February 28, 2007
Janet Cardiff, Her Long Black Hair
Janet Cardiff: The Walk Book
For Immediate Release Contact: Anne Wehr
Public Art Fund presents
Her Long Black Hair
A site-specific audio walk for Central Park
Back for Summer 2005!
June 16 – September 11, 2005
“Walking is very calming. One step after another,
one foot moving into the future and one in the past.
Did you ever think about that? Our bodies are caught
in the middle. The hard part is staying in the present.
Really being here.” — From Her Long Black Hair
Public Art Fund is pleased to announce the encore presentation—for summer 2005 only—of Her Long Black Hair, Janet Cardiff’s extraordinary, critically-acclaimed audio walk for Central Park. Originally presented in 2004, Her Long Black Hair guides listeners on a free, site-specific walk, weaving Central Park’s historic landmarks, from Balto to the Bandshell, into the fabric of its soundtrack of spoken words and sound effects. This 45-minute journey, which begins at Central Park South, transforms an everyday stroll in the park into an enthralling psychological and physical experience. As with the first presentation of the work in summer 2004, Her Long Black Hair is sponsored by Bloomberg.
Her Long Black Hair takes each listener on a winding, mysterious journey through Central Park’s 19th century
pathways, retracing the footsteps of an enigmatic dark-haired woman. Relayed in Janet Cardiff’s quasi-narrative style, Her Long Black Hair is a complex sensory investigation of location, time, sound, and physicality, interweaving stream-of-consciousness observations with fact and fiction, local history, opera and gospel music, and more. At once cinematic and non-linear, Her Long Black Hair uses binaural technology—a means of recording that achieves incredibly precise three dimensional sound—to create an experience of startling physical immediacy and complexity. As Cardiff’s soundtrack overlaps with the actual sounds surrounding the listener, past and present
intertwine to form a multilayered, open-ended reality.
The walk echoes the visual world as well, using photographs to reflect upon the relationship between images and notions of possession, loss, history, and beauty. Each person will receive an audio kit that contains a CD player with headphones as well as a packet of photographs. As Cardiff’s voice on the audio soundtrack guides listeners through the park, they are occasionally prompted to pull out and view one of the photographs. These images link the speaker and the listener within their shared physical surroundings of Central Park, shifting between the present, the recent past, and the more distant past.
Also, look for the forthcoming publication of The Walk Book, the definitive book of all of Cardiff’s signature audio walks, beginning with The Forest Walk (1991) and ending with Her Long Black Hair. The book is produced by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary with Public Art Fund. With texts by Janet Cardiff and Mirjam Schaub, and contributions by Gary Garrels, Tom Eccles, Madeleine Grynsztejn, John Weber, and many other curators.
Janet Cardiff is perhaps best known for her audio walks, which she has made in London, Rome, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Louis, and elsewhere. Her gallery installations—often made with George Bures Miller, Cardiff’s husband and artistic collaborator—use the narrative and technical language of film noir to create lush, suspenseful sound and video works. Her Long Black Hair received the International Art Critics Association’s 2004 award for “Best Show in an Alternative or Public Space.”
Janet Cardiff’s Her Long Black Hair is sponsored by Bloomberg with additional support from the James Family Foundation. Details and schedule for Her Long Black Hair
· Location: Headsets for Her Long Black Hair will be available at a kiosk at 6th Ave and Central Park South.
· This ongoing event is FREE
· Hours: Thursday – Sunday 10am to 3:30pm. The last headset return time is 5pm.
· Reservations: Reservations are only available for groups of 10 or more, who must call 212-980-3942 three days ahead of time. For all others, headset pick up is first come, first serve.
· Other information: Participants will be asked to leave a drivers license or credit card in exchange for the audio equipment and should allow at least 1 hour for Her Long Black Hair. The work’s running time is 45 minutes and then the audio kit must be returned to the kiosk at 59th Street and Sixth Avenue. A map with the return route will be included.
· Subways: N, R, Q, to 57th Street or N, R to Fifth Avenue; A, B, C, D, 1, 9 to Columbus Circle.
PUBLIC ART FUND is New York’s leading presenter of artists’ projects, new commissions, installations and exhibitions in public spaces. For over 25 years the Public Art Fund has been committed to working with emerging and established artists to produce innovative exhibitions of contemporary art throughout New York City. The Public Art Fund is a non-profit arts organization supported by generous gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations, and with public funds from The New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
The Gun Sculpture
Kevin Lynch, What Time Is This Place. MIT Press, 1976.
Beatrice- Project Proposal
I am back to Little Italy. Sorry for the confusion.
In my paper I will explore issues of heritage/memory/tradition/gentrification and more, in relationship to historic Grand St. cheese shop "Di Palo's." The shop was founded by the grandparents of the current owners and was passed on through 3 generations. The founders were immigrants from Basilicata, a region in the south of Italy, and their 3 grandchildren are currently running the business. The shop caters to many kinds of different customers: some of the people who go there have been shopping at Di Palo's for the last three generations.
I am interested in the relationship of food and taste to place, in concepts around "home away from home," in the relationship of the shop to its changing neighborhood and clientele, and the way the owners of Di Palo's perform and transmit the "authenticity" of their store and tradition. I have only been there once so far, but there seem to be interesting politics in the relationship of the 3 siblings to each other (2 men, 1 woman) and their different relationships to the store.
I will be interviewing both the owners and the customers and might find a way of intervening on the site to create awareness of the complicate dynamics that go on in the everyday activity of buying cheese at Di Palo's.
hi to all-
i was thinking about class and about all you wonderful people and the desire to create an email list of all those in class started to grow on me. could those of you interested send me your email addresses so that i can compile such a list and then make it available to the others?
i believe my desire also sprung from the fact that saturday will be my birthday and i would very much like to let you know my plans for the evening because i'd love it if you could join me...but that's not exactly class material, so an email list might be better for further details!
anyway, if you want to be part of the list, just send me a blank email (maybe with your name in the subject/body) at
February 27, 2007
"Transforming Space, Sound, and the City Through Skateboarding"
another way of experiencing the city... Musique Concrete
February 26, 2007
BIG ONION WALKING TOURS
might be interesting for a number of people in class:
Big Onion Walking Tours
Indigenous tourism (2)?
I am interested in the relationship between indigenous self-representation, and eco-tourism as a means of economic survival. As Native communities struggle to protect their land, they seek new models for generating income, often through the sale of arts and crafts, and increasingly through Native-run tourism. Both video and the internet have become spaces for the promotion of human rights as well as sites for advertising a tourist experience. I would like to review the strategies that these sites are using to either contest or recreate tourist discourses.
Amalia's Red Hook Soundwalk
RED HOOK SOUNDWALK
Based on “The Transoms of Red Hook,” a text and photo essay (http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/redhook/redhook.html) and “A Look at the Hook: Forgottentour 13.” I adapted the text and recorded the soundwalk, some local soundscapes, both exterior and interior. I've have had some technical difficulties in editing the sound files (maintaining the audio quality, you can listen to the attached draft audiofile if you like), but by the end of the week I should have a seamless edit. meanwhile, here's my script:
Track 1: Van Brunt Street
Red Hook is a small penninsula that juts off Brooklyn, across from Governor’s Island, where the East River meets the Erie Basin. If you are taking this tour, chances are you already know how to get there.
My name is Amalia Cordova, and I have been living here for six years. Known for its lack of trains, many residents of this industrial neighborhood rely on the faithful B61 bus, which rumbles down Van Brunt Street, where trolley lines are still visible between the cobblestones and cement.
We’ll stroll through perhaps the last days of gritty Red Hook before it becomes a destination for frantic shoppers and trendy hipsters.
We'll concentrate on the more desolate areas of the Hook, starting at the heart of the neighborhood, on the corner of Van Brunt and Pioneer Street, where we find the only bustling corner of the neighborhood with a few stores, the local pizza place, and on the northwest corner, the Red Hook Bait & Tackle Shop (at 320 Van Brunt), which used to service neighborhood fishermen.
If you peek through the glass, you’ll see it’s now a bar overflowing with "found" objects: a mermaid, strings of dangling fish, two mounted harpoons from a Long Island basement and a stuffed bear from Indiana. Strings of glowing bobbers barely light the ample space. Old-timers who remember when that tree fell in the church garden now set their drinks on its planks that serve as the bar, where they're joined by the neighborhood's younger set.
Walking down Van Brunt Street, we near the cobblestoned Coffey Street, where the buildings are low and tiny townhouses are interspersed with yards and beat up warehouses. Walking west to the end of the street, you will see the waterfront and a new curving pier. You may also encounter fishermen, and in the summer, an interpid swimmer.
In the early-to-mid 1990s, Pier 39 at the foot of Coffey Street was renovated and renamed for Louis Valentino Jr., a hero fireman who sustained fatal injuries in a Canarsie blaze in 1996.
The green area between the pier and Coffey Street is named for Fort Defiance, a Red Hook encampment during the Revolutionary War; shots fired from the fort, which was located a few blocks away at Dwight and Beard Streets, delayed the British fleet enough to help allow Washington to escape the Battle of Brooklyn with fewer casualties than he would have had.
The building on the SW corner of Coffey and Conover streets lay empty for 20 years before a parachute manufacturer bought and renovated the old place, which may date to the 1840s. The hoist used to lift hay bales or whatever is still in place. This building has an old sign showing Coffey Street's old name.
From the pier, taking a left on Conover and walking one block south, we spot an unlit neon sign on the left side of the street that says BAR. For decades, longshoremen drank their lunch at 253 Conover, now run by Sunny Balzano, whose family has owned the place since the early 1930s. Just a few feet away, catenary wire, tracks and canvas-covered cars mark the spot where trolley aficionado Bob Diamond once hoped to return trolley service to Brooklyn.
By 2006, in the spot where Diamond hoped to open his trolley museum, the landscape changed dramatically and a giant Fairway supermarket has opened in the old Van Brunt Stores complex, built during the Civil War.
And in 2006, the old trolley cars, which had been left to the elements for years, had been removed and a waterside park is under construction. But where have the cars gone? Only Diamond's trolley poles are wires remain.
In contrast, on the corner of Conover and Beard stands the Time Warner Cable relay station with its huge dishes.
Across the street from Sunny’s, a new park constructed between Pier 41 and the Waterfront Museum barge allows excellent views of Upper New York Bay. Once a rocky wasteland crumbling into the water, as of 2006 the park is fully landscaped and blooming. The barge sometimes relocated to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, so it may not be in sight.
If we walk north one block up the waterfront, we’ll find an area called Pier 41, on Van Dyke Street between Conover and Ferris, formerly off limits to pedestrians and now offering delicacies such as key lime pie.
During the day, you can get a "piesicle" at Steve Turpin's Key Lime Pie palace at this 1850s-era warehouse. The piesicle is a mini-key lime pie on top of a graham crust, covered in chocolate.
Returning to Conover, the last street before the waterfront, we walk north one block. Here, between Dikeman and Wolcott, we observe sturdy brick buildings with unusual wood insulation and renovated warehouses now split into fashionable lofts.
Turning right on Wolcott, and walking back to Van Brunt, we can stop at the diner on the corner called Hope & Anchor; the owners are probably aware of London's Hope & Anchor, a music venue. At night, you may find locals engaged in karaoke here.
Furniture crowds the sidewalk just south of Hope and Anchor, from an antique store called Atlantis. On the same side of the street is Baked, coffee shop famous for its rich cupcakes. There is wireless at baked, should you need to check your email. Further down, the flea market seasonally props open its fence for the passerbys to peruse a truly eclectic assortment of trinkets, furniture and on occasion, provides equally unpredictable live music.
You may have perceived a constant hum in this area, it’s the Ahava factory on the corner of Van Brunt and Van Dyke. There are signs posted on storefronts and on corner posts opposing the noise this 24 business produces, but the factory stays open year after year. Curiously, right across the street from the factory stand two vacant, sleek, six-story condos right across the street, waiting for the Red Hook boom to happen. Will their occupants put up with this backgound drone?
At the end of Van Brunt are the Van Brunt (or Red Hook) Stores, from 480 to 500 Van Brunt Street, stretching along an arm of the Erie Basin. Both this building and the nearby Beard Street warehouse feature heavy arched and shuttered windows.
Entering the driveway at the end of the street, we find ourselves on a long dock.
To the left we see a channel and Beard Street Pier. Acroos the waterway is a dilapidated metal structure. The Revere Sugar Refinery, once owned by Antonio Floriendo, a Marcos family confidant known as the "Banana King of the Philippines", declared bankruptcy in 1985. The refinery has been in magnificent ruins since then. A fire some years ago devastated it. The property has been recently purchased, so the refinery may soon be a memory.
On the edge of the water you may spot Lightship 84, one of a few dozen remaining in the USA and one of 4 remaining in NYC, that sank into Erie Basin in 1997, where it has remained. In its near-century of history, it has been a lightship, training vessel, restaurant, and now it's quite rusty. NYPD uses it as a training venue for the scuba patrol.
We see the unused docks of the Todd Shipyards, including the Beard Street waterfront, from Erie Basin, once so busy that B77 buses once carried "Erie Basin" in the destination roll over the front windows.
The Todd Shipyards, also known as New York Shipyards, have now been closed and, in 2006, were demolished for a masive Ikea store. Philip Lopate in his book "Waterfront" describes an incident in which the crew of a damaged Central American freighter were detained here for 6 months until its owner could pay for repairs. Its crew was too afraid to venture into the Red Hook streets for provisions. The owner had to get food for them.
The Monitor, the first ironclad vessel from the Civil War era, was once repaired here. Within, the yards feature brick structures with heavy timber posts and machines that have 1920s-era Bauhaus industrial design highlights with skylights and 20-foot-tall windows. Without, peeling paper cutout art decorates the exterior and surrounding area.
The Todd Shipyards is a dry dock. Most of what you see here will be torn down soon, with an Ikea shopping center due to take its place. The administration buildings were razed in 2006, replaced by the blue plywood fence and some street art. Community activitsts are trying to preserve the actual dry dock as part of the Ikea complex; we'll see how successful that is.
To the west you can see the New York Water Taxi, which calls the Beard Street Pier its home base. This taxi parks here but the actual taxi stop is across the pier, by the Faiway terrace.
Will the recently opened Fairway Supermarket and possible Ikea furniture store turn Red Hook into a big parking lot with its narrow roads crammed with Cobble Hillers and Sunset Parkers looking for lettuce and night tables?
From this lookout point, you can see the Statue of Liberty, which realtors attempt to invoke by calling the neighborhood “Liberty Heights.”
Red Hook has several developers salivating as they hope to turn the waterfront into retail space. Many Red Hookers oppose the building of the Ikea, but some residents of Red Hook houses applaud the developments, since they will supply jobs.
The new trend in Brooklyn is to plop giant developments in the midst of residential neighborhoods without investing in the overall infrastructure. Ikeas, in particular, tend to be in football field-size parking lots that are served by pedal-to-the-metal state highways and interstates. How traffic will get to this particular Ikea over Red Hook's rutted, Belgian-blocked roads, well, that will be an experiment all Red Hookers will be participating in.
It seems certain that "old" Red Hook, with its dusty streets, neighborhood dives, and residential pockets will soon be changing in some way.
It’s likely Red Hook's blunt ambience will survive though.
Track 2. Walking East
Walking north up Van Brunt, make a right on Beard to Richards Street. Here's some of the desolation we were talking about. In 1776, a fort fired on the British from here, but in 2004, there's a view of the near-dormant shipyard fronts and a view of a garbage-strewn Beard Street overlooking the old sugar refinery.
Though piles of new money are flowing into Red Hook's waterfront area, there will always be parts of the neighborhood that look just like this. It’s hard to believe that just two blocks north of here, on Coffee St., a brand new condo complex was borne from manufacturing lofts, a block away from Brooklyn’s largest public housing projects.
One block east on beard, on the corner of Dwight, is a corner storefront whose last incarnation was Lillie's Bar, which has since closed again. One block north, the Liberty Heights Tap Room, on Van Dike and Dwight Streets, recently added a microbrewery to the night scene in the Hook.
Walking east on Van Dyke Street will take you past an unusual brick building whose original name, The Red Hand Composition Company, has been getting more attention lately. Amer Tech Industries is a marine repair firm specializing in work on power-generating barges.
This long, low building on the corner of Richards and Van Dyke Streets has a distinctive exterior, consisting of 20" thick stones, reminiscent of some churches. It originally was the storehouse of the Joseph K. Brick Company, founded in 1854 to produce items used in gaslighting. Brick originated the fire clay retort, a device in which coal was heated to produce gas used for illumination; gaslighting began to be widely used in the USA around 1850. The burgeoning steel industry also needed a liner material that could withstand high temperatures. Fire, or refractory bricks, filled the bill. The bricks are tempered so they can withstand high heat and were used to line iron furnaces, industrial stoves, brick and pottery kilns, and other devices that demanded materials with a tolerance for heat.
Clay retorts were instrumental in the production of gas from coal. The heated retort freed the volatile or gaseous matter contained in the coal. These gases were then carried through a series of pipes and appliances which condensed, washed, and scrubbed the crude gas, and by mechanical and chemical means removed the impurities from the product and made it ready for commercial use.
The storehouse was restored by Greg O'Connell in 1995 and 1996 and was the first landmark building designated in Red Hook. The Van Dyke Street storehouse is 125 feet square and built in basilica form with a bulls-eye clerestory window. The ground floor has been altered to allow vehicle access. Presently it is home to a glass etching company. The two-story brick building across the street, 99-112 Van Dyke, was also a part of the Brick complex and retains its old brick chimney.
Walking three blocks east down on Van Dike, we’ll find
Bay Street and Red Hook Park, which features excellent soccer fields and track. It's one of Red Hook's few oases of green, and in the summer hosts soccer tournaments which bring a faithful crowd to watch games and try a variety of Latin American foods at the stands.
Just north of the park on the corner of Bay Street and Clinton St, is the Sol Goldman Pool, opened to the public under the name of Red Hook Pool in 1936, as one of the 11 WPA-funded pools that opened that year under Mayor Fiorello H. Laguardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.
The pool was designed by Aymar Embury in the 1930’s and was restored and renamed to honor the financial contributions of the Goldman Family in 1986. Currently, Red Hook Pool is a participant in the Department of Education’s SchoolFood program, which serves free, nutritional breakfasts and lunches to approximately 300 children each day during the summer.
From anywhere in the park, you can see a massive concrete silo built in 1922, which was once the processing center for grains used for breweries and distilleries shipped down from upstate and the western USA via the Erie Canal. The grain elevator is in the Gowanus Industrial Park, which operates over 30 small businesses and a growing demand for moorage of small vessels and barges. The industrial park hopes to take on shipping, on-site manufacturing and more maritime industrial uses.
The terminal closed as shipping in Red Hook gave way to New Jersey containerization beginning in the 1950s. With its 54 joined concrete silos, it has been described as looking like "concrete ladyfingers." Today, the soccer field in front of the terminal has it as an impressive backdrop; dance companies have used it as a staging area, and urban sports enthusiasts have rappelled on it.
Will high rents and million dollar condos vault over the Gowanus Expressway and engulf this isolated province, whose quiet, not-quite tree-lined streets have been silent since the big cargo ships stopped docking at Erie Basin?
Balg Eun Song's project
In Korea, being in army is mandatory for all men. Thus, I had to spend 28months in the army. While I was in the army my position was an infantry, a foot soldier, just like most of the other men were. This mean we had to walk a lot tactically during the period. Most of the people who finished army agrees that ‘force marching’ were the most difficult discipline in the whole period. I totally agree with that. Just walking sounds pretty easy, but for who had experienced the force marching, it sure is the most painful training among all other trainings. Walking day and night in the angle of inclination, sometimes the skin of the foot comes apart and the blood bleeds out from the combat boots. The reason for me bringing up this painful memory is because I feel from this forcing march, there are some aspects that could be interesting in regards to tourism.
Most of the military corps is located in mountains for tactic reasons. My brigade was also located in Surak mountain, one of the most famous and the second highest mountain in Korea. We once marched all the way up to the peak of the mountain and went back down. It was a power force marching and several fell into a swoon. The reason we do this training is to know well of the places surrounded us and to train how we could shift fast, precise, and safe to one place to another. We have to be aware of the surroundings and know where we are. It is a totally different perspective of looking at a tourist attraction. We walk for an hour and take 10 minute break and repeat this over and over. The view differs from the degree of the pain and the change of the speed, for example, during the break and during the walk. In the night we depend more and more on the sound and every time we go back to the places it all makes a different view.
I think this military marching will be an interesting perspective to look at tourist attraction and think about tourism.
Balg Euns Song [Soundtour] -Time Square
I love to walk down Time Square watching all the buildings, lights, and theaters. I fill up great energy while I walk in this district. I thought Time Square might be a good place to experience a sound tour. I started from the Collins bar on 46th st and 8th ave. I followed the direction, and the sounds of the steps and surroundings of the narrator. I and the sound, the invisible tourist guide, Timothy “Speed” Levitch, inside of me, slowly started the journey. The good thing of this tour guide was that every time I miss a word, I could listen back and forth. There were moments that I was so deeply indulged in the sounds so that I started to get confused with the real sound out side. The recorded sound intruded my body. The ear is perhaps the most vulnerable sense between all other senses because it has no blocking system itself. In other words, ear has to be dependent on earplugs or hands instead of its own blocking system like closing eyes, closing mouth, stop breathing and so forth. Hearing was perhaps a good idea as a tool for tourism.
When I entered the Edison hotel, I felt like I somehow was flung into a real movie set. Everyone was busily moving, coming from the airport, like what Levitch said and I was passing through the extra part of people in a movie. He also asked me to smell the Edison hotel, step the feeling of Marriot hotel, using other senses than just watching and hearing. It was a wonderful feeling of all senses combining together and building up a memory of ambience.
Although I enjoyed the tour so much, I had some distracted moments. There were certain places that name have changed. For example Royale Theater has changed to Bernard B Jacobs Theater, Plymouth Theater has changed to Gerald Schoenfeld Theater. I also had a moment I hesitated whether I can go in or not. For example, Sardis, one of the best classical restaurant, and the last place Marriott Marquis ‘The View’ looked too much to go inside. So I went back down as soon as I reached the 48th floor. There were also moments that I got alienated from the sounds. The walking pace of MM was a little slow comparing from normal people in New York. Everything here in New York goes fast. Feeling the sound as too slow, I realized I already become used to the fast pace of New York. In addition, I wondered what is really special from this event from the traditional tour guides.
With all the interpretation with all sound effects all the places become very special to me. Especially, it became special not only because of the historical places as tourist attractions but the moments I shared and experienced with the invisible tour guide personally.
This project focuses in the research and analysis tourist concept that Centro Maria in New York City gives their young residents. Centro Maria is a place where young women stay for short, medium or long terms in New York City. It is a space to live the transition between your country of origin and NYC. This place is part of a religious mission established by Maria Vicuña in Spain. Today, there are more than 40 centers around the world, as well as missions and schools. Centro Maria far from being a tourist site it is a loop of time and space in NYC where more that 13 countries live together in a four floor building in 54th Street in New York City.
This project represents a closure not just for my MA program, but in a more personal way as I was one of these residents during my first semesters in New York City. Centro Maria in New York run by religious women that are constantly rotating their positions between other houses in the same family. This house is always open to receive young women that will study, work, or stay to live in this city. One of the characteristics of the New York base is that it does not restrict the entrance to Catholics, but the religious activities have a strong presence in the house. More that 100 girls are received every year as residents, visitors, or workers. The house has an agenda that promotes tourism in every country that is represented by the girls as well as the tourism in New York City. They organized lectures, presentations, performances, and festivities of every country. They organize trips to cities that are close to NYC such as Washington, Philadelphia, Niagara Falls, and other places. But what it is of interest to this project is that every activity is realize in groups with the guidance of a nun. These creates a stage bound between the residents bring up many issues of tourism and quality of life for the girls. I am interest in this research because more than feeling secure in the house is the over protection that manipulate my first impression of NYC and the information that I receive from the countries that the girls where representing.
This project requires a profound analysis of the history, structure, and tourist practices that Centro Maria shares with the residents. For this I will need to go back to Centro Maria and interview the director, some residents, and workers. I will search for film that had record activities that presents the different cultures that are represented in the Centro and some photographs of the outdoor activities program by the nuns. For this analysis I am interested to engage with Dean MacCannell to understand the cultural experience, work experience, and the structure of tourist settings in the space of Centro Maria. In my experience I know that Centro Maria is more that just a mission and analyzing their activities within their structure. The challenges of this project is to leave behind my personal narrative, reencounter the site from a new approach, and be able to articulate ideas that are still struggling in me but I know they will be of great interest in the field as it will reach a honest analysis This project will be able to articulate a fine critic of a religious mission that has become in a “tourist site” or a meeting point of other cultures as a way to promote tourism in their country.
February 25, 2007
Multiple views of community
Today, I had another tourist adventure--surveillance cameras and some more of Johnny's Malcom X tour through Harlem, as well as an interesting bookstore and some reverse photo taking of the Mansion and Yankee Stadium!
Today, I went on a surveillance tour through the New York Surveillance Camera Players in the Upper West Side. Bill, the tour guide, made an important distinction between surveillance cameras and security cameras. He said, in terms of rights to privacy, when entering a building, citizens are leaving the public domain, so on his maps he does not consider cameras inside of buildings to be intrusive. This tourism experience was much different from going to the museums or visiting Harlem, since we were in a group of about fifteen and taking up a large amount of space on the sidewalk. Being on a tour about being constantly under surveillance while also knowing that anyone in the street was going to stare at us, even just to walk by, was somewhat nerve-racking.
The dynamics of the tour-guide were also interesting. While I believed many of the things he said, especially from the cameras he was showing us and the inevitable risks of abuse that 24-7 surveillance can produce, I wondered how he dealt with the paranoia he was trying to spread to us. He doesn’t own a cell phone or a credit card due to the risk of being tracked by the government, and has been commissioned by various cities and organizations to map the existing cameras. While on tour, I wondered about the community members—each tour in each location is only scheduled to happen about once a year, so it is not completely intrusive—but do people realize they are being filmed? And by their neighbors?
While Bill pointed out many reasons to be afraid of Big Brother, I became more concerned by the cameras that are set up outside of apartment buildings. Bill pointed out a camera that is aimed on the front door and can be viewed by all of the residents of the apartment in order to see who is buzzing their bell to enter. Only, the camera is non-discriminating between apartments, so any “busybody” within the building is able to watch who is visiting who. Similar to my reaction in Harlem of who owns a community…surveillance cameras add an entirely different level to that question for me. For those who haven’t visited the site and seen the homemade maps with all the cameras, especially the number around Washington Square Park, it’s worth a gander. Either way, the tour made me think much more about space as 3-D instead of linear…that while my experience through the city is walking in a certain direction, I may have “visitors” inside walls tagging along with me through cameras. Just think…if you ever thought no one saw you pick the falafel out of your teeth after a trip to Mahmoods—think again!
Afterwards, I went back to Harlem to meet Johnny—first stop, Columbia University to get a better idea of gentrification, then to Jumel Terrace Books. It’s a great place to visit—Kurt Thometz, the owner, will talk your ear off, but is also really helpful in directing you to any sort of literature on Harlem as well as some great African literature as well. I’m going to keep in touch with Kurt—he has a wonderful access to events/people in Harlem…however, Kurt is also a little quirky. While there, Kurt talked about some of the benefits of tourism to Harlem, how stores like Target and Home Depot did great things to give back to communities, how he hopes that black academics will stay or come to Harlem, that white costumers are less likely to buy books when entering the store, and that white populations are having a damaging effect by moving into Harlem. If I wrote down Kurt’s words, one would assume that he was black and from Harlem. Kurt is white and grew up in the mid-west. Johnny and I laughed about this afterwards, and Johnny said that as far as he can tell, Kurt is very well-liked in the community, but the question still pops into my head as to how someone can be judgmental of whites moving into an area when one is in fact, white. Johnny and I decided that his use of the description “white” was of a very specific demographic, however, I did feel a slight pressure to buy a book so that I wouldn’t fall into his categorization. It was very curious…
Next thing we knew, Kurt is telling us about a wonderful event we missed out on to which a very interesting professor from California attended—Fred Moten. Johnny and I went nuts thinking PS Discuss failed us and why hadn’t we been there 24 hours earlier! He apparently teaches Kurt’s book and we explained that he had been with our department until a few years ago.
At this point, I am reading a book called “Listening to Harlem: Gentrification, community, and business,” which so far has a lot of oral history, and I am planning on making some visits to Kurt, a nearby art gallery, and other recommended spots that I stumble upon. My difficulty in finding a project based in Harlem has been due to being a tourist very specifically within a community, and also through my “whiteness,” especially due to articles I have read online about the influx of tourism and gentrification. The comments Kurt made as a white man who moved to Harlem as a now integrated individual that are essentially hypocritical seems like yet another way of approaching the question of who has ownership of a community and a space…I think the more I read and visit, the better sense I’ll get of my thoughts and final outcome for this project.
Sound Walk Failure
I couldn’t do it guys.
I decided to do the Williamsburg walk, based largely on proximity, just a half hour walk from my house. But also because, in class I asked what relation the soundwalker has to the environment, how it might possibly affect the community around it to have a couple people with white earphones walking the same path every week. This one seemed like the best way to test that out. And man, was I a total failure at it.
Working hard against my natural shyness I arrived white earphones firmly in place, the comforting voice of Pearl Gluck a friendly ghost beside me. Our fearless leader has described in her book Destination Culture, a concept called the museum effect:
''Museum exhibitions transform how people look at their own immediate environs. The museum effect works both ways. Not only do ordinary things become special when placed in museum settings but the museum experience itself becomes a model for experiencing life outside of its walls’’ (destination culture pg. 51)
So what happens when you turn that inside out? When the “museum” of sorts becomes somebody’s neighborhood. (Well in a way. Pearl grew up in Boro Park. It is not explicitly geographic personal history that she is narrating.) I think. But in the museum of sorts, the museum effect has become my head, in my headphones. Honestly, it was a very confusing experience. And I’m not sure how I feel about it or why I might feel this way, but while I was doing it, I felt…weird. Bad. I felt bad. Pearl, my charming hostess, makes the point pretty explicitly that ‘we are not monkeys in a zoo’, and ‘Don’t be disrespectful.’ (Which is certainly not the intent of the soundwalk company. The program is to explore the city in an unobtrusive manner guided by someone who knows and cares about the area, and. I am totally behind it.) But I made me feel like I was on a Star Trek away team. I felt so awkward with my headphones. I wear them everyday on the train, but now they make me feel so obtrusive. Maybe if Pearl’s route had just been a straight line from the Marcy JMZ straight down Bedford or something. But taking the first door you were supposed to walk was where I had to quit. I didn’t do the eating part either. Most of the woman on the street where about my age or younger and maybe it was the closeness of our age…. but I wondered what they would have thought of what I was doing.
in my mind they said:
1) It’s not a big deal, don’t worry about it.
2) Its kind of annoying that you are looking at us like this.
So I quit, hit pause and walked up to Café Naico down the street from my house. I’m familiar with the area. And cup of coffee in hand Pearl Gluck and I sat down wand finished out sound walk together. It’s interesting for me how the production is better (says me) when you aren’t actually doing it. It becomes a radio play of places that I have been and seen. .And places that I will now look at with eyes slightly more like Pearl's. Or at least it’s an experience that is not a little bit scary. The experience for me raised more questions about the soundwalk company than it answered.
I’ll do Times Square maybe and tell you if that one goes better.
Tara's Project Proposal
For my final paper, I am interested in writing about religious procession as a form of tourism. I want to look at the Easter Passion procession, and how normative space is re-imagined through ritualized movement. The passion processional is when a congregation moves from one designated site to another, stopping to enact an interpretation of a station of the cross. Through this communal experience worshipers are able to visit another time and place outside of their own temporality. I am curious how notions about how tourism, as a self-reflective brake with one’s own quotidian life and a consumption of the ‘other’, is realized in a mystical experience.
Currently I am deciding which Easter procession to observe this spring. At the moment there are two that interest me. One is in the Bronx at St. Joseph's Church. “Nearly 3,000 people join this theatrical procession, which ends by re-enacting the crucifixion on a "mountain" near Crotona Park. Since 1970, St. Joseph's has performed the Stations of the Cross ritual in the streets of the South Bronx. Forty people in costume dramatize the ritual in Spanish, with full performances of the Catholic Biblical characters at each Station.” The intense theatricality of this procession interests a great deal, I can really focus on performance elements in a religious context.
The other procession is at St. Teresa Church in Queens. “In this South Ozone Park neighborhood, the Good Friday procession and ritual is performed in English in the morning and Spanish, and French/Creole in the evening. At each stop, members of the parish give personal testimony related to the theme of the Station. Traditional hymns and prayers are offered in one or all of the languages, and the cross and other items associated with the crucifixion are carried. Along the way, neighbors step outside to pray while the procession passes.” I really am attracted to the multi-culturalism of this procession. I would be curious to tease out the way which each culture interprets the passion through a slightly different lens. Also, the way that different cultures push-up against each other in this communal experience. Another element that I am interested in is how parishioners offer their own testimony to faith, and how this story-telling performs in tangent with the embodiment of myth in the process of re-signifying the space.
A Hasidic Adventure in Psychogeography
Having lived in New York City for the past seven years, I have always known and enjoyed the cultural diversity that a person experiences simply by noticing the other people on the street. In previous years I have walked through Manhattan enjoying the experience of crossing neighborhoods, cultural thresholds, determined by history and its inhabitants. For my walking tour, I performed the Alternating-Travel adventure.
I moved to Brooklyn last May, but having started school in June, I haven’t had time to explore my new neighborhood. This particular mode of walking, one with out a designated end point, but with a specific set of directions, is a highly regulated dérive. Lack a specified end point imposed the quality of “mortal danger” that Simmel indicated as being a quality of the adventure. Was I going to get lost in the unending urban expanse of Brooklyn? I didn’t being a map and I was by myself. My the precision with which I was executing my instructions, turn right then left, etc., was my insurance that I would get home. As long as I didn’t deviate from my right-left rubric, I could retrace my steps.
Trust in this structure allowed me to explore to places in a new way. “But the derive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variation by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities.” Cutting my serpentine path through Brooklyn rearranged both my perception of my surrounding and my conception of myself within it. I meditated both on the meaning of the cultural signifiers that I happened upon, as well as my relationship to them as an “outsider.” By having no destination, and no purpose other than the experience of the surrounding, I truly found myself a tourist in my own neighborhood. The very sensation of walking in this way, slow, methodical, my attention tried to details surrounding me, insisted of consumed with my person thoughts and anxieties, caused moments of disassociation. I would catch myself feeling as through I was back in a foreign country, where I have many times performed this manner of walking.
The foreignness of the adventure was heightened by the tremendous cultural disjuncture between the neighborhoods. I began in front my house, on the corner of a distinctly Italian neighborhood, and turned left into a little touch of Puerto Rico. Passing giant murals of the Virgin Mary, and Churches in Spanish, I entered into a notably black neighborhood. I was twilight, and while I trusted the relative safety of the area, as performing the role of the tourist, I couldn’t help but feel I was some place I shouldn’t be. I walked underneath the JMZ train, which marked my psychological boarder of my neighborhood, I embarked into unknown territory. It was dark now, and when I turned a corner and came face to fast with a housing project, I started to seriously consider the importance of the exercise compared to my personal safety. But I noticed something odd, three younger girls came out of the building, all modestly dressed in dark clothes. Now I live across from another project complex, and I knew because I was allowing the fun of being a tourist the danger was only in my head giving me a little adrenalin boost. But these sight of young modestly dressed girls going out at night was a clear indication of a neighborhood’s safety. The next thing I saw made everything make sense. A man walking with his two young sons were all dressed in black, all wearing the Hasidic curls, and the man had a circular hat propped on the top of his head, of a style I have never seen before. I looked around, and suddenly, from around the corners, groups of families looking just like this man, were walking, presumably on their way home.
I had never been to the Hasidic area of Brooklyn. I know they were there, every once and a while I would run into a Hasidic on the train, but having entered this little world, I was enthralled. Suddenly my Brooklyn was no longer mine, it was point of connection between American capital and industry and old world Europe. The effect of the psycogeography hit me like a ton of bricks, igniting my imagination and sensitizing my awareness. I felt like I was in Shakespeare’s Venice, only without the threat of violence which had followed the Jewish culture for centuries. Physically I was exploring a geographic area, but psychological I was reveling in the history of the Jewish people. From the pogroms in Russia to the Holocaust and the founding of Israel, I had always been amazed and humbled by the endurance of the Jewish tradition. And now walking through a highly orthodox form of that tradition, I felt my own “shiksa” identity.
The encounter with the unfamiliar, with the ‘other’ so to speak, the key ingredient to an adventure, inspires the self-reflection that informs the value of the experience. Simmel wrote “There is in us an eternal process playing back and forth between chance and necessity, between fragmentary materials given us from the outside and the consistent meaning of the life developed from within.” The theory around an adventure, as a metaphor for the larger adventure of life, causes me to think of the medieval labyrinth. The labyrinth, found throughout the world, has its historical European roots in medieval Christianity. The labyrinth represents the course of life, a walking meditation full of unexpected surprises. While one is walking a labyrinth, the individual becomes spatially disoriented, and in this disorientation from temporal association, one if free to encounter abstract notions of God.
I wouldn’t say I found God in Brooklyn, but my temporary brake from my habitual world did invite me to cross the paths of multiple cultural labyrinths. I found myself on a parallel life adventure as the Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn reminding me how closely tied together this world is.
February 24, 2007
For my final project, I’d like to study the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn. I visited it last weekend with Arrie, and I’m still trying to digest the experience. While I am Jewish, my experience of the religion is from a pretty liberal point of view, and I have had very little exposure to orthodox and Hassidic neighborhoods, practices, and people. However, I’m very familiar with children’s museums having worked in one for two summers. I’m interested in how culture is marketed and presented to children and how children learn about cultures different than their own. The Jewish Children’s Museum follows a similar interface to other museums that cater to this age group. It is very interactive, educational, creative, and colorful. It makes great use of technology and includes multi-sensory experiences and arts and crafts. What makes it different from any other children’s museum however is that while it has a huge cultural and ethnic base to draw from, it is essentially about a religion, and that makes me nervous. I’m interested in exploring the commercialization and commodification of religious values that are present and the marketing to a young audience. What concerns me is that the mission statement states “The Museum is a setting for children of all faiths and backgrounds to gain a positive perspective and awareness of the Jewish heritage, fostering tolerance and understanding.” (from their website) However, the only non-Jews who I saw there were either janitors or security officers. I’m interested in the relationship between the museum and children in the neighborhood and city who are not Jewish. For example, when Arrie and I went to do our craft (making a bracelet with our Hebrew name), the staff person didn’t know at first what to do about Arrie because she doesn’t have a Hebrew name. I’m curious what the museum does to reach out to the non-Jewish community. I’ll definitely be planning to go back and visit the museum again, so if anyone’s interested in checking it out, let me know!
Rebekah's experience in Harlem
This past week Arrie and I visited Harlem and attempted to do some of the things on the Latourex list. We were shown around by our friend Johnny, who is somewhat of a local because he has lived in Harlem for the past 9 months. He knows a lot about the neighborhood and had in fact written a walking tour of the area based upon sites that relate to the life of Malcolm X. So, from the beginning we were privileged to a different perspective on the region and its history. I’d never been up to Harlem before and even though I live in New York, I felt like a complete outsider during our tour. (Though I must say I feel like an outsider even in the neighborhood where I live in Brooklyn.) Anyway, we did the picture taking activity, where we took pictures looking away from the sites as opposed to of the sites themselves. Then we visited a Soul Food restaurant, Sylvia’s, which seemed fitting of a visit to the neighborhood, and ate Harlem fried chicken and waffles (another activity on the list- to eat food named after a place).
I understand the soundwalks and other activities to be a way of reimagining public space, and while I’m not sure if the goal is necessarily to get away from being a tourist, the approaches allow someone to explore a place in a way different from that of a “typical” tourist. Or, as David Pinder says in his article, these tactics involve “ways of sensing, feeling and experiencing [cities’] spaces differently, and with contesting ‘proper’ orderings of space to allow something ‘other’ to emerge.” (386-7) However, while in Harlem, I felt completely like a tourist. The only other that seemed to immerge was me. Every time I took out my camera, I immediately felt like an outsider. Thing is, I’m sure the way I appeared made me look like an outsider even without a camera in my hand. I found that taking pictures pointed away from the sites made me feel voyeuristic and intrusive because I just ended up taking photos of people going about their daily lives, which seemed rude. On the other hand, I loved the restaurant because it was something different. I’ve always wanted to try soul food, and now I can say I like collared greens. Normally I’d consider my experience in Harlem to be just a way of opening up my world view and learning more about this city where I live, and it’s true that’s what my experience was. But I couldn’t help thinking that another reason I delighted in eating at Sylvia’s was just the novelty of it—that I was able to taste a bit of the world of an “other.” For some reason this cheapens my experience there. Maybe I’ll just have to go back and try to learn about the area in a more intimate way.
Walking tour through Mardi Gras
The following is an account of my experience participating in a walking tour of sorts. Although not exactly a sound walk or a derive, this tour challenged my ordinary daily orientation as it informed me of an alternate way of engaging with the place.
This past Tuesday was Mardi Gras. I had the opportunity to go back to New Orleans for the surrounding five days of this holiday. I am from there and try to return whenever it is possible, especially for Mardi Gras. I participated in a walking parade called the St. Anthony Ramblers (SAR). It is one of several hundred walking parades during Mardi Gras. These are different than the float parades in the way that they are organized. At least in SAR there are no designated royalty and the participants are neighbors and friends. Friends living on St. Anthony Street in the Marigny neighborhood started SAR nine years ago. A group of 150-200 people, including an eight person jazz band, walked through the neighborhoods (or Faubourgs) of the Marigny, Treme, and French Quarter. We started walking at 10am and continued on the 2-mile route for 5 hours.
The map of the route: click here
In the beginning, when we were close to our starting point, there were many people sitting on their stoops laughing and waving. As we got closer to the French Quarter, more people would come out and join us for a while. As we were all in full costume, dancing with a full band, many people were taking photographs of us. I had this funny moment when I stepped out from the street to take a picture of a costumed observer. I thought about the fluidity or shifting role between participant and observer.
Through out the day the route was punctuated by stops at various bars. Especially as the day progressed, these stops became increasingly chaotic resembling more of a street party than walking parade. At one point we were coming head on with another walking parade. A group decision had to be made- should we continue on and walk through each other or turn and take a detour. The decision was made to turn as it was later in the day and most of us were completely intoxicated and some may have gotten lost in the crowd.
Through the years SAR has walked a similar route. Since Katrina there have been so many changes to both the condition of the architecture as well as the general morale of the city. Like the rest of New Orleans, in the neighborhoods we walked through there were many unrepaired houses. I noticed the way light would shine through the holes in the houses in an eerie way.
I thought about the impressions the place has on my body. On one level there was a playful celebratory quality to the day but there was an intense undertone of loss and devastation. That I was dancing for most of the day along this pathway, I felt a certain transmission was enabled through the relationship between my body and the environment- as though dancing has the potential to download the subtle unseen emotionality of the city. Like lying still after a day in the ocean, for days after I felt a sadness or emptiness that accompanies loss.
I know that most of the people I was with are privileged in that they were even able to be present. Although many of my friends and family lost there homes there are so many people who cannot return to New Orleans. The feeling of the people I was with when they were walking this route was as though they were partying to survive, trying to reinfuse life in the city through dance and music.
Dasha's project proposal - investigating Haitian dance as tourist production
I have been intrigued by the use of movement forms as a medium of cultural experience for others. For my project I have decided to examine the phenomenon of presenting secularized forms of traditional dance – in this case Haitian Voudou dance – to US audiences. I will be doing so through my own participation in classes, rehearsals and performing in a Haitian cultural event in April, and discussions with my Haitian teachers and fellow dancers.
I have been intrigued by the use of movement forms as a medium of cultural experience for others. For my project I have decided to examine the phenomenon of presenting secularized forms of traditional dance – in this case Haitian Voudou dance – to US audiences. I will be doing so through my own participation in classes, rehearsals and performing in a Haitian cultural event in April, and discussions with my Haitian teachers and fellow dancers.
These movement forms are rooted in tradition and they are linked with the histories and daily lives of particular groups of people, each drum rhythm coordinating to particular movements and religious moments or spirits, however, this re-presentation process involves a complicated network of diaspora communities of different cultures – dynamically effected by the shifting forces of transnationalism, economics, and individual artistic motivations. The process of presenting traditional forms in contemporary contexts seem to serve both of MacCarrell’s “essential functions” of cultural productions – by “sanctifying an original” and “establish[ing] a new direction” in such a way that teachers simultaneously revere these dances as ancestral and modern.
I will be framing my study through the modes of creation (how much of the movement is claimed to be traditionally passed down and how much is artistic flavor?), connection (what histories are being shared, and what does it mean to participants to be involved with these cultural memories?), and dissemination (what are the methods and messages of presentation?). For example, it is stated on my teacher’s website, “Peniel's dream is to learn and master as many traditional dances, of Haiti and Africa as time allows and to become the ambassador of Haitian culture in order to represent Haitian culture worldwide.” (http://www.tamboula.com/director.html) This notion of being a cultural ambassador provides an interesting perspective when considering the role of tourism in these interactions.
What is fascinating about the teaching and dancing of these dances is the community that is formed through them. In looking at this community though the framing offered by tourism is applicable because participants are contributing – whether consciously or not – in a refashioning and [re]presentation of particular African-rooted cultural practices. They engage, but superficially, in order to fulfill some aspect of their own modern self. Communities all over the world are centered around African diaspora dance, and although they have regional character, I can travel to any one of them, take a class, and feel somewhat ‘at home’. What sense of nation and belonging is at play here? How is this connected to tourism off the beaten track?
Tourist adventures plus project ideas
I have been having difficulty finding a project that I feel truly invested in, but I have been having lots of tourism adventures over the past week, and hopefully I found a promising project.
I have been having difficulty finding a project that I feel truly invested in, but I have been having lots of tourism adventures over the past week, and hopefully I found a promising project.
Last Sunday, Rebekah and I went to the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. First, I must say, rarely is something relatively easy to get to from my area in Brooklyn, so I was delighted when I stepped off the 3 to see the large photographic image of the front of the museum. A lot of creativity has been invested in bringing Jewish history and culture into the realm of children’s appreciation—the giant matzah balls holding computer screens that printed out selected international recipes were my favorite. Being non-Jewish, I was surprised by the number of interactive sections in which I could not participate. I had assumed with a mission statement of being “a setting for children of all faiths and backgrounds to gain a positive perspective and awareness of the Jewish heritage, fostering tolerance and understanding,” that the exhibits would help to teach visitors more than test them. A bit frustrated with my naïveté, I could picture that one kid in every class who knows EVERYTHING and likes to show it off in front of the less knowledgeable students. While there were things I learned, I was disappointed that so much in the displays remained a mystery.
Tuesday, I went on another outing with Rebekah to Harlem to meet Johnny, another PS student who lives there and wrote a walking tour about Malcom X. We walked mainly on 125th street, checking out the Apollo, Hotel Theresa, Blumstein’s and the many histories and stories behind these sites. Johnny’s personal relationships with the sites mixed with the historic descriptions, created a street that was a neighborhood rather than a simple tourist destination. Reading about Harlem, it is as if the area and it’s buildings had ceased to change and that they were only historical moments. However in speaking to people, it is impossible to think that this area is anything but very much alive and evolving.
As an alternate form of tourism, we took pictures with our backs to the typical “tourist” attractions. What interested me in doing this was how many brand names appeared in these shots—McDonald’s, Foot Locker, and other advertisements. It made me more aware of the level of commercialization on every street corner—while tourist sites have another level of commercialism, product placement in and around these buildings was really striking. Additionally, hearing Johnny speak about the attempted encroachment of Columbia and the potential of drastic change within the neighborhood, I questioned who has ownership of these communities?
An additional tourist alternative we investigated was the gastronomic tourism. I decided to try to stick with eating things that started with “H” for Harlem rather than “N” for New York. In addition to the honey roasted peanuts that were sold at the subway exit (which I thought, this and a hot dog do not really seem to add up to something unique from the area…) we went to Sylvia’s Restaurant and split Harlem style fried chicken and waffles. Unfortunately, they were out of Harlem’s own Sugar Hill beer, so we had to settle for Heineken.
Something that we missed out on seeing Tuesday, but I am going back to visit tomorrow was a bookstore that Johnny recommended where the owner loves talking about the history of the neighborhood. For my project, I want to research the oral histories that make this community so vibrant. It is always fascinating to me when I am with a friend and hearing their own accounts of a city—while history books tend to portray everything as “finished,” there is something live and continual in the stories people tell about the places they live in. Oral histories make me question how history and information are transmitted and how simple personal stories can add to the three dimensionality of space. I’m hoping my visit tomorrow will help me to solidify my project topic and I will re-post. If the bookstore doesn’t lead to good and hopeful outlets, I will be posting another project proposal tomorrow…
Additionally, I went to the Museum of Sex on Friday, which to be honest was to me, well, anti-climatic. The Kink exhibit was more what I had been expecting from the whole museum, but the main exhibit floors were dark, felt closer to a porn-shop than a museum, and were sparse as far as documenting sexuality. While the Kink display was bright, educational, and full of shock-value, the upper floors felt lacking, especially with sexuality being such a vast subject.
Tomorrow, before Harlem, I plan on finding the Surveillance Camera Players Tour that I posted about earlier—I’m really enjoying this alternative investigation of the city (the readings also reminded me of a crazy night in undergrad when we tried to get into the tunnels under the school, but couldn’t figure out how some other guys had opened up the manhole cover).
Claire's Project Idea
My final project for this class has drastically shifted in the last 24 hours! I have been thinking about the relationship between tourism and dance, specifically the experience of the dancer’s movement pathways. I am primarily interested in the dynamic between location and movement pathway, and how this informs the dancers relationship to place.
I am equally interested in visual art as I am in dance, especially when the visual is the trace or evidence of previous movement in that space. Often visual art is translated to new locations and the imagined memory of the movement surrounding the piece is also in a way displaced. Graffiti is interesting in this way of visibility in its site-specificity. I have chosen to write this paper on the implied movement of graffiti. I have not decided if I will choose a specific graffiti artist to write about or if I will write about the following project.
1. Go to various locations with graffiti, and with movement trace the graffiti pathways. Use these movements as score to improvise in that space.
2. Not getting arrested… create either stencil or graffiti “markers” in a 2-3 block area. These points of reference created by movement afterwards would suggest movement as others travel through this pathway. This would be a “dancing tour.” The marks on the surface of the wall or ground would be reproductions of the sun’s pathway as it is seen through my closed-eye head movement. The sun’s abstract script would be burned into the retina as I dance at the site. Reproduced on a surface it becomes a map for the orientation of the eyes to the sun. This could either be wild frenetic dancing movement or more spatially aware of the specificity of the immediate surroundings. As I have just learned to make websites(!)- I would want to document the process and offer a map of where to do for the dancing tour. It would be for the discretion of the “touring dancer” to either trace the movement pathways with the body (like in the example #1 above), or use the graffiti as a map to the sun. In this choice there would be an immense amount of variation for many reasons, including season/time of day.
With these ideas I would like to work with place as palimpsest/ the habitual daily movement/ and movement that suggests an alternate orientation or …disorientation.
While reading Janelle Brown's "Online and Underground", I immediately agreed with the essay's expression that " only a certain kind of person would dare to venture into the blackened basement of an abandoned lunatic asylum and brave the invisible ghosts simply to observe and understand." However, my question is this ... What kind of person?
In his essay, "Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography", Debord finds that "we are led to undertake on the arrangement of the elements of the urban setting in close relation with the sensations they provoke." What are the sensations being sought by people like Julia Solis, who hosts dinner parties in NYC subway tunnels dressed in a period style costume, which she titles as "dark passage infiltration parties"?
Brown acknowledges the obvious 'rush' appeal to adventurers inhabiting prohibited spaces, but Solis's explanation of her desire as "confronting your fears, going into spaces that are dangerous and very creepy" makes me suspect of her motives.
Subway tunnels and abandoned buildings are sites where the homeless population struggles to survive and it seems to me that an act of entitled infringement on these spaces for personal revelry is somehow immoral or in bad taste. I had a similar reaction when I read Jim’s posting about the ‘border crossing experience'. The seekers of adventures of this sort are indeed a particular type, but what in their psyche provides the thrill? People are fighting for their lives in these spaces, and the last thing they need is Solis in their tunnel, dressed up like queen Victoria, eating tofu and drinking red wine!
I understand that these experiences are created in order to cross ‘imaginary boundaries’, but until Solis invites the people trying to stay warm in a cardboard box to join her party, I think she should stay home.
Brown points out that is not only the adrenaline rushes that drive these explorers, but also "the poetry of this pursuit that draws them in." In that case, are we to attribute these infiltrations to artistic passion? Are we to identify these adventurers as artists/ 'poets'? As Simmel states in "The Adventure" there is a “profound affinity between the adventurer and the artist, and also, perhaps of the artist’s attraction by adventure”.
I am not arguing an artistic connection to these forms of exploration and the seeking out of performative spaces; rather, I feel that in crossing 'imaginary boundaries' this pursuit of the off-limits experience can go too far.
Dasha's alternating travel - mediating mind and matter
The prospect of an “alternating travel” tour from my front door to a dead end in Brooklyn was really appealing to me because I have quickly fallen in love with the city since moving here in September.
The prospect of an “alternating travel” tour from my front door to a dead end in Brooklyn was really appealing to me because I have quickly fallen in love with the city since moving here in September. I am constantly in awe of the diversity one stumbles upon when traversing from one block to the next. The city is filled with so many humans! A multitude of lives being lived. (There is something in Brooklyn that makes me feel this more than in Manhattan. Perhaps it is the livable character of the environment, as opposed to the consumer character one experiences in Manhattan? Nevertheless, it was the realization that Brooklyn offered a wealth of continuously changing, yet historically rooted, niches and communities with which I became smitten.
This fascination and adoration of Kings County began in August during my desperate and exhausting apartment hunt. During that time I spent endless days on craigslist – a veritable warzone at that time of year – and over the course of a month I traveled back and forth from Boston to New York five times. Superficially exploring a few neighborhoods (mostly checking out what coffeeshops were around and where I could buy organic groceries) and chatting with people who lived in the area, I came to formulate my own, and recognize others’, particular generalized imaginings about neighborhoods. These understandings concerned the people who do live in certain neighborhoods, and also regarded those who could – and could not – live in those neighborhoods. I thought of this process – and the continuation of the discursive notions about these neighborhoods -- while reading in “Theory of the Dérive”, Chombart de Lauwe’s comment that “an urban neighborhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other neighborhoods have of it.” It is these images, rather than the geographical and economic factors, that come to define the lay person’s impression of a city. However, without attention to the larger structures that frame why and how people gain or are granted “rights to the city” – as Pinder discusses – these impressions lack historical specificity.
Henri Lefebvre’s term “the right to the city,” which Pinder explains as being “the right to dwell in and to inhabit the city, the right to urban life and encounter, to the use of moments and places, to participation and socialization” (397) preoccupies my daily experiences in Brooklyn, as I am constantly wondering, Who and what was here before? What kinds of histories are being maintained? Who in this neighborhood uses what kind of space? I can’t help but begin to think about these issues as I examine why people like me are able to live in neighborhoods like the one I live (Prospect Heights) and what kind of effects this change in demographics has on community life. This is why I found Pinder’s section ‘Psychogeography and the rights to the city’ refreshing, as he reminds the reader that psychogeographical explorations are positioned within complex urban realities that artists sometimes are and sometimes are not able to confront. He points out that the activities he describes are “relatively detached from the kinds of day-to-day struggles of poorer local residents, whose limited choices are the result, not simply of subjective and imaginative factors but, as Rosalyn Deutsche and Cara Gendel Ryan point out, ‘of the formidable economic forces arrayed against them’.” (399) However, he does compliment this perspective by suggesting the acts of psychogeographers “find different ways of attending to the ‘quality of life’ in the city” (399). It is the tension between these issues – the structures and struggles that are not addressed by these actions and those that are – that I find so intriguing and complex.
I thought about this a lot as my travel route took me from the south part of Prospect Heights, down through Crown Heights, and into what I assume is Lefferts Garden. It was a direction I had never walked. The first few blocks were in an area I had biked through a few times, but I had never actually placed my feet on those sidewalks in that way. I passed by a young woman, greeting a neighbor, “How ya doin’ today, Ms. Jerry? Its beautiful weather, isn’t it, Ms. Jerry?” And just a few moments later, a young man runs after her, “You can’t wait for me? Bitch!” She replies, “We aren’t going to the same place!” My smile turned into a sigh. I kept going, heard a father-type ask a passing child, “How ya doing in school?” I saw a great mural on the side of a Key Foods (large images of women, brown of all types, with scenes of school/work/family/play activities within the forms of their torsos), crossed Eastern Parkway, and headed down Franklin Ave. Here I felt the incongruity of my own walking with a purpose in contrast to the Friday afternoon ambience that emanated from the groups lingering in front of the corner stores. I passed by a group of four policemen strolling. This caused me to recognize my own out-of-place-ness on this block. It also recalled concerns of rights – were I of a different color and sex out of place in a different neighborhood…— and concepts of “quality of life”. I was also passed by three police cars [what I assessed to be] patrolling over the course of the next fifteen minutes.
