including ‘exploring’ and memorialising with souvenirs. 
Sightseeing tours are designed to offer visitors a prescriptive and specific way of engaging with a point of interest or a destination. It is often a simple and easy way to get a sense of that place. What tourism does well is package revised histories and a sense of a place to make them palatable for consumption. There’s an emphasis on engaging with places visually. As a result, a visitor is very quickly conditioned to see places on a reductive and somewhat superficial level. This fleeting engagement may often result in quick selfies or photos of ‘iconic’ spots and the purchase of a souvenir in the form of a postcard or a cheap, disconnected imitation of a generic ‘cultural’ symbol. 

Site Being Tours asks people to tune away from the visual and re-focus on the sense of smell, sound or texture. The project incorporated ideas of mindfulness and the situationist practice of ‘dérive’ (drifting) as a way of drawing participants’ attention to the present moment and experience. I played the role of the non-expert tour guide who guided groups through the QVM. There was no set route. the only instructions provided were through one of three postcards that participants selected that chose which sense they were to focus on the tour. Before starting the tour, we closed our eyes and took a moment to tune into the chosen sense. Once we started the tour I did not speak but walked randomly through the markets. At the end of the tour, we returned to the starting point where each person wrote on their postcard (see image below) and deposited in the Site Being Tour Mail Box or took their card home. 

Back of the postcards (top)           
Front of the three different postcards: smell, texture, sound (above) Size: 10.7 x 12.6 cm (DL)
Site-Being Tour advertising posters (below) Size: 50 x 80 cm

Site-Being Tours was a public art project developed in response to Queen Victoria Markets as one of Melbourne's most popular tourist destinations. The public art project was part of Public Art Park 2023, organised by Testing Grounds and mentored by Ilana Russell, Lana Nuygen, Millie Cattlin, Joseph Norster and guest lecturers. Testing Grounds is located close to Queen Victoria Markets, on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people of the Eastern Kulin Nation.

All photos by Astrid Mulder
Project link: Testing Grounds Site-Being Tours