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Crossing the Line

A series of experimental audio guides asks listeners to discern the truth about art

by Aaron Kohn in Culture on 19 September 2011

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For their fifth annual fall festival, the French Institute Alliance Française turned the average museum audio tour into a mysterious game of fact or fiction. Made in collaboration with the conceptual sound collective Soundwalk, "Crossing the Line" leads listeners on an hour and a half tour of NYC's Museum Mile along 5th Avenue, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Neue Gallerie, the Guggenheim and Central Park. The five remarkable writers narrating the tour devised authentic or imagined stories that ask the question "What do we rely on to determine the truth from fiction?"—this year's festival theme.

Available in French and English, each of the five audio segments can be downloaded from the Soundwalk website and played individually if you're only interested in a particular museum or played together as the full tour.

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The tour begins at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with American writer and art historian Teju Cole and then the French novelist and poet Olivier Cadiot. With experimental sounds laying the backdrop to these intriguing stories, the listener becomes entranced with the tales, never knowing if they're real or dreamed up. The tour continues at the the Neue Gallerie's Cafe Sabarsky with writer and professor Phillippe Claudel, before moving on with writer Camille Laurens, who guides you through the Guggenheim. Finally, poet and performance artist John Giorno ends the tour with a collection of poems as you join him just inside Central Park at the reservoir.

Running through 16 October 2011, a full list of events for the fall festival is available from FIAF. The audio tour is available for download or to listen online at the Soundwalk site.

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