Walking on I found the Hasidic area. I thought of that notion mentioned in “Theory of the Dérive”, “…One measures the distances that actually separate two regions of a city, distances that may have little relation with the physical distance between them…” I wondered if the black/Jew cohabitation was delineated in particular ways, or if there was some sort of historic understanding of who belonged where and who didn’t. A very young girl – maybe nine? – ran out of the door of one house holding an aluminum tray of cooked chickens (or maybe challahs?) and into another house two doors down. I glanced at the cars parked on the street. An “I [heart] Jesus” air freshener hung from one’s rearview mirror. Other cars had bumper stickers in Hebrew. An older black woman was getting out of her car and speaking to an older black man walking up the front steps of a house.
Continuing to alternate right and left, I was slowly heading downhill. I came upon a main street. Although there was much car traffic, the sidewalks were relatively deserted. I saw less Hasidic Jews. I found some open park areas connected to schools. The architecture had changed from brownstones (limestones?) to very small brick row houses. I found a huge “Jewish” hospital.
Emerging onto Utica Ave I felt like I was in a part of another city – Roxbury, MA – where large chain stores and gas stations overwhelm any sense of peace. A White Castle in Brooklyn? I was surprised. I also felt as though I had hit that dead end – the parking lots of the stores took over my path. I knew I could keep going by fudging it, but the map of Brooklyn popped into my mind (is that cheating?) and I had a sense of this walk becoming neverending if I didn’t stop here. I decided to take two lefts in a row to head back the direction I came. The route back seemed so much more familiar. The second time passing through these streets was very different from the first. I was calmer going back home. I recognized corners, buildings, people. Pinder references Doreen Massey’s work in For Space, particularly her emphasis on the “potential surprise” within space, and her “approach that emphasizes dynamic simultaneity, where space is in process and incomplete, where it eludes final determination and representation.” (390) The contrast between the dynamics of space and the constraints upon these spaces is a magic and tension most fascinating in Brooklyn. My own walk through neighborhoods I normally would never go only pushed me to further question my place – literally in this space of Brooklyn and in graduate school – within these incomplete and in-process representations that Massey discusses. How can we make urban explorations more connected to the people that actually live within their settings? It is hard not to thing of the colonial connotations of “exploration” when privilege is re-asserted in such activities. Yet, it is important to insert ourselves in these settings, attempt to stimulate conversation, and challenge the perpetuation of stagnant stereotypes or destructive representations.
chia-fen's proposal on the pilgrimage project
The 2003 Baishatun Matsu Pilgrimage in Taiwan has altered my life. Since then I seldom stopped wondering about its meaning to me. In this paper, I’ll frame the pilgrimage with E. M. Bruner’s analysis model – pre-tour, on-tour, post-tour, examining the anthropologist P. Steven Sangren and the Performance Studies scholar Craig Quintero’s observations about the Matsu pilgrimage in Taiwan as well as my own experiences as a local, a theatre graduate student, a pilgrim, and a tourist. The Matsu folklore and the Taiwanese national identity would be one clue, the bodily experiences of walk, pain, and loneliness another, and the performer training as a tourist (theatre worker) attraction the other.
Years passed by. When I went back to read the related materials on and off, I realized in a sudden that I was pushed to the pilgrimage because of the Poland theatre director Jerzy Grotowski. Because of Grotowski, the Taiwanese theatre workers of U Theatre started to trace back, looking for their own roots as Chinese or Taiwanese in heritages such as traditional performance and folk religion. However, what a paradoxical epistemology – why do we have to see our own culture via the Polish performer training? It seems that the performer training is also a tourist attraction, which is established through the accumulation of markers, just that the tourist attraction is fixed on a certain location but the performer training can be exchanged and consumed all over the globe. My memories of this pilgrimage are fading away, but still some images, sounds, and feelings remain. I’ll put them down in this paper, as a memento of that unforgettable bodily and spiritual journey.
I. Introduction: pilgrimage and tourism
A. My resistance to the pilgrimage, unnamable
B. Matsu, the sea goddess: folklore and folk cult
C. Pre-departure Seminar in the Graduate School of Theatre Arts, Taipei National University of the Arts: field investigation and performer training (concealed subtext at then: Grotowski and U Theatre)
III. On-tour (Separation and Liminality)
A. Bodily Experience
a) Body as a map: the Chinese body, the “Chi” body
b) Walk: body-mind dualism, pain and loneliness
c) Another space-time
B. Social Experience
a) Basic necessities: food, clothing, housing, and transportation
b) Communitas, carnival, and class consciousness
c) Folk cult network as social network
C. Religious Experience
a) Ritual and performance
b) Conversations with the Goddess: I and thou
IV. Post-tour (Incorporation)
A. Grotowski’s Objective Drama and U Theatre’s “Plan of Tracing Back”
B. Pathology and healing/ structure and anti-structure
C. Invisible city: my resistance as a local and the rosy lens of the Western anthropologist and Performance Studies scholar
V. Conclusion: Birth of a Tourist/Performer Training Attraction
A. Grotowski’s performer training as a theatre worker-tourist attraction
B. Post-modern or post-colonial epistemology: establishing and exchanging markers to know the self
C. My own writing as “tracing back”
I just wanted to draw everyone's attention to this fantastic architecture blog you may or may not be familiar with that often touches on issues of urbanism/psychogeography/etc. that we've been discussing:
in particular this post, titled Urban Knot Theory, seems relevant to discussions of alternative tourism.
I have two ideas in particular for my final project and would love to get input on both of them:
1) The Road Trip as Tourist Production: I've noticed that much of the literature we've examined emphasizes the importance of the method of conveyance and the significance of the journey in tourist productions. At the same time, we've looked into a variety of tourist sites (and tourist 'traps') individually that I have previously encountered/enjoyed while on road trips. I would be interested in doing a project that examines these sites together as part of that (to my mind) uniquely USian tourist production, the road trip. So much of US tourism seems to be directly connected to the economy of the Interstate Highway system, and I think theorizing around this system as a whole tourist production could be very interesting. At the same time, I've been a bit perturbed by the Situationists' denigration of vehicular travel in their articulation of derives, and would be interested in trying to develop some Latourex style alternative tourism models expressly designed for automobile-centric tourism.
2) As I continue my studies I am focusing on a project that examines diplomacy and espionage as performance. To that end I think it would be quite useful for me to undertake an examination of the recently opened (2003/2004) International Spy Museum, in Washington DC. I've visited the museum once before, it has fascinating exhibits about the history of espionage, a 4 star cafe with spy-themed cocktails, and an interactive 'theme-park' sort of atmosphere where young and old get to play at being James Bond or Harry Palmer. My hypothesis going in would be to imagine the site (via Althusser) as an ideological state apparatus providing a happy-go-luck gloss for the repressive state apparatus embodied by the CIA and FBI. (The tour of the J Edgar Hoover FBI building might be another worthwhile side trip for this project (except I just noticed that tour has been shut down indefinitely), or even the recently opened National Museum of the Marine Corps).
Beatrice- Project Proposal
The focus of my project has shifted! I am now interested in doing something around my own neighbourhood, Williamsburg's South Side (Brooklyn.)
After the readings on psychogeography, I would like to create a project that deals with space and how it is remembered, perceived, re-imagined, and envisioned for the future. My neighborhood is undergoing a lot of change as gentrification expands from North Williamsburg to the spaces immediately around it. I, myself, am part of that process and find my own position problematic. I would like to research the history of the space where I live: that history might be a mix of “historical facts” and interviews of more recent memories collected within the neighborhood. I envision the final project as an intervention onto the space itself. Here are two ideas that I have come up with:
1. SOUTH SIDE BALL
Constructing a ball that I can roll around my neighborhood and fill
with personal objects that the community in which I live in is planning
to throw out. I would like to develop some sort of fantastic narrative
for the ball and maybe create a little open market on the street in
which the objects are displayed and given away. I'm interested in
personal objects because of their possibilities for stories. I would
like to create a setting where people can come together to talk and look
at what's ended up in the ball- maybe take it back, maybe leave with
something else, maybe leave it there. The idea has developed out of my
own sense of removal from the neighborhood in which I live. I would
like to enter into dialogue with the community in a way that's not too
intrusive or forceful, playing on the visibility of my intrusion and possibly inspiring curiosity and more communication. SOUTH SIDE BALL would be about play...
2. SENSORIAL COLLECTOR
I was thinking of performing a semi autobiographic character who
empirically collects the smells and sounds of her neighborhood. This is
a more provocative project, where I look at how living in an "exotic"
neighborhood can become problematic. It would be a performance piece not
necessarily involved with my community, as much as with the neighboring
North Side, already completely gentrified North Side. Or maybe for
people in Manhattan: the Brooklyn explorer who brings back the authentic
smells and sounds (all sealed in containers with empirically accurate
descriptions of what they hold.) This is the more interesting starting
idea for the time being, but I am not sure about how to develop it, or
even if it is ethically sustainable.
Before heading down to New Orleans last weekend, I downloaded a rather traditional audio tour of the French Quarter (from audiosteps.com). Unfortunately, given the time constraints imposed on my visit, I was unable to take the tour while in New Orleans. Left with a 48 track audio tour on my iPod, I decided to take a page from the Situationists and DeBord, taking the French Quarter tour in my own neighborhood of Bushwick in Brooklyn. (something akin to Debord's friend who "had just wandered through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London" (Debord, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography)
As the tour narrator began rattling off the history of Jackson Square, I stared from my front door into the vacant lot across the street. Disorientation would be the name of the game in this Derive. At the outset my brain began forcing connections between the auricular descriptions of colonial architecture and the 20th century urban environment that met my eyes. The cast iron railings on the balconies of French quarter homes became the iron bars masking the windows of the homes I passed. A green pyramidal cupola on one home stood in for the spire of a cathedral to which the narrator drew my attention. Bushwick Leaders High School became for a moment the New Orleans School of Cooking. And so on. As Debord argues, chance is not meant to be part of a derive, rather, I found myself more consciously creating connections and making decisions than I would on a normal stroll or tour. Indeed, the disconnect between the streets named by the narrator giving directions and the street signs I passed negated the usual passivity inherent in a guided tour: if the corner of DeKalb and Bushwick was to stand in for St. Peters and Chartres streets, I would have to decide which was which in order to keep up with my urban mash-up tour. The experience was interesting in this sense: the tour became distinctly my own, neither a tour of Bushwick nor a tour of the French Quarter (and of course not not either of those things either) -- it became an intensely personal experience.
The tour also allowed me to see my neighborhood anew -- to discover a gorgeous baroque-looking church some few blocks from my apartment, for instance. Most significant for me was the experience of color. While previously my internal image of the area in which I live was composed of earthtones, bright colors suddenly jumped out to greet me -- from hand painted bird sculptures on the fence of one home passed to the intense green of the astroturf laid out in front of another.
In many ways as well, the coincidence of the auditory and visual experiences were quite telling. Two moments in particular stand out. First, as I began to recognize in the narrator's narrative the construction of New Orleans as a colonial 'other' within the continental United States (much of the literature on NO refers to this pervasive trope in the construction of New Orleans as a tourist production, often comparing it to Hawaii in this sense), I began musing on the ways the same could be said of many of New York's ethnic neighborhood. Certainly part of the attraction to me of living in an urban environment, and specifically a 'fringe' neighborhood like Bushwick, was the degree to which it was unlike the bourgeois suburb in which I grew up. Similarly, I can remember countless occasions when I or others have lauded New York City for being so unlike, so outside of, so 'other than' the rest of the US. The second coincidence I encountered was somewhat more insidious -- I passed a police station in Bushwick just as the narrator suggested I should be passing a police station in New Orleans. In that instant the systems of control and observation that constitute much of urban geography (cf. Foucault, the carceral city) seemed laid bare.
One aspect of the experience that the literature we read seems only to hint at was the degree to which memory played a significant role. Though no longer in New Orleans, I found myself recalling many of the places to which the audioguide referred me, superimposing my memory onto my present empirical observations. The most jarring moment of memory insinuating itself into my tour came as I passed a graffiti covered building, 889 Bushwick Avenue. There amongst the various tags I noticed a repeated symbol, a box with an x inside it, that was ubiquitous on the streets of New Orleans. While in New York I could only guess at the symbol's meaning, in New Orleans it identified a particular national guard or infantry unit. The units would mark each house they inspected with this symbol, to mark their passing, and with other symbols, to identify the survivors or remains discovered within each building.
Beatrice - From Bridge to Bridge
On Monday, February 19th, my sister Eleonora and I ventured on our alternatively designed dérive. In our walk, we decided to get from our apartment building, two blocks north of the Williamsburg Bridge on the Brooklyn side, to the Brooklyn Bridge, south of our home. Our only sense of distance and direction was defined by a glance at our New York City MTA map (which, by the way, has some issues of scale!) We left our apartment building around 2 p.m. and started walking in the general direction of the bridge in cold, sunny weather. The walk, up to our destination, ended up taking about two hours, most of which were spent next to desolate roads, the BQE, and huge industrial constructions. On our way, we met several people whom we asked for directions, and the walk quickly became an occasion for interactions that would otherwise be unlikely within a more controlled context (i.e. one in which our sense of place and our intention were clearer.)
The methodology of our own dérive had embedded with it the necessity of interaction with community members on the way to our destination in order to ask for directions. While Guy-Errnest Dubord makes it a point to argue that, in a dérive, “the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people,” (Theory of the Dérive) I find the emphasis on the walkers's experience of the dérive a little dissatisfying. This is also true of Simmel’s focus, in “The Adventurer,” on the experience and qualities of the individual taking up the adventure. Both writers are very interested in the “active” role of the person undertaking the walk or adventure: yet what about the role of those who participate in the performance but with a role other than that of the central performer?
In fact, the dérive, as other projects involving psychogeography, are themselves performances. In these performances, the kind of interaction between performer (the walker/s) and the audience/spectators (the people encountered on the walk) is mediated differently from the tourist productions we have considered so far. My sister and I, for example, asked for directions on several occasions and each time where met with a particular perspective which was not necessarily conspiring 1) with our own project; 2) with other perspectives. For instance, two of the people we met highly discouraged us from pursuing our walk: “What? The Brooklyn Bridge? Do you know where that is? You are faaaar,” or “Brooklyn Bridge? The Williamsburg Bridge is right over there!” In these encounters, it became very clear that there was no total environment designed around our walk: the impression of some tourist productions that everything is conspiring to give you the whole, the best, or the most authentic experience was far from our adventure. We also met people who did not question our goal and gave us tips on how to get to the Brooklyn Bridge quicker: where they people who walked more? How was their sense of time and distance different from those who discouraged us? What informed the assumptions about distance and time that different people had? (Here there seems to be a lot of room for exploring what might or might not be considered leisure and what events- such as walks- are considered worthwhile pursuing.)
In the readings available this week, I found that the projects dealing with psychogeography that most appealed to me where the ones in which the relationship between performer and audience was questioned/highlighted/blurred. The projects described by Pinder which involved “listening to the city, listening to the multiple stories and memories that make up urban spaces, and finding means of responding to or recounting the tales,” (Pinder 392) were particularly interesting. It seemed to me that space, particularly public space, is especially interesting because of the complexity and the multiplicity of people’s experience and understanding of it. As a “technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances,” (Essay of the Derive) the dérive serves as a provocative attitude towards the experience of space, yet as a project it seems to lack the time for an analysis of the interactions and communication that goes on amongst its many players. Furthermore, the chance element is not conducive to repetition. This may make each dérive unique, yet at the same time it can detract from the possibilities of entering into a dialogue with the different participants. In the writings surrounding the concept of dérive, I missed a more critical analysis of the relationship the walker develops not only to the space, but to the other psyches inhabiting that space.
Final Project_Eric Luo
In this project, I would like to discuss gay tourism and the gay tourist sites in Asia in the age of globalization. I found some books and articles of discussing gay tourism in American or European context, but less in Asia context. Such as Jesbir Kaur Puar writes in her essay of gay tourism, “Circuits of Queer Mobility: Tourism, Travel, and Globalization”, she points out that “discussions of gay and lesbian tourisms have not yet been contextualized in terms of neocolonialism in large part because the venues focused on are still mainly in North American and Europe” (2002: 112). Therefore, I am interested in discussing the gay tourism in Asia in the context of globalization and postcolonialism. I would like to take Bangkok as the major gay tourist site in Asia in my discussion; due to not only it is the most famous gay friendly and popular gay tourist site in Asia but also it’s booming sex industry. In addition to this, I would like to bring up the discussion of not only gay tourism and gender/sexual performativity but also the intersection of sexuality and ethnicity in my paper.
Psychogeography and collective traumatic memories
In terms of psychogeography, I would like to refer to Debord’s account, “Psychogeography could set for itself the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals”. For me, this viewpoint accounts for the relationship between geographical environment and human beings’ emotion or (un)consciousness. As I mentioned in my response of sound walk, the psychogeography is a threshold of linking the discussion from landscape to mindscape.
In Chinese, people do believe Feng Shui (please read Chia-Fen’s response below) in daily life. And it affects people’s life style a lot in most Chinese-speaking areas. In addition to Feng Shui, I would like to figure out that some historical sites particular the ones which the wars or genocides have been happened are related to the concept of psychogeography. For example, the Auschwitz is a site which reminds most Jews’ collective traumatic memories. Therefore, Jews’ mindscapes of viewing Auschwitz must be different from the other races’ mindscapes. Hence, the concept of psychogeography will help us to review the relationship among sites, landscapes, human (un)consciousness and traumatic memories.
New York Surveillance Camera Players
The Upper East Side
Meet at the southeast corner of 72d Street and 3rd Ave.
2 pm, Sunday 25 February 2007
The tour is free--anyone want to go? Send me an email@example.com :)
Meat Packing District Sound Walk_Eric Luo
To be frank, this is not my first time walking in the meat packing district. Or, to speak it more specifically, walking alone but with my i-Pod there. The “meat packing district” is the old-fashioned name of “Chelsea”, now the fancy well-known gathering destination of gay, fashion and hot chic, in New York City. Therefore, walking alone in the meat packing district is not unfamiliar for me. However, it’s really my first time walking in the meat packing district with an audio tour guide. It did defamiliarize me; make me feel strange to my favorite and most familiar area in New York City.
The narrator, Ivy, is an artist who owns a gallery in meat packing district. This is such an authentic and typical icon of folks who live here. In addition to SOHO, meat packing district is another highly gathering district of artists, fashion icons, boutiques and galleries in NYC. Along with Ivy’s audio guides, I realized that I have been to the Spice Market, SOHO house, Alexander Mcqueen (one of my favorite fashion designers) before. But, I never think about why they are here and notice the details of them. However, honestly speaking, what bother me in my mind are not the things I never discovered before, but the feeling of defamiliarization.
