The “Ground Tour” is a journey which started in Vienna, cruised the outskirts of Rome and touched ground in Prato and Florence on our way to the depths of the Venice Lagoon. The tour grinds much too common assumptions about Italy’s beauty and culture and brings onto surface a different portrayal of a country as it is acting at the edges of mainstream society.
When Enrico Tomassini began to develop the idea of a “Ground Tour” with a group of students and teachers from the Social Design Studio he developed a concept that involved people he knew and others he approached so as to invite them to contribute to the concept. The journey evocatively recalls the historical “Grand Tour” of the period of Enlightenment which aimed to educate and open horizons to a privileged class of people which nevertheless aimed at contributing to human progress and learning from the experience of travelling.
Important to state: along the complex coordination of the travel Enrico never turned into a “guide“. We rather experienced him as a medium, as a source of intellectual and emotional energy, a source, which might have also been fuelled by Enrico’s strong wish to share his knowledge and nothing less than his life. His concept of the “Ground Tour” created a shelter in terms of creating a free space to open up to realities, which to us were unknown if not sometimes mind changing, just as many contributions to this Reader describe it. The experiences on the “Ground Tour” were not “consumed”, they represented no touristic commodities but made us aware of our own so highly privileged “homelessness” (“Unbehaustheit”) that needs to be constantly reflected on in academic worlds where education itself, rather than breaking down borders, is not rarely enforcing frontiers and deprivation. Within the methodology of a “Ground Tour” methods are always questioned and adopted, renewed and invented, criticized and shared. Through the openness of a “Ground Tour” the privilege of backgrounds and social class are put under pressure and serve as not only symbolic capital to be used and given. With the intrepidity of a “Ground Tour” the travellers need to rely on each other, to listen and communicate across borders in order to go on.
Social Design as we think and practice it represents a daily and never ending “Ground Tour”.
- Abteilung Social Design – Arts as Urban Innovation / Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien