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Hidden Cities
Performance Walk
The Performance Arcade—annual festival of live art
Wellington, New Zealand
February 2011

Hidden Cities is a participatory urban performance that uses a binaural soundscape and material interventions to uncover the city as a place inhabited by unseen stories. Individual participants were led on a self-directed walk that used sound-scape, ambulation, and participatory enactments to involve the players in a reconsideration of the city through performance. Each participant was given a “performance kit” that contained an mp3 player and several specially marked manila envelopes. As they walked, they listened to atmospheric binaural recordings and musings on memories and poetic associations relating the sites they passed through. Occasionally the participants were prompted to open an envelope and use the materials enclosed to interact with their environment. One envelope contained a stick of chalk and instructions to find a place where a memory resided for them and to write it on a wall, while another contained white feathers and a suggestion to throw them off a tall building and see if anyone looked up.

As a ‘mis- tour’ – appropriating of the term ‘mis-guide’ widely used by Wrights & Sites – we provided participants with the tools to involve themselves in an alternative exploration of the city.
The walk placed the fantastical, personal and temporal on par with the factual and historic narratives of the city. Unlike tourist practices that focus attention on the spectacles of the city’s significant historic and cultural attractions, this walk exposed the overlooked possibilities for ludic interaction that reside in the places we pass through daily – the marginal, overlooked and forgotten.

At The Creative New Zealand 21st Century Interactive Art Conference arts leaders, managers and marketers from around the world experienced the performance, which was then used as a case study for focus groups discussing interactive artworks within a New Zealand context. This project was subsequently presented at the BLOW Creative Arts Festival, the Creative New Zealand 21st Century Interactive Art Conference and The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design + Space.