In my previous experience of walking in the meat packing district, it’s a two-fold situation of looking and to-be-looked-at-ness at the same time. As I mentioned before, meat packing district is no longer a district of packing meat only, but also a district of teeming with fashion, chic, and gay men. Being an Asian gay man and walking alone here, the felling is so complicated. On one hand, in terms of sexuality, here is a district which I assume that I belong here. But, on the other hand, in terms of ethnicity, this is not the place I belong to. Besides, I never think that I need a tour guide to lead me walking in the meat packing district. Moreover, leading by a tour guide which I assume she might be a lesbian (Actually speaking, I don’t know anything about her sexual orientation. It’s just my assumption and intuition) in the gay district is more complex.
Therefore, during the whole process of sound walk, I was thinking about the question of tourist gaze, another form of psychogeography. From the landscape to the mindscape, I not only watch the scenes around me. It also reflects me as the subject wandering in the district. Such as Lacan’s account of gaze, “Conversely, what I look at is never what I wish to see”. So, I am wondering to think about that is there any possibility of linking the discussion of sound walk and psychogeography. Does the audio tour guide play as the “punctum” in travelers’ consciousness? How about the aware travelers’ responses of listening to sound walks of the districts which they are familiar with?
February 23, 2007
Chinatown Sound Walk
I’ve been to Chinatown for many times since I first arrived at New York City, either to buy some Chinese food and ingredients to appease my homesickness or just to walk around casually, experiencing the “surrealistic” or “liminal” Chineseness, which is not Chinese and not not Chinese. Even so, I was still attracted by the CHINATOWN SOUNDWALK, whose narrator – Jami Gong – was introduced as “a true insider” who can “bravely share with you the ins and outs of this complex neighborhood” (narrator) and who can “bring you into places where you are not supposed to go” (audio sample). Thus I downloaded the MP3, looking forward to experiencing the “authenticity” from an insider who was born and brought up there.
The starting point was at 89 Canal Street, an unnoticeable restaurant named Cup & Saucer. I turned on my MP3, trying to follow Gong’s instructions, but I got lost no more than one minute, for I couldn’t figure out which direction was south without a map at hand. I started it all over again, deciding to follow Gong as more as I could with no more stop and return.
The audio instruction was annoying at first. The pace of the sound walk was different from that of mime. Gong mentioned some buildings, but I just couldn’t find them. Gong said “OK, we are now in this specific street” but I knew I was far left behind. Still I kept walking. Sometimes I could follow and sometimes not. Mostly, it was like schizophrenia – my mind and my body were in a double space-time – yet the feeling was wonderful. I felt like walking in a film studio or watching a movie with the loud music and sound effects on, which covered any other noise of the Chinatown I was in – the sound walk turned to be an image walk, or, in other words, the sound in the audio and the image in front of me combined created a whole new reality.
However, when it came to the chance to really go “into places you are not supposed to be,” say, on 60 Mulberry Street, I hesitated. Gong asked his auditors to climb up the stairs, open the door, and enter the house, but I stood wondering if I should go into or not, for it looked like a private house. When I was struggling, sound effects of a woman groaning from the audio surprised me – was this place a brothel? I didn’t know. I gave up my chance of witnessing the back area of Chinatown, the authenticity. I didn’t have the gut to break into the back region of this 60 Mulberry Street.
I also missed my chance of entering the Senior Citizen Center, for the gate was closed at then. But finally, I went into the Mahayana Buddhist Temple, the destination of the sound walk. Its decoration of the inside was not like the ordinary (authentic) Buddhist temple that I knew in my own culture, but more like something special for the tourist from a different culture – but I guess it doesn’t matter here. The temple was silent, but the low and deep monks’ chanting from the MP3, the epilogue of Gong’s sound walk, was so loud in my ears. Except me, there was an Asian-female-and-White- male couple kneeling in front of Buddha praying, and Buddha was smiling.
I put one dollar in the donation box and drew a lot, which says “Probability of Success: Good whatsoever ails you, may you be well anew. Thoughts will first take the cue, and kindness will ensue” (View image)
– all in English, a tourist production, just like this CHINATOWN SOUNDWALK MP3, which was novel but still superficial, though I did learn some new information – the jail and the “den-si park” near the Mulberry Street – the park of waiting to die, a place where many Chinese elders fool around until the end of their lives–maybe that's the true insider's insight.
Dori's Project Ideas
So I've been thinking a lot about psychogeography and mapping overtly tourist urban spaces according to subject and identity formation. I really would like to look at Times Square and the phenomenon of the Broadway musical. I think I want to base the project on the transformation of this space over the last century and how the changes have influenced and impacted the tourist presence and domination of this space. I am going on the Times Square sound walk next week and hope to get some good ideas from that experience (which I have good faith in, considering my experience with the ground zero walk). I definitely want to address the disneyfication issues raised by Deboard and Lippard and somehow focus in on what that has done for or against the image of American-ness, glorified in the spectacle of the musical (particularly in the eyes of tourists)...anyways, any and all ideas and input would be much appreciated!
Caio for now
Nico's Project - Big Apple Greeter
For this class project, I will do a study of Big Apple Greeter (BAG), an NYC-based non-profit that pairs tourists with a local New Yorker. More than 300 volunteer guides versed in 22 languages conduct visits with individuals and families from the US and abroad to neighborhoods of their or their guides’ choice, in order to experience New York “through the eyes of a real New Yorker”.
I am very interested in the concept of local hospitality, and in this case particularly in the ways in which the guides mediate the visitors’ experiences and the impact on the visitors’ sense of the city. How can these interactions increase trust and cross-cultural understanding? How are these guides different from regular tour guides? What are the roles of guides and of tourists in this real-time tourist production? How does GAP operate as an organization- how does it market its activities, recruit volunteers, and to what extent does it frame this production before, during and after visits? What are its relationships with volunteers? What are its relationships with the wider tourist industry?
To conduct my research, I plan to attend visits with tourists, interview guides and tourists, learn about the history of the organization through research and interviews of staff, review BAG’s marketing materials, press reviews, plans for the future and more.
February 22, 2007
FINAL PROJECT PROPOSAL: BROADWAY: An American Dream
OBJECTIVE: To create a comprehensive walking tour or sound-walk of New York’s Theatre District that portrays the history of Broadway, by exploring both landmarks and Broadway houses and their role in the development of Musical Theatre as a truly American art-form.
It is the story of Broadway, combining music & narrative with a visual all-sensory journey behind the scenes; on the inside exploring the magnificent theatre interiors and on the outside, enjoying both the architecture and history of these great landmarks. It will include anecdotes and insight into the legendary haunts of theatre society, from Sardi’s to Joe Allen’s as well as locations of importance such as Schubert Alley.
It will introduce the many characters that were instrumental in making Broadway the entertainment center of the world and highlight the great legendary stage actors, actresses, composers, producers, directors and designers that transformed these extraordinary houses into magical destinations for the imagination.
It will look at what was, what might have been, what is today and where we may be tomorrow. It is the Broadway connoisseurs ultimate day on the Great White way.
What is known as a birthplace for great storytelling, will be the subject of great storytelling capturing the emotion, passion and drama of the theatrical world.
I hope to acquire an even greater appreciation for a the richness of a true community in every sense of the word, a culture that grew out of a peoples desire for escape, creative fulfillment, and the freedom of American expression. The possibilities seem somewhat expansive at this point, but the narrowing down to a comprehensive story has the makings of a great journey.
Wall Street Warriors
WALL STREET WARRIORS- JOHN DIETRICH
When the cover of the guide for a soundwalk through WALL STREET in Lower Manhattan, purposefully lists only four slogans and nothing else; STOCKS, BOOZE, GREED, COLD HARD CASH, you immediately get the sense that this is not your typical historical, educational, or cultural lesson in the growth & development of a popular destination. In the opening CD track, the soundwalk philosophy is stated, set against the sounds of a barroom brimming with Wall Street profiteers; “Soundwalk is a unique experience set in the real world, so use common sense, be ready for the unexpected as you do in real life, if you have a life.” A mood is established; EDGY. Soundwalk immediately sets out to make YOU a player in an R-rated version of the reality show, “The Apprentice” meets the film, “Wall Street”, all set against the backdrop of these, “Canyons of greed”. Immediately a distinct tone is set, all revolving around the four slogans earlier stated. Our storyteller, Johnny T, a once certified public accountant for Goldman Sachs, states his mantra early on, quoting Michael Douglas in “Wall Street”; “Greed is good!” What this adventure is, is story-telling, giving you the participant a featured role and expecting you to adhere. David Pinders’ article expresses the concept of this kind of experience perfectly, “contesting proper orderings of space to allow something ‘other’ to emerge.” The “other” is what I didn’t expect. I was initially turned off by the severe style of the presentation and the abrasive, pretentious and ego driven world being created. Money was the church these people worshipped in and it wasn’t appealing. However, by the end of the tour I felt an inside connection to a place I had once looked at from a distant balcony, and there was something intriguing about being part of this movie. There was a sense of being. Yes, it is theatrical yet believable, the cast of characters seem highly exaggerated but are actually real. In a very short period of time, you are expected to be initiated into this world and if you don’t get in quick you’ll be out because the only thing that matters are winners; ordering a double Johnny Walkers for lunch (“Liquid-gold”), smoking cigars at Barclays, having a spa treatment at John Allan’s, listening to tales of surviving the fight. Interspersed are occasional slices of historical intrigue, personal stories relating to 9/11, and glimpses of Wall Street past, but you never stray far from being Johnny T.’s latest broker buddy Steve Pile speaks of “attending to imaginative, fantastic, emotional aspects of city life” and this tourist production manages to embody them all. It is a perfect example of the “exchange of narratives.”
Buying into the soundwalk experience all depends on expectation. It may not have been what I initially expected or wanted, but the result was a colorful journey filled with mood and ambience, that did introduce me to a slice of “every-day life”, not my own. You must find a way to connect to it and accept it, in order to find its’ reward. When raising the question, “Does this reach out to a wide audience?” The answer is no. The packaging has no disclaimers, when it comes to things like profanity, and doesn’t clearly suggest whom the experience is particularly targeting. However, even more intriguing, it does ask you to “challenge your preconceptions” and implies that it is bringing together both legend and reality. Johnny T. sets up the “in your face” challenge from the start, “Are you a winner or a loser?”
from east to west via right then left
Around noon today, I set out on an 'alternating' adventure, with no sure idea of where it would take me. I live on the upper east side at 81st and York Avenue in an area known as Yorkville. Starting from the corner I made a right (north) onto York and took it from there.
I walk these streets every day, but experiencing them without a sense of purpose-- "i've got to get to the train, to get to school, to get to work,etc"--was a totally different experience. Moving about the city on a daily basis I realize that I am often disconnected, either on my cell phone or listening to my ipod, but today it was quiet. I was quiet, just taking everything in with the only plan being to take a right and then a left... that's it!
Weaving through the mix of brownstones and highrises, I discovered new spaces, mainly schools and places of worship. On 85th between 3rd and Lexington I found a fire house (engine company 22/ladder company 13) and paused to look at the pictures of their fallen heroes from 9/11. It was both somber and inspiring as the crew was suited up and about to pull out of the house on a call, full of excitement and energy. On 87th between Park and Madison I passed the Park Avenue Synagogue which had a beautifully ornate procenium entrance. Onto 5th Avenue along Museum Mile, I passed the (ever under construction) Guggenheim, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and The Jewish Museum. I wanted to go in, but that would have required a veering from the path, so I'll return at a later date.
Able to cut into the park at 96th street, I made my left and trekked across past the North Meadow Recreational Park, and then exited at Central Park West and 97th.
This is where things got a little shady. My trajectory took me through the housing projects between CPW and Amsterdam. As I moved from 101st to Manhattan Avenue I cut through a courtyard that made me very uncomfortable. This (now) makes me think about how often this feeling comes up for the 'adventurer', or am I not considered one because I felt some sort of fear and adjusted my course??
Anyway, I made it back to 101st and then rounded back up on Amsterdam to resume my course.
About that time, the rain and sleet began to fall. I made my way over to Broadway and zig-zagged my way to Riverside Park and 108th where I ran into the West Side Highway, Hudson River, and the landscape of New Jersey. I had reached the end. My adventure was over. However, this is not true because the adventure home is part of the experience. On my way to the train I came across a small memorial park on B'way/West End and 106th with a bronze statue of a woman that read "In honor of Isadora and Ida Strauss" who perished on the Titanic. I took a moment in the rain to remember, and then made my way back downtown.
This trajectory, although clear cut in its method, was filled with unexpected moments of memory, architecture, discovery, discomfort, beauty, and ultimate gratitude.
Algorithmic walking in the cold
I decided to take what the Latourex website defines as an “alternate travel” walk or what David Pinder calls “algorithmic walking”- and thought I would bring my wife along for the experience. Having studied some of the Situationists’ work, she had a vague idea of why we were going to do this but the 10F cold outside seemed to cool her interest.
In any case, last Monday we set off from our home in Fort Green, Brooklyn, making a right at the first intersection, then a left, then a right and so on. Within the space of 3 blocks we had noticed for the first time not only a huge public school- a block long-, but also an immense and beautiful French-speaking church! I realized instantly that being able to remove my focus from a future arrival point freed me to be much more aware of my surroundings. I found myself looking up more than usual and noticing details on the buildings we passed. The fact that we were engaged in this walk and that the streets were quiet and deserted- because of the cold and the holiday I suppose- made me feel like the streets were producing themselves for us, asking to be looked at and telling us that for once they could be the focus of attention. I found myself a little humbled by our surroundings.
As we were walking I asked my wife what she would answer if we happened to meet a friend who would ask where we were going, and she said she would reply “I don’t know”. I thought that was so simple and so powerful. The type of response that would catch people completely off-guard. Surely people who do not know where they are going are either crazy or lost, but why would you purposefully walk in such extreme cold without the intent of getting somewhere. The only people we crossed were two workers from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, who were evidently puzzled at our presence, and shook their heads as they walked by us. At this point, my wife who had been quiet for a little while, looked at me with a face that seemed to say “you know I love you but” and then asked me (I should say told me/shouted): “What the hell are we doing here?!”. My brain was almost completely frozen at this point and I tried to find a way out—we had reached the Navy Yard and could go no further, and it is in the process of trying to get back to “normal” life and thinking about how to get to a warm place that I realized some sort of shift in my mind- and it gave me pleasure to think that in some measure I had been able to be absorbed by the experience.
Despite my initial hope, we were not able to become “adventurers” in Simmel’s terms. The cold in a way kept reminding us of our situation, and to be totally honest, I would say that I had a vague idea of where the walk may take us- knowing how long we would be able to stand the cold- and I purposefully took a first right instead of a first left… On the other hand, perhaps the fact that we went on this walk in this cold is in itself a political act- a way of proving to ourselves that we should explore the “unrealized possibilities” that “ambulatory occupation of urban space permits”(Pinder, p. 401) – especially when conventional wisdom would have it that we should not be outdoors. This did create for my wife and I a sort of "thrill about being somewhere [we were] not supposed to be" in the way that Janelle Brown feels about "off-limits tourism".
I look forward to doing another “algorithmic” walk in warmer weather—and to see if the weather really has a bearing on my experience and/or what aspects of my personality would enable me (or limit me) in becoming Simmel’s adventurer. I guess that in the end, these types of walks can not only connect you to your city but in the process tell you a bit more about yourself.
February 21, 2007
Psychogeography and Feng Shui
If the meaning of “psychogeography” is as what Debord defined – “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals” – I couldn’t help thinking about its similarity to the Chinese notion “Feng shui” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feng_shui), literally Wind and Water, a guideline for Chinese people to choose an appropriate environment/house to live in or to bury the dead, or to set and decorate the living environment in a specific way to get the most benefits of it, in the premises that the geographical environment (macro cosmos) could influence people (micro cosmos) in a certain way. The expert in judging whether the environment is beneficial to people or not is called Feng Shui Shi (Master of Feng Shui) or Di Li Shi (Master of Geography). Though many people belittle Feng Shui as just a superstition or commodity in nowadays, Feng Shui could be kind of primitive psychology concerning the environment’s effect on people as some anthropologists have thought of the relation between superstition and psychology.
Adventure! Running the Sahara
Three runners from the US, Canada, and Taiwan just finished their 111 days and 7300 kilometers running across the Sahara Desert in this week. A documentary film is going on and Matt Damon would be the narrator. See UNDP: http://content.undp.org/go/newsroom/november-2006/sahara-water-race-20061128.en
February 19, 2007
response to Nico
Nico-- I responded to your post, but I’m not sure if the blog response link is fixed yet?? Thus, I wanted to let you know that my friend is a Big Apple Greeter! I’d never heard of it until I met Jerry, but it’s such an interesting site to consider. He’s an actor from Chicago and a really great guy, who I’m sure would be more than willing to talk with you about your project if you decide to pursue this route. I just think it poses a lot of possibilities in researching the issue of tourist access and class distinction.
jamie's project topic
Hello all --
After much deliberation, I have decided to pursue the Museum of Sex as a site for my final project. Particularly, I plan to focus on the “Mapping Sex in America” exhibit that BKG shared with us last week. I am interested (so far) in looking at the concept of sexual urban geography and how the collective of these individual narratives and testimonies (a differentiation to be further explored) represent the sexuality of a nation. Also, I am interested in the politics and mediations involved in the subject matter, as well as in the juxtaposition of the live vs. virtual presentation of the exhibit.
These are my current thoughts… Please let me know of any queries/concerns/advice.
Enjoy your week!
The red-wig scarecrow
After considering the tech tourist options that all looked fascinating, in the end I decided to experiment with what seemed the simplest and absolutely tech-less experience: the Latourex “ALTERNATING-TRAVEL,” to experiment with the “simple” and “ordinary.” It did turn out to be precisely what I it implies: a process of altering the way I perceived my neighborhood.
1.“Leave your home on foot. Take the first road on the right”: I had been in Princeton for 5 months before I undertook the alternating-travel walk. I have my own routinized paths of walking to and back from class, going eating and going to dance tango and capoeira, as well as a few different walking routes around the campus; and I had taken the first road on the right but never paid real attention to it! This past Sunday seemed to be the day to see more of the place (around Dickinson street) that I inhabit but I never felt like I was “living” it, at a more personal level.
At 5:05 p.m. the street to the right of my house had the air of a smudged oil canvas, with smears of yellow and white replacing the common idea of a sky. Looking around, as Lippard argued, is the distinguishing feature of tourism: I did start looking around, searching to find something (a building, a café, or just a street tree – anything really) that would connect me more to my neighborhood, through some sort of a-la-de-Certeau’s “kinesthetic appropriation” of space (1988:97) by means of walking around.
Consciously exploring the place, I felt the events and the weather fluctuations fuse with the noise from the street and the silent rows of houses on both sides, creating a fascinating collage of sound-views. I liked the mystical late-afternoon glow that the sun was spreading on the rooftops like snowy butter, and I was even more amazed when my experience changed when it started snowing – the psychogeographic experience and its contingency upon weather, light, sound, other humans. Only a few minutes into my walk, the sun glow was diluted by large snow pieces, dotting the houses like a moving Seurrat painting. The experience-ecology dialectics so largely studied by the situationists (Guy Debord, de Certeau, Lefebvre, Benjamin, etc.) was right there, in each footstep I was taking on this tour of a non-tourist place. Looking around I realized neither of the white houses was identical, so it was about time I saved them from my mental shelf of “character-less dwellings.” I kept walking with excitement….
2.“then the next on the left”: another street of similar white houses...that now started miraculously showing me their playful faces: a red umbrella on the porch, an ugly iron dog statue, a few bee-hives in the back yard! It is this process of consciously conducted visual search and sharpened noticing that usually distinguishes most tourists from the local residents (except perhaps for a few gossiping ladies who “note” even more than what is actually there), and I think all of us need to be tourists in their cities and neighborhoods a few times at least to be able to appreciate their personalities.
3.“ then the next on the right”: another white house, one more, one more, and…no, this one is not white: in fact, it is anything but white! The strange building has colorful windows, painted in yellow, pink, and blue, with a small tower-like part. And look at this strange scarecrow in front of the door, wearing a wild red wig and a red sweatshirt! Close to the “red man” is an old-fashioned armchair, sitting dusty and with an enviable calm in the cold weather, in front of the door. What is this place, full of colors and postcards with “peace” messages on the walls and the windows? Feeling like Debord’s investigator (and also like Simmel’s adventurer), I peeped through the windows and all I saw were more colorful cards, tons of toys, and paper cuts on a string with the word “peace” in various languages.
Why all these messages all over the place? Are they messages (together with the “red man” in the front) aimed to capture the interest of people walking by? After all, most of post cards had their face with the “peace” messages turned towards the outside space, toward the possible audience of curious strangers like myself. Are the cards the “performance of the selves” of the people who live inside and a performance used to transmit their beliefs and invite to get closer to the “centre” of their world (Cohen’s notion) for anyone who visits, acquaintances and strangers alike?
The red-wig scarecrow kept smiling in the front, almost as if making fun of my curious looks. Investigating further, I followed the final directions:
4.“ then the next on the left, etc. Carry on until something, a no man's land, a building or a stretch of water, blocks your path and you can go no farther”: I swerved to the left of the house and ended in the small parking space, surrounded by all kinds of toys. Many kids must be living in this house. Could it be an orphanage? A foster-care home? Or a fantasy house with seven dwarves? Amused with all the possibilities nurtured by my imagination, on my way back I saw a man and his daughter coming out from the adjacent house. I couldn’t help it and asked about “my” house. “It is just a regular private home, a few little boys live there with their parents,” the man replied.
I was almost disappointed at first that it was “just a regular private home.” But then I realized that this is precisely its beauty and magic and the reason why it connects me to the neighborhood – it is the fact that from one’s dwelling that family had created a piece of public art that awakens questions and journeys of imagination along a small street in Princeton that looks just like any other in its surroundings. People walk that street fast, going to work, thinking abut their problems and staring at the pavement in front of them. But I am sure that if and when at least some of them lift their gaze and see the “red man,” like I did, and then come a bit closer to him and to the windows and read all the cards and their beautiful messages…perhaps they too would smile back at the “red man” with a different personal charge to power them up during the day. I called the “red man” the name Toshko, a funny Bulgarian name, and also a kiss on the nose (under the dismayed look of the neighbors).
What I have after the “alternating-travel” walk is colorful house and a scarecrow that in my mind draw a different picture of the neighborhood I live in. I now have my “kinaesthetically appropriated” neighborhood, featuring its own niches of color, humor, creative ways of “value transmission” through window cards, and a red-wig scarecrow (Pinder's "phantasmagoric aspects of city life" are quite vibrant here) to chase grey thoughts away. The walk reminded me to remember, in the future walks I take, that any place is unique: but it shows its character – even those rows of white houses did – when the eyes are open enough to see. Next time I will take the first road on the left.
Ground Zero Sound Walk
This is just a quick word about the ground zero sound walk.
It was such a strange experience being surrounded by 'tourists' on all sides running around with pamphlets and reading all the signs and posters recounting the events of that September day in 2001. The strangest thing was the melding of sounds coming from both my ipod and my surroundings. It became difficult to differentiate the sounds as I continued the walk around ground zero, which I gathered is kind of the point.
I've been to the WTC site multiple times before and since the events of September 11th; however, I have never experienced it as I did on Friday. It felt like being a covert tourist, because although I was in and amongst the throngs of people, I was on my own personal tour, set apart from everything and everyone else. One of the best things about the recorded tour is the agency it gives to each individual listener. The guide is punctuated with moments where Paul Auster (the primary narrator) asks the listener to observe and contemplate a view or perspective in relative silence. Of course, even in moments of silence on the tour, the outside sounds punctuate any private contemplation (a deliberate facet of the tour). Particularly poignant are the collected voices of different people whose perspectives add to the quality of the tour. It is not simply a single, droning voice, going through the motions and presenting a limited, one-sided account of the events, but rather, a polymorphous, multifaceted group of varying opinions all variously recounting the momentum of that event in the course of human history. The tour is really about the WTC; about the buildings themselves in addition to the violence of their destruction. (Ex. the Frenchman who tight-rope walked from the roof of one tower to the other and insisted he could hear and feel the movement of the structures in the wind as he moved between them). There is a sense of veneration for the sanctity of what the trade center stood for, and more importantly for those who worked there; from the CEOs, to the secretaries and associates, to the night time security guards and cleaning staff; for everyone.
The best part of the experience is the way it ends without ending. Walking through number three of the world financial center buildings, outside to the "winter gardens" and out onto the dock; the sounds of the recording are indistinguishable from that of the water, wind and birds outside. The tour asks the listener to take in the beautiful view of the Hudson and that oh so glorified symbol of freedom, the statue of liberty. Even as the tour sounds fade away, they are seamlessly replaced with the world outside the headphones. The sounds of memorial are in the air if one chooses to listen, which is the proposition this sound walk suggests to its 'tourists'.
I appreciate the openness of the messages and the lack of blame or hatred that one might expect coming from this kind of emotionally charged tour of a site that marks the beginning of the horrific war of the 21st century. "If people respect each other’s cultures, there is very little likelihood that they will go to war against one another...you know, people are people". I like that this sound tour refers to itself as a sonic memorial, because that is exactly what it is. It isn't a physical entity like a fountain, or a collection of rocks with the names of those 3,000 people who died that day, but it is no less (I would argue more) of a memorial. It is so hopeful and powerful because it doesn't occupy any false pretense. The sonic memorial is a collection of recollections and a reminder of our place and our responsibility as people to never stop trying to find additional answers to the conflicts of difference.
All in all, a very cool way to experience a site that exemplifies Lippard's "tragic tourism" without the requisite commodification/fetishization that often necessarily accompanies a venture of this kind. It is a way of sensing the site (I literally mean the experience of all the senses) without taking anything from it. The memorial happens through a dynamic walk around a space. Perhaps this is what Lippard had in mind when she said that the most significant memorials are the physically invisible ones. Although there is a giant hole in the middle of lower Manhattan with signs and such; if there were nothing being built to physicalize 9/11 in memorial, the pregnant absence alone might be the most appropriate memorial, combined with something like a sound walk. The sonic memorial could be enough to capture the significance of the buildings themselves, their history, and their destruction in the events of September 11th, 2001, without gaudy, over the top demarcation.
February 17, 2007
PROJECT PROPOSAL: Local Constructivism↔Pulsating Centres
My research would explore tourism as the process of producing the performance of identity and heritage for both tourist and local consumption, as contextualized by the Open-air Museum (Museu ao Ceu Aberto) in the oldest favela in Rio de Janeiro, Providencia. The ethnographic work conducted over the month of January 2007 consists of walking tours, observations, and many interviews with residents, both connected and not connected to the Museum, as well as with representatives of the Municipality, who were and are still involved in the development of the Museum. The main questions I ask relate to the internally psychological and externally performative mechanisms through which people create a site of extraordinary interest out of their routine ecology, recognized as a city-wide heritage worth tourist interest. Exploring the dichotomies between ordinary and extraordinary, commonplace and historically important, ignorance and remembrance, tradition and modernity, authenticity and fabrication of culture, material and immaterial heritage, and economic and social progress, I attempt to reveal the plurality of views I encountered on the relationship between the tourist performance of heritage and the notions on socio-cultural community development.
The specific form of tourism that the residents of Providencia want to promote seem to relate to Cohen’s notions on the visitor’s search of the “centre” and extends to Frank and Crang’s point on the diminishing aesthetic components of tourism in a greater interaction with the local place, which transforms “the passivity of visual tourism into kinaesthetic sense and flow (see Thrift 1999)” (Frank and Crang:13). I explore the local’s notions on tourism and what they want the tourists to experience and how they expect them to behave and relate to the place.
My way of producing an interpretation of the locals’ performance of heritage would use vignettes of persons and places, or better the ways the persons talk about their places as juxtaposed to how the public policy machine perceives them. While reporting on the ideas of Providencia’s residents, the impressions and the focus of the research - on lived heritage and cultural enactments – reflect my academic interests and vision. Since the ideas of many related tourism to the creation of a cultural center where the immaterial heritage of the community would be revived, preserved, promoted and performed for the tourists (and for the community), I ask questions on the nature of the relationals between tangible and intangible heritage and the role of this dynamic within the tourist performances of heritage, and even more broadly, within the affirmation of identities in the everyday of the community.
How is collective identity formed and performed? How do the “locals” define the “local” in respect to both internal and external modes of life and spaces? And how are the notions of authenticity/heritage and of what is valuable embodied in the diverging interpretations of historical place by different actors (public officials, residents, tourists)? The persistence of the “how” question in my approach to the tourist performance serves to depict my vision of these performances as ongoing processes of creation and negotiation, rather than fairly immobile concepts (more relevant to the “what” question).
Finally, I am asking why, out of all things that the poverty-stricken neighborhood needs in terms of infrastructure and services, why is it that a museum was chosen by the Municipality and embraced by the community as an asset of importance, of actual need? What does the museum as a carrier of memory hold as solutions to local problems, as factors that might contribute to local development – and what kind of local development (social, cultural, spiritual, economic, political, or perhaps a Weberian mix of all)? In what ways is the municipal museum initiative inverting or elasticizing the common development logic grounded on economic indicators?
The evolving notion of “living museum” and “living heritage” runs like a vibration through the local discourses on memory and everyday life in my observations: a vibration, since it has its ups and downs of, respectively, some people’s hopes for a vibrant community (to be achieved through the arts through a future cultural center) and certainly its downs with others’ non-constructive criticisms and sense of abandonment. The process of turning physical space into material heritage and performing immaterial heritage in order to set the material heritage alive – truly make the museum “living” – offers kaleidoscopic insights into the interplay of the extro-spective vision toward economic development generated by tourism and the intro-spective vision of some locals toward boosted self-esteem and communal cultural renaissance expected to be generated by that performed common identity. From a tourist performance, the production of heritage at the Living Museum in Providencia might then turn to be also the community’s own identity performance aiming some sort of local unity.
(COMMENTS MORE THAN WELCOME: especially on the questions of heritage and the importance of immaterial heritage to communities).
Jewish Children's Museum
Just wanted to let whoever is interested know that I'm planning on checking out the Jewish Children's Museum tomorrow (sunday) afternoon, probably around 1 or 2. They're open until 6 and admission is $10. Adults unaccompanied by children are required to provide ID and register, but I don't think that should be a problem. Email me if you're interested in coming along firstname.lastname@example.org
February 16, 2007
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
exploring restricted areas and art!
February 15, 2007
I thought this may be of interest- N
Emirates launches US$27 billion arts project to include world's largest Guggenheim
Big Apple Greeters
I have found some info through BKG about an organization called Big Apple Greeters- do any of you know about them? The concept seems really interesting and relates to much of what we have talked about in class- guides, walking, seeking the authentic, getting off the tourist track, framing the experience, etc... I am very interested in the idea of a tourist experiences shaped by the hospitality and guidance of locals, such as in this case and the Place Matters project- I have too many ideas for projects! But I now think that I may choose one or these two. Comments welcome!
February 14, 2007
links to projects
I have collected some links to interesting projects concerning experimental mapping/ psychogeography. Im sorry I am posting dead links. I do not have my notes on how to write the code with me. Have a good weekend!
psychogeography in NYC
former nyu itp student's project on experimental mapping
The North American Cartographic Information Society (announcing special journal entry on art and mapping)
Feb 26 assignment
For Feb 26, here is the reading and assignment:
Please post your response to the reading and the walk on the blog.
Please post your project proposal to the blog.
Looking forward to our class. -b
February 13, 2007
Strange Museum Llonovoy
Came across this today thought others might find it interesting: Travelling Exhibition of Broken Toys.
February 12, 2007
Down and out in the Magic Kingdom
I meant to include this in my post or mention it in class but naturally I forgot. Our talk last about Disney nostalgia and watching Its A Small World on youtube reminded me of a book that was on the tip of my tongue all class. While Cory Doctorow's book down and out in the magic kingdom (check the linkage!) is by no means a great book, it has an interesting take on a sci-fi re-imagining of Disney Land as a place where far far in the future the nostalgia is just as important as the experience itself. The main characters work developing and preserving the Disney rides, both state of the art theme park, retirement community and museum (which may not be that far off from now, come to think about it). In case you needed something to read on the train.
February 11, 2007
one more pic 'the eye that cries'
lippard: significant stones ('the eye that cries')
this is an experimental pic upload: if it should work i just wanted to share this memorial site honoring the disappeared in Peru-- If Arrie is willing, maybe she can help me elaborate on this incredible sculpture, as she spent time with the artist--
Greetings from your friendly neighborhood auditor!
Thinking about other artists who are making ‘interventions’ (its not a word I’m terribly fond of, spatially) I would like to add Ana Mendieta to the list. http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/4aa/4aa459.htm (its not the best introduction to her work, but was the best I could find) her work, (some of it called private sculptural performances) dealt explicitly with mediation, who and how and why it is being seen, you can find some really beautiful images here: http://www.galerielelong.com/ I don’t want to say to much about the images (you can find them under the artists section) because I think that are so evocative that I don’t want to spoil them for you, but I think she is a perfect example of the kind of mediation on a specific site or landscape that we are talking about.
Reading through the material for this week I kept thinking about the afore mentioned Museum of Jurassic Technology and Center for Land Use Interpretation. www.mjt.org and www.clui.org. Sites like the museum of Jurassic technology and clui are run by artists David and Diana Wilson and Matt Coolidge respectively, and are themselves art projects, maybe even art interventions. But also offer a different vision of cultural tourism. “A region’s local identity is more likely to be further falsified or diluted than researched and amplified by such campaigns” (75) Is this always the truth? What is the reaction to projects like these that in a sense parody or conceptually reinterpret these kind of cultural spaces? Are they perhaps presenting a more accurate picture of cultural tourism? I read once somewhere that more people my age watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart than watched the local news and many of them came out better informed about the “news”. I might be spinning out a bit too much, but is there a connection to be made here? What if, instead of irony, they are actually presenting something with closer ties to capital T truth than not. And if CLUI develops in response to these kind of culture sites, what’s the next wave of interpretation of cultural sites, not a response to MJT per say…. but how else could we interpret cultural sites and still come close to a kind of conceptual truth?
To this end, since last week I have been totally obsesses with Tokyo Disney Sea’s American waterfront. http://www.tokyodisneyresort.co.jp/tds/english/7port/waterfront/index.html
Check out these pictures: http://www.laughingplace.com/News-ID504600.asp I think that they are pretty amazing. (and whoever made the ‘puritan brand’ beer truck is a genius.) I’m not even sure how I feel about the Disney park one way or the other. Just that I’ve been staying up late and googling pictures of it, and if anyone wants to buy me a ticket to Tokyo I will write you the most lovely and thoughtful scholarly article about it). So what place do sites like Tokyo Disney Sea have in this conversation? Obviously, they are akin to the world’s fair villages, or the Skansen model, but here’s the deal---while Disney Sea presents itself as authentic, clearly it doesn’t present itself as authentic and nobody expects it to be authentic. There is something more to it. The American Harbor presents a time as well as an architectural style. Where is the temporal element in the Skansen villages? I, like Rebekah, sometimes sense a “biting bitterness” in Lippard’s work, (admittedly I could be way off the mark, but she seems pretty too cool for school). What do you think she would have to say about Tokyo Sea? I think that it is also an intervention and a very knowing (and…going out on a limb….pretty uncynical) exercise in mediation. What could be its relation to the cultural tourism? Whats it’s relation to conceptual art ‘interventions’?
Aralalene on Lippard
It surprises me how much artwork in subway stations changes my perception of being underground in a noisy, dirty, concrete cage. If there are mosaics, I am much less impatient to leave. Even the Barnes and Noble poetry that appears in some cars helps to take away the monotony of a forty-five minute train ride. Lippard’s example of the photography of Prospect Park in the 7th Ave. stop in Brooklyn resonated with me on several different points after completing the reading. 7th Ave. is on my subway line and I am always struck by how dark, dank, and uninviting it is whenever the B or the Q passes through or when I happen to stop there to go the park. If I did not pass through everyday, I would assume from the caption that the artwork remained, encouraging passengers to feel a certain proximity to the park. I was also much more aware of how much time can pass in a decade.
Through the section on the nuclear testing site, I marveled at how long it took me to internalize that Lippard was not using the term “Ground Zero” to refer to the site in Manhattan. So much time has passed and so much has changed globally since the completion of this book. It is amazing what a void is left in reading a book on this subject in a post-9/11 era without a discussion on tourism surrounding the towers. The World Trade Center site as a tourist destination for two of my international friends was anti-climatic in comparison to the aftermath of 2001. I had never thought of this site in a spatial context in the way I did after reading Lippard’s book and how such a relatively small patch on the Earth’s surface could impact the lives of so many individuals in so many ways. I brought Boukary, a friend from Burkina Faso, to the site, and realized both of us were conflicted with our emotions in relation to the empty, barred, city block. What is it about sites of death that draw tourists—is it mourning, remembrance? I thought about my parents telling us the story of going to Pearl Harbor while on their honeymoon—while they acknowledged the site as a loss, a Japanese tourist explained to them he honored it as a victory. In sites that are as politically charged as Lippard’s ground zero, the Ground Zero we know today, and Pearl Harbor, is there any method of dealing with the sites in an appropriately tourist fashion? Lippard addresses her resentment and concern for overly nationalistic and patriotic trends in American portrayals of history stretching to tourism—can a site like Ground Zero be preserved for future generations with its multi-layered meanings and interpretations. If the title “Looking for Sanctuary” and the addition of barbed wire to art are too subversive, how much can artists do to work towards the goal of presenting multi-faceted histories to tourists?
Claire responds to Lippard
I apologize for the late post. No more Internet at my house:(
Lippard traces moments of hopeful interventions in tourism by artists. She likens artists to tourism in several ways including the relationship they both have to the site or place. Tourism often frames a site in a way that is static, over-simplified, and possibly reminiscent of a temporally distant reference. Some of the artists she featured in this book have created art as self-aware mediation. I always enjoy hearing references to when art can really do important work. I think Lippard is successful in showing that the coupling of art and tourism is a generative approach that could confront the colonial residue implicit within the tourism experience.
Lippard writes about of the photographer Tim Maul who said he photographs “the things between the things we see.” (37). These photographs suggest an alternate way of seeing, and consequently reflect the spectator or the tourist’s own position with in the scene. This intentional shift of perspective (in how or what is framed as art) clearly links to the tourist’s gaze. It is in this way in that the experience of a shifting frame could be referred to as “progressive” or “responsible” tourism. An example of art and performance that specifically engage with ideas surrounding the ethics of engagement was a performance piece “Couple in a Cage” created by Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Pena. Their presentation of themselves as captives on display forced the audience to confront themselves in relationship to the history of exhibition.
Another link she suggests between these two ways of relating to ones environment (art/tourism) is of travel itself as performance art. I am interested in what Lippard said about this, as my final project will involve performance of pathways. Navigating in relationship to a shifting landscape (the pathway) requires continual negotiation, choices that reflect that one’s own positionality as well as concept/awareness of space.
I think the ideas Lippard raises of the relationship between artist/tourism are important. It is in arts ability to reframe and recontextualize ideas in a way that demands a self-consciousness that I think is necessary for a “progressive” tourism. Because of the ties between anthropology and tourism, the coupling of art and tourism seems to be continuing the dissolve of the myth that the anthropologist’s presence and way of seeing has no effect on what is going on.
Last week I wanted to share this site, but we ran out of time. I will appreciate if you have sometime to check this link. http://www.xcaret.com/
This place is a well know tourist site in the south part of Mexico, where the Mexican culture, customs, and history are recreated for international, and recently national tourists. In the past decade this tourist area was negotiated with U.S currency, in other words you could not pay with Mexican currency (pesos). This created a tremendous gap between national and international tourism, meanwhile Riviera Maya (where this park is located) became an international site specialize in tourist of U.S. and Western Europe. In this park the Mexican history and tradition are presented in a way that disturb me. At the beggining I felt attracted to their impressive production, but ended disappointed as they commercialize aspects of our culture in a simplistic and practical way. What confuses me the most is that the national tourism as they open tehir doors to national tourism, now, they are learning our history through this interactions manipulated by the producers. I should clarify that this is not something that involves every Mexican.
I recommend watching the night show´s videos where you can experience a short overview of the show where the most important moments in the Mexican history are presented in a two hour performance. I should add that people that have extra money have the possibility to pay, and enjoy a Mexican dinner while they watch an old Aztec game called "El juego de la Pelota".
This park is related to what we were discussing last session. I hope you have some time to check their site, and if you want to have any conversation about this just let me know.
Response to Lippard
Mexico city is the most populous city in Mexico with 8,720,916 inhabitants in a 1,479 km2 area. This city is an important site for the Mexican tourist industry because it mobilizes international flow interested in different ways and aspects with this urban area. But it is until you live there that the stressful dynamic of the routine influences you mental and physical state in ways that are difficult to register and be aware of.
For the middle class/working class, the inevitable experience of the Metro (subway) is a constant and tedious interaction that controls your daily transportation. The beautiful characteristics, and dynamics of the metro create stressful situation that becomes part of the routine that alienates the citizens form each other. Each subway station is a live museum that held paintings, ruins, murals, and designs that enriches the experience in the subway. These sites transmit important information about the Mexican culture. And they had become interesting tourist attractions.
During one my residencies in Mexico City I usually feel overwhelm by the subway dynamics. But this changes when an artistic intervention stop for some second these dynamics. It was about 5 P.M., and people were coming back to their homes. The halls between the downtown stations were full of people. As I was walking through these paths a realized that the spaces, where the paintings are usually exposed, were empty, in that moment groups of performers began an interdisciplinary performance that presented movement and gestures that communicate similar, and opposite experiences that you live in the metro on a daily basis. I remember that all the people stopped for a brief moment. PAUSE….
There we became local tourists by the intervention of art in our monotony activities. One of the most interesting actions was that they performed a casual dinner in their space. Everyone was in a hurry to arrive home for dinner meanwhile they where performing that behind a glass. In this act the performers provoke nostalgia close to the way Lippard relates the tourism and nostalgia. This was nostalgia that desired comfortable situations like being at home having dinner, but in contrast the audience was rushing across the halls to get somewhere soon. The nostalgia underlined in the book “on the Beaten Track” presents a desire for home, and for your country. In this intervention nostalgia was about a home that is close, but still far in that moment of transition in the subway.
At the same time the desire of a community that had been fragmented. It is certainly part of the Mexican culture to remain in community with your family and friends, but external influences involved shift in the interest of community. These changes were appropriated by the citizens the danger of the tourism brings negative aspects for the visitor and the visited. Lippard comments how tourism can be a positive thing for economy, but cultural aspects will be influence not as positive (22). In the example of the performance the artist where interested in transforming art into an experience that hundreds of people will break their monotony for a brief moment. It is within the interest of communicating to their citizens as well as the international audience of tourist about the Mexican performing art and its concern for the rural difficulties that a life in Mexico City.
Lippard appreciates the presence of the tourist as a way to transform ordinary places into an experience. It is important to meditate of the responsibility in tourism and the arts. What are the interventions´ aspects, such as the commented above, that breaks the quotidian and fusions local and international tourists? I believe that there are still dialogues between art and tourism that had not taken place, and that they will enrich their development.
On the Beaten Track
Something that struck me as I was reading Lucy Lippard’s book is cynicism about tourism that is revealed at certain moments. Obviously tourism and travel fascinate her and she’s continually drawn to examining the role of the tourist/traveler, the intersection of art, and the impact of tourism upon specific communities. However, at times I sense a biting bitterness on her part towards the field.
Something that struck me as I was reading Lucy Lippard’s book is cynicism about tourism that is revealed at certain moments. Obviously tourism and travel fascinate her and she’s continually drawn to examining the role of the tourist/traveler, the intersection of art, and the impact of tourism upon specific communities. However, at times I sense a biting bitterness on her part towards the field. This is demonstrated by her criticism of the K family wanting to build camping grounds in Georgetown, Maine and her disgust of the growth of tourism in Santa Fe—“now too crowded, too expensive, and either vulgarly cliché-ridden or so tasteful as to be tasteless” (60). Lippard clearly understands the negative effects on these places. She outlines artists that have continually brought to light the stereotypes that are cultivated, the hegemonies that are enforced, and this is important. I feel passionately about sustaining natural resources and maintaining culture and charm of “authentic” locations. But I wonder how the acceptance of change fits into all this. This is something that has been on my mind for a little while but Lippard’s text really brought it to the forefront. At some point, we have to accept that these idyllic little towns cannot stay the same forever, regardless of tourism influxes. To deny this is to say that places should remain frozen in time, and that’s dangerous. Tourism and the commodification of culture are not going away, developers cannot usually be fought off. So how can this be embraced? How can the criticism be constructive?
In addition to this cynicism I lose sense of the joy of travel. I felt this way at times when I read Bruner and MacCannell as well. Yes we all love to travel, and yes we all love to hate tourists, but sometimes it seems the joy of traveling is deconstructed away. While many travelers are trying to get away from home and have a break, many of us are hoping to expand our worldviews by seeing the world. Ultimately, how are we going to break narrow-mindedness and stereotypes? Often an individual cannot understand the impact his or her government has on the rest of the world (or even the rest of the country), until he or she has journeyed and experienced the “other.” How can we cultivate healthy tourism, both on the part of the tourist and the tourism company?
As I read about different artists’ projects in Lippard’s book, I thought about a few different artists I’m familiar with. Lone Twin for example, whose work I saw a few weeks ago in New York, focus their performances “on ideas of place, context, and travel.” (http://www.lonetwin.com/about.htm) Their work brings people together and bridges the gap between local and tourist in a creative, engaging way. I also thought about a movement I’ve heard of by artists who remove paintings in hotel rooms they stay in and then paint or draw underneath, afterwards replacing the framed official images to make it look like nothing happened. http://www.secretwalltattoos.com/ I’m fascinated by this secret way of giving an unfamiliar touch to place that often feels familiar because we visit them all the time. However, this art also makes an impersonal place more personal.
February 10, 2007
destinations within destinations
There is a great deal to address in Lippards’s “On the Beaten Track”, but the particular chapter I was most struck by was “Crossroads Everywhere: Cultural Tourism” because it intersects with my personal experience. At the opening of the chapter she mentions how some artists enjoy performing their crafts for an audience, and cites glass artist Dale Chihuly and his self-proclamation via bilboards in Seattle, Washington. This made me pause and think about the unfolding of Chihuly’s career over the past decade, and how he has brought his art to already established tourism destinations.
I first heard of Chihuly on PBS when they were recording his famous installation of pieces throughout Venice, which seemed to me to be an incredible way to grant public access to a cross-cultural artistic experience. Soon after that, Chihuly came to Miami and placed his pieces throughout Fairchild Gardens, and then brought a small installation to the Orlando Museum of Art, which I had the opportunity to attend. I recall feeling slightly let down, as seeing his work in a museum setting was much different than (what I imagined via television) the vibrant setting of the Venice canals. The access had changed; it was limited.
Little did I know, I would end up working at the New York Botanical Garden last year during the time the institution was preparing for a Chihuly exhibition. This site, along with OMA, speaks to Lippard’s description of “socialite tourism”, as his art was housed within “destinations” of their own right (77). I was granted a “behind the scenes” experience of planning for Chihuly, as I was a part of the ‘social background’ (86), and it was a hideous corporate mess! The agendas of art and commerce butted heads. With Target as the exhibition sponsor, there were extensive logistical issues to negotiate between Chihuly's ‘people’, the Garden's ‘people’ and Target’s ‘people’, and it all boiled down to money. The agendas of art and commerce must also meet at a crossroads in order to provide cultural tourism.
Beyond that, it is important to note NYBG’s consideration of itself as a museum of plants and flowers, an ultimate showcase of nature, which is located on a presitine 250-acre site in the Bronx. The Garden is a premiere institution which relies on sustaining its foundation through the philanthropy of New York's social elite. Lippard's mention of the "slum tourism" of the 1980's (81) makes me consider the fact that the area around NYBG might be on the trajectory of a "slum tour" but the museum set within the area surely would not. I have conflicted feelings about NYBG's granting and denying acces within the varied communites of NYC. The experience is cultural but not "cross cultural", so I wonder if there is any "crossroads" at all?
This dilemma points to agency, What is the agency of the institution and what is the agency of the art housed within it? Further, does one's success rely soley on the other? If the mediation of the museum validates the art in that "it must be good because it's here" mentality (77), can the art stand alone?
Lippard’s On the Beaten Track draws the attention not only on “domestic tourism” (1999: 2) and but also on the concept of “places” from the ordinary to extraordinary. I am interested in the chapter of “cultural tourism” due to my background of cultural studies and the newspaper’s special report on local museums in Taiwan before writing this response.
Eight years ago, the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) Government in Taiwan decides to budget almost 80 hundred million dollars (TWD) to support the local governments to build the museums in order to conserve local culture and promote the boom of tourist industry. Thus, they totally set up almost 250 museums in Taiwan. It means that almost each region has a museum in contrast to 369 regions in Taiwan. However, after the booming situation of great amount of tourists in the first couple of months of opening, the amount of tourist declines steadily. Up to eighty-five percent of those museums, the amount of tourists is less than 500 persons per year since the first year after the opening.
Lippard writes, “A region’s local identity is more likely to be further falsified or diluted than researched and amplified by such campaigns” (1999: 75). It’s really an epitome of the reality of those local museums in Taiwan. The original concept of developing those local museums is to fulfill the promise of President Election in 2000, which is the first time that the President in Taiwan is no longer from KMT (Kuomington, China Nationalist Party) since 1949, the year KMT Government retreated to Taiwan from mainland China. And the image of DPP is grassroots and close to folks, so they promise to promote the development of culture and tourist industry in each region in Taiwan. But the lack of professional plan and management cause those local museums can’t be functioned. I don’t attempt to write too much here, because it could be a topic of a term paper or MA thesis. What I would like to do here is to raise the question of domestic tourism, tourist industry and cultural policy. We have been discussing many dimensions of “tourists”, however, by the shift from intercultural tourism to domestic tourism, the cultural policy is also a factor of tourism. It always affects a region and its culture and tourist industry. What Bruner discusses about the ethnic theme parks is also under the Government’s cultural policy. Therefore, the discussion of the relationship among domestic tourism, tourist industry and cultural policy will draw much more different dimensions of discussing tourism.
I was surprised and elated to find Fred WIlson included in Lippard's survey of artist's intervening in touristic situations. (pp.98 - 101) I had first encountered Wilson in coursework examining the History of the Avant Garde, where his work was categorized as "institutional critique" and never explicitly linked to touristic consciousnesses. His inclusion here got me thinking about the boundary (for me personally) between what I consider touristic experience and leisure experience. I realized there was no boundary, furthermore, I decided that implicit in Lippard's work, as well as in Bruner and MacCannell, is the suggestion that Tourism and the Touristic gaze presents itself as an extremely useful and pertinent metaphor for contemporary bourgeois perception as a whole.
In other words I am suggesting that Lippard especially indicates the degree to which we (I should really be using I here, I am finding this affinity with my own experience) organize our daily lives as a series of touristic experiences. Let me break it down a bit: if I go to the Met or PS1 on a saturday in February, I do not feel like a tourist, I feel like an autodidact -- I go to better myself, to learn something, to add to my knowledge of the world. Of course this same motive is at the root of most of my actions (I read the newspaper, I get a master's in performance studies, etc., etc.). Knowing that this auto-didacticism also motivates my engagement with tourist sites indicates to me that in all endeavors I behave as a tourist might.
When artists intervene in tourism, as Lippard describes it, they most often intervene as a way of fundamentally altering the tourist's perceptions. This understanding complements my ideas of touristic perception as the primary mode of contemporary perception. Lippard quotes an artist, Schartzenberg, who describes her intervention as a "kind of psychological archeology." (19) Tourism as a category seems to describe an organizational system with which to approach the world, and artists seem to approach that system with the same irreverence they approach any monological discourse, to tear it down. Unfortunately, if we understand tourism as a discourse we are all within, that cannot be escaped, the challenges of effectively countering such a discourse seem exacerbated. For artists this would especially seem the case, as Lippard points out that, "artists 'pioneer' rundown areas with cheap space and become the flying wedge of tourism.." (75) It is not only that artists are caught up in the economies or perceptual systems of tourism -- they are tourism's clarion call. Such a position is unique, they are at once the best qualified to comment on touristic experiences and perceptions, and too close to the subject to be objective.
I am reminded at this point of moments when various members of my family have become offended while on tour. Each of the authors we've read have hinted at such moments, where a tourist's sense of entitlement came into conflict with an artist or author's sense of obligation to elucidating the social/economic/political reality the tourist production obscured. In my own life, I've seen family members become incensed at tour guides primarily when a guide's political agenda impeded a family members sense of speicifically autodidactic entitlement -- the best example is a National Park Service guide, who while leading a tour of Anasazi ruins in the US southwest, continually chastised the group's inclinations for photography, and refused to answer my father's questions regarding Anasazi burial practices. (this incensed him enough to abandon the group and trek back to the parking lot alone)
As Foucault points out, Knowledge is Power, and this maxim holds true in touristic contexts: the western sense of entitlement to knowledge of all peoples and all things is ineluctably tied to the western sense of touristic entitlement, and it is precisely this relationship, I believe, that manifests itself in the work of artists who examine tourism.
Mediation and Identity
How an experience is mediated is the central theme in Lucy Lippard’s book “On the Beaten Path.” This work examines the authors travels through out the United States examining other tourists. Her choice to only look at American tourism reveals the complex relationship between the tourist gaze and it’s subject. This choice complicated assumed notions of the “othering” which occurs during the tourist experience. While the ‘attraction’ most obviously becomes objectified and essentialized, Lippard calls attention to the ‘othering’ of the tourist that reflexively occurs. In Santa Fe the native communities have become attractions to Americans seeking an ‘authentic Southwest experience.’ Without legal support from the government, these communities are left vulnerable to the tourists, whose patronizing attitude irrespectively invades the privacy of the ‘other.’ But with support from the government, native communities were able to control the movements of the tourists, like children they directed them where they would walk, sit and when it was appropriate to take pictures. In reveres ‘othering’ the objectifies community finds agency.
The chapter regarding museums stood out the most for me. What do museums do? How are they mediated and how does their construction mediate? In what ways do they develop a national subjectivity? Lippard’s idea that a museum, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, facilitates an arm-chair tourism can be further complicated. While she describes the almost clinical environment of museums, she over looks essential aspects of the ‘viewing’ experience. The process of walking is essential to a museum goer’s experience. The act of walking through a museum can be looked at in turns of a journey in its own right. Most people will walk through an art museum in chronological order. This creates a procedural aesthetic experience of western history, as interpreted by artist of the time. The weight of a museums art is not only what is literally represented, but the mediation of the image. Through the mediation of the aesthetic form, the tourist is then able to gaze into another time, in this way the museum facilitates a temporal relocation.
While elitism does dominate a museum’s existence, by nature it reminds egalitarian. Museum are large open spaces in which people gather to have individual experiences together. The price of many museum tickets have soared, but even in this unabashedly capitalist country ‘public’ museums remain free. The emergence of museum emerged with the birth of democracy. The Louvre, the ancient palace of the French Royalty, was opened as a museum by Napoleon, in the belief that art should be available to all people and not just remain in the hands of the wealthy. The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, also a palace, was transformed into a museum the same vain. The relocation of objection which inform national identity, in this case art that is recognized to represent a larger consciousness, from the privet space to the public sphere is a prominent aspect of modernity. Based on this, I might further propose the question: is a disregard for privet spaces, or the corresponding need to open up privet spheres to the public gaze, part of a modern attitude? MacCannell’s evaluation of tourism as part of modernity would direct this question.
Also on the subject of museums, Lippard criticizes curators for their narrow choices of what should be considered art. I would have like her to address the horrifically prevalent practices of curators acquiring pieces from looters. How does the history of an coveted object effect the gaze of the tourist? Or when the historic trace is concealed or is ignored because of colonial indifference? Because tourist sites are important performances of national identity, from the Met to Mount Rushmore, the moral or immoral choices in their construction contribute to their mediation. While ‘authenticity’ is perpetually illusive, transparency of the mediation at the very lease renders the experience authentically mediated. Concealment of mediation presents a fabricated narrative as fact, reinforcing the cultural stereotypes that perpetuate irresponsible and disrespectable tourism.
Envisioning tourism (A and B)
A. Re Lippard chapter on Santa Fe (p.65 ): “Ambivalent Tourism” (an artist’s visit to Taos Pueblo)
Taos Pueblo, NM, August, 2001. I am visiting the pueblo as part of Native Cinema Showcase, a new Smithsonian program that will present Native films during Indian Market. I am charged the $10 admission fee by the pueblo-owned ticket office. I’ve never been charged admission to any Andean villages I’ve visited and ask myself if I should have paid then too; perhaps one day I will. I take comfort knowing that at least my funds were going straight back to the community.
I’m then asked if I will be using my camera, because if I want to take pictures, it’ll be another $10 for a permit. So I pay, but when my sketchbook is spotted by the ticketseller, he says I will have to leave it or pay $100! I’m taken aback- as an artist, I have never been charged for the right to draw! I’m informed that many (non-Native) artists and illustrators make a killing in Santa Fe selling their sketches and paintings of traditional pueblos and/or their people. In that light, I leave my sketchbook.
Wandering rather uncomfortably around the pueblo I notice there are no signs of “life”: no children playing, no chickens in the yards-just a couple “rez dogs”- all windows are tightly shuttered, and there are only a few artisans with “open studios” selling their art. The place feels scrubbed clean yet abandoned, open only for business. There was even a red-painted roadblock on a dirt road in the pueblo, even though there were no cars, only pedestrians, with a big sign informing tourists that this sector was off limits. I was conflicted, understanding the cultural rights at stake and comprehending the plight of the pueblos to maintain their sacred sites and traditions. I never wanted to be or feel like an intruder, and hadn’t I paid to walk around here? They could have told us some places were not to be visited. The whole place felt like it was off limits. All in all, the whole experience made me uneasy. Any aperture to tourists was highly regulated and felt forced- the friend I was with called it “ambivalent tourism.” How could tourism be any other way, if the people visited really just want to be left alone?
The sheer economic need of colonized locations and peoples make many investors justify tourism at all costs. I personally wonder what the social cost may add up to, the sacrifice of sacred space, the fracturing of the wholeness of a place or community; and I wonder if perhaps it’s not a stategy in itself, to make one one leave a community feeling chastized and not wanting to ever return. Happy? Now go home.
I work with Native artists, we were in New Mexico to screen films made by Native directors as a counterpoint to the fevered consumerism that takes hold of Santa Fe during Indian Market, when east coast collectors and southwest locals pore and haggle over miles of Native American crafts, art and artifacts. They partly go to see the artists themselves, displaying their wares on frayed blankets and ponchos, or exhibiting their abstract art in fashionable galleries. Native people also go to celebrate Native arts, hang out, meet relatives, and party. Our screenings were trying to introduce the work of Native directors, the unexpected visual narratives of contemporary life presented in Native films. Yet at Taos Pueblo, we were “just” tourists.
B. Art and tourism
As a child of divorced parents whose life was greatly impacted by the 1973 coup in Chile, I know about displacement. So Lippard’s interrogation of the concept of tourism and her keen distinction of people who have faced forced displacement/migration (p.4) and people “too poor to go anywhere” (p. 34), from the tourists and travelers comes as a great relief. Most tourism is privileged and these travelers have a plan and a chosen destination. And visas, if even required, while securing a visa is an achievement for a third-world traveler (p.22, and p.52, regarding Ellis Island). Hence, there are those who don’t bother to even apply for one, saving the money instead for the coyote. (Plenty of those in Santa Fe, too.)
Lippard first addresses the sites- how places become destinations. Communities may approve or disapprove, but once a place is on the map, they may just have to adjust to the flow of tourists. Like “freaks,” there are “born” and “made” sites, and they become known by the apparatus of publicity, mass media, specialized criticism and agencies ranging from travel agancies to state tourism boards. Tourism, she writes, may well be the largest source of employment on the planet (p.4).
Many artists of color have worked on themes of exile, displacement, migration, nomadism, mapping, land, and travel. Few, however, have turned to tourism. Lippard’s chapter “Surprise Packages” focuses on artist’s creative and oftentimes critical responses to the tourist gaze. I wonder how the nostalgia of exiled artist’s art is different from tourism’s nostalgia (p. 38)? And what differentiates tourists from pilgrims (p.37)?
What are the “dangers of tourism” (p. 22 )? What impact does the presence of tourists bring to underpriviledged communities? Vandalism, environmental pollution, natural resource depletion, prostitution, exposure to Aids, intermarriage, cultural impact?
Native artists James Luna (Luiseño) and Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne/Arapaho) have been very vocal through their art in addressing the appropriation of Native American culture by Western art. Luna’s “Artifact Piece”(1989) drives its point home, as Luna literally lies in museum display case as part of the exhibition (PLEASE visit www.jamesluna.com; the site’s lyrics include musings such as “let me tell you somethin’ about Indian Market…”).
In “Telling Many Magpies, telling Black Wolf, telling Hachivi” (1989), Heap of Birds (www.heapofbirds.com) works in minimal black-and-while graphics, proclaiming: “NATURAL/We don’t want Indians/Just their names/mascots/machines/cities/products/buildings/LIVING PEOPLE.”
A task I think would be productive would be to compile a filmography on indigenous/“ethnic” takes on tourism. One animation comes to mind: broadcast in 2005 on Colorvisions (PBS), where two African Americans go on a tour to Colonial Williamsburg, and to their amazement, are “cast” as slaves in the historical recreation. (If anyone can find this short I’d love to screen it.)
Along these lines, artist Victor Masayesva, Jr. (Hopi) visited tribal communities with an all Indian crew in Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington and the Amazon to produce the film “Imagining Indians”(60 min., 1992). Masayesva says, "Coming from a village which became embroiled in the filming of Darkwind, a Hollywood production on the Hopi Reservation, I felt a keen responsibility as a community member, not an individual, to address these impositions on our tribal lives. Even as our communities say no, outsiders are responding to this as a challenge instead of respecting our feelings....I have come to believe that the sacred aspects of our existence which encourages the continuity and vitality of Native peoples are being manipulated by an aesthetic in which money is the most important qualification. This contradicts the values intrinsic to what's sacred and may destroy our substance. I am concerned about a tribal and community future which is reflected in my film and I hope this challenges the viewer to overcome glamorized Hollywood views of the Native American, which obscures the difficult demands of walking the spiritual road of our ancestors." (Quote from distributor’s website, www.der.org).
American Girl in Little Italy
In her chapter on “Seduction and Hyperbole,” Lucy Lippard looks closely at Ruth Orkin’s 1951 photograph American Girl in Italy. The photograph is set in Florence and has as its protagonist and American woman (girl?) walking with dignity amidst a group of invasive and forward Italian men. Lippard writes that “it is difficult to travel without disturbing reminders of the power relations that become starkly evident when different groups of people intersect in one space,” (Lippard 56)
In her chapter on “Seduction and Hyperbole,” Lucy Lippard looks closely at Ruth Orkin’s 1951 photograph American Girl in Italy. The photograph is set in Florence and has as its protagonist and American woman (girl?) walking with dignity amidst a group of invasive and forward Italian men. Lippard writes that “it is difficult to travel without disturbing reminders of the power relations that become starkly evident when different groups of people intersect in one space,” (Lippard 56)
While Lippard is interested in Orkin’s response in the context of individual experiences in traveling, especially gendered experience, I would like to focus on the issues Orkin’s photograph brings up in the context of ethnotourism. In particular, how does a moment like the one caught in Orkin’s photograph become marketed and romanticized, to the point that part of the “Italian experience,” for instance, becomes a similar interaction as that portrayed by American Girl in Italy? I am particularly interested in the way tourist productions are able to adopt power relations within a particular culture and market them as actual attractions.
In the case of Little Italy, part of the performance enacted by restaurant waiters and others involved in the reproduction of “Italianness,” deals directly with the reproduction of male/female relationships as imagined in Italy. What seems particularly distressing to me is that in the context of Little Italy, these relations do not carry the same complexity and risks as the ones they are emulating. Furthermore, the seductive-aggressive behavior on the men’s part serves to idealize and perpetuate a vision of Italians as somewhat passionate and “primitive,” yet innocuous. Not only that, but Italians in Italy have also understood the marketing potential of such stereotyped behavior and in restaurants in Rome or Florence you will find the most theatrical renditions of the passionate Italian lover.
We are reminded by Lippard that “ethnic tourism, well-intentioned and/or disrespectfully perpetrated, usually turns out to be another facet of the racism it claims to overturn by paying homage to or idealizing a group of people.” (Lippard 85) By simplifying and exoticizing gender relations within the American Italian community, what relations are left unquestioned? How can power relations within a particular community be given more complexity, so as not to create a two dimensional representation of that culture? And what about power relations between the dominant culture and the one that becomes the focus of ethnic tourism?
Lippard’s On the Beaten Track inherited one theme from MacCannell’s The Tourist – the escape. For MacCannell, the tourists are escaping from their work. But still, they are unable to restrain their curiosity from seeing how other people work wherever they go; and thus the factory and some other workplaces became tourist attractions.
For Lippard, more than work, the tourist is running away from the “place,” or from the living situation as a whole. What’s interesting and true is that “They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go.” (Lippard 1999:22) In this way, at least two sub-classes under the category of bourgeoisie are generated from tourism – those who can afford international tourism, and those who can only travel within the nation, the domestic tourist.
How can the domestic tourism benefit or heal the tourist who has a painful desire to escape? How can tourism generated from the desire of escape be progressive? Maybe the tourists have to find out the very reason for their own running away, but not just desperately escape. The reason and its artistic expression or representation may be progressive – just as Lone Twin did in their Nine Years, providing their own sincere understanding of the reified world.
For my final paper, I hope to find out the meaning of the Matsu pilgrimage in nowadays Taiwan, since “The historical roles of pilgrimage and curiosity have been filled (though hardly fulfilled) by tourism and museums.” (Lippard 1999:9) The folklore of the sea goddess Matsu and the Taiwanese national myth/identity would be one line, and the bodily experiences of walking, such as pain, exhaustion, transformation, another line. Bruner’s analysis model of “pre-tour, on-tour, post-tour, would be very helpful to my topic, so does Lippard’s focus on the domestic tourism.
Dasha's response -- art in, of, and as tourism
Lippard examines the ways the arts, artists, and art institutions are integral in shaping, critiquing, and guiding tourism. I found her commentary on the place of art and artists within the dilemmas of domestic tourism a compelling – and detailed – examination of the webs created by expectations and displays of visual and performed culture. This work reinforced the value of studying tourism as a lens: a perspective through which we can focus our particular studies. Lippard’s discussion of Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Peña’s brilliant performance “The Couple in the Cage” seems to connect the three types of tourism we discussed last week in class: productions of indigeneity/native culture, historic or heritage sites, sites of conscious that address wrongs of recent history.
Coco Fusco created another piece that I think is a useful presentation of the role art has in creating tourism – the context of the international art biennale in an ‘exotic’ locale – as well as arts role in commenting on this function. It also reframes the three categories of tourism mentioned above. Her work at the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale – three years after the country’s first democratic elections – points to her multifaceted approach to the intersections of art, tourism, and national history. (The following is informed by Fusco’s piece “Rights of Passage: a performance for South Africa, 1997” in her collection of essays, the bodies that were not ours and other writings.)
Signaling South Africa’s entry into the international art circuit after decades of cultural boycotts and general isolation, the Biennale’s theme was “Trade Routes: History and Geography.” The concept attempted to illuminate the global “routes” of travel/exchange of ideas (and people, goods, labor, and technologies) within, beyond, and about Africa. While the Biennale’s theme was conceived to re-connect the nation to the international, Fusco conceived of her project as a “creative intervention” (105) that would re-focus attention on South Africa’s national and historical context. She “wanted to deal with internal rather than external migration” and thus created a production which recalled the passbooks – an identification document that blacks and ‘coloureds’ were forced to carry at all times during apartheid, and which represented granted permission by a white employer to be traveling outside of their designated homeland. These passbooks came to identify life for non-white South Africans, and failing to produce one’s pass upon request most often led to arrest. Fusco’s use of the passbook, although specific to South Africa, recalls identity cards required of many minorities all over the continent.
Fusco’s performance addressed this history – in fact a very recent memory for South Africans – by dressing up like a South African cop and requiring all Biennale visitors make a passbook and carry it with them in order to gain access to the exhibitions. She set up a photo booth where each visitor had their picture taken, and the passbook was mandatory for entry to each exhibit and was stamped upon entry. The booklets were close replicas to those carried during apartheid. People’s information was taken down in an interview (name, nationality, ethnicity, etc.), but visitors were able to fabricate these details and fashion their own invented personalities. Fusco had two assistants, black South Africans, “to add a touch of authenticity to the performance by scolding visitors who approached them in Afrikaans, the favored language of the police under apartheid.” (108) In the following quote, Fusco describes her motivations and highlights the ways in which this piece addresses much of Lippard is concerned with:
“I wanted [the passbooks] to be souvenirs of a critical moment in history of demarcation of space in South Africa, and of our ambivalent attraction to and repulsion from that past, and its immanent commodification. I wanted the performance to encourage visitors to reflect upon the objectification of apartheid as a part of the past. The frequent bandying about of the notion of “post-apartheid South Africa” serves to suppress awareness of the actual present of segregation in that multiracial society. In a broader sense, the piece was a comment on contemporary cultural tourism, and the new status of “peripherally” situated biennales as marketplaces for all sorts of exotica. Even the most horrifying historical circumstances (apartheid) can function as a point of attraction, and, ultimately, a lure for global capital investment.” (109)
The reception of the production ranged from some finding it “cathartic” to others interpreting it as “offensive.” Some people were alarmed because they believed the process to be real, “despite the presence of a museum label next to [her] stand”, and were resistant to Fusco’s interrogation. She notes that “many members of the artworld cognoscenti were extremely annoyed by the piece.” It is fascinating because she was directly critiquing the Biennale’s methods and structures, and unsurprising that this would annoy members of the art world. Foreigners shared tales with Fusco about their own harassment at borders and other travel checkpoints. Some white South Africans “accused [her] of meddling in their affairs, most often insisting that ethnicity was no longer a defining category for them as they were now all South Africans.” (109) Some of the maintenance staff came to the site and watched with amusement as whites were asked for identification.
These are only some of the experiences Fusco details, but they expose an interesting perspective on the different meanings of tourism as a “contact zone”, as well as the role of art both in exposing the workings of tourism. I find this performance an incredible intervention. It makes a statement about that particular moment in South Africa when memories of apartheid were being presented in public discourse as something of the past (as Fusco notes the danger of rhetoric claiming a “post-apartheid” era), negating the pervasive residual effects of these structures. Fusco’s resurrection of the passbook drama reinforces the souvenir status of a symbol which evokes this past. Creating this performance in the Biennale is a loud comment on the removed nature of this particular symposium’s theme, as well as the recurrent negation of a place’s history and people that happens when a Biennale comes into town. Her critique of tourism through and within art created a new “contact zone” that offered opportunity for a critical gaze.
The case of Tulija: the revived art of tourism and the tourism of artisan revival
In what ways is the traveler an artist? And the artist a traveler? First, I purposefully use the term “traveler”, since “tourist” has acquired a densely negative charge over the past decades; a traveler, however, still preserves the charisma of the idea of exploration and enrichment. Second, inspired by Lippard’s concepts on public art, I follow the strings connecting the act of traveling to the act of creation and recreation of the world, which she insightfully put as:
Tourism (like art) has been touted as a form of transformation, even cannibalism – the consumption of other places, other cultures, or the digestion of their powers. Tourists make ordinary places extraordinary by their presence, but travel changes the traveler as well; it is a speeded-up counterpart of ordinary life. (Lippard 1999:5)
It is this relationality between art and tourism that I find fascinating particularly in the quality of the two to produce and re-produce places, people, and experiences visually and linguistically, and I will later share with you my experiences of place while teaching at a Mayan community in Mexico. I agree with Lippard that little has been written on the arts related to the topic of tourism, and I enjoyed reading the articles about the performance staged by Gomez-Pana and Fusco with all of its ironies and seriousness about the staging of identities, particularly as I thought of it within the framework of modern ethnotourism. Here, I would like to go a bit further in the exploration of the connection between art and tourism and see what the artistic responses to tourism could be on part of local communities (and Lippard does a great job at questioning and expanding the notions of the “local” and of “community” in her previous book The Lure of the Local (1997), which I highly recommend) and relate to another point in “On the Beaten Track” dealing with people’s economic motivations and strategies for attracting tourists (Lippard’s chapter on cultural tourism, pp.72-87). From my travels around Latin America over the past few years I have been collecting cases of artisan work that has been resuscitated or entirely present-day made in order to satisfy tourist demands and sustain local development (or at least a stable level of existence). The community of Tulija in Chiapas, Mexico, is an interesting case.
It was the summer of 2004 and I arrived in the small community of a Tzeltal (Maya descendents) indigenous group to teach art workshops for two months. It was a project that the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) of Mexico and the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) in Mexico City had been implementing since 1996, called Integral Projects for Conservation, Identity, and Community Development. The concept was to promote local economic development by helping indigenous communities learn innovative crafts or improve local techniques in order to compete in the market of tourist productions. The interesting focus of the project is that it strives to develop artisan work alongside the revitalization of local intangible heritage so that it also becomes a factor in the development of the community at a social and cultural dimension.
My own work was quite interesting, as I was teaching Eastern Orthodox icon-painting to an indigenous Catholic and Protestant community. The Institute of Anthropology and History offered the community to learn the Orthodox Christian technique of religious painting (since I applied to the program with this main skill of mine), and the people, who were already familiar with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and all venerated it at home, agreed with great interest and also hope the images would sell well, since no other indigenous community makes those. With an age range from 12 to 60 and about 30 people, the workshop (the community is about a 100) proved to be a fascinating experience of cross-cultural communication and exchange, as well exploration of the value of creativity specifically for the women in the village. This was, indeed, the first time in their life when they truly created something that had no practical purpose (the traditional embroidery they make is for wear, and can perhaps be called “utilitarian art” in the way Lippard uses it (73)). The women in the workshop told me painting made them feel happy and proud of their abilities. Expressed in simple words, those were testimonies on the importance that the arts could bring in fomenting sensations of self-esteem. The economic motivation component was always present, as the women and the children in the workshop (culturally it was unacceptable for men to do crafts or learn from a woman) were hoping to be able to sell the icons in the nearby tourist hot spot of Palenque and thus have money to pay for education.
In the women’s performance of a new identity as artisans, I observed precisely the dynamics of tourism bringing about the “transformation of old-fashioned middling artisans, shopkeepers, and professionals into a new middle class, converting them from a tradition of self-denying soberness and frugality to a consumer ethic that sought liberation and fulfillment in purchase” (Dona Brown in Lippard 1999: 9). Certainly, tourist artisan production does not have only its glorious side, and we should study and question the extent to which the authentic for the community is twisted in order to be sold. The radical changes in the color schemes (a lot darker now) of traditional weavings in Latin America in response to the tastes of tourists is an example of these modifications, which indigenous artisans themselves do not embrace (many have told me with utmost perplexity that they have no idea why foreigners like those “ugly colors,” yet soon those “ugly colors” might replace the traditional vibrancy even in the native’s clothing). Another change seen as negative by both visitors and locals are the children and also adults in traditional wear waiting for a tourist to take picture of them and then ask for money – an act that many locals are actually ashamed of, since it is in no way coherent with their customs and values of treating the visitor with utmost respect and hospitality, and not the mere drive for profit. Cultural tourism is supposed to show more cultural sensitivity and respect, yet the economy, not so much the culture, of tourism itself creates trends of material behavior that regurgitate the international master narratives on free market and competition that often supercede local values on value and exchange.
art collective working on puplic art projects in NYC:
one of their more interesting projects for this class might be the "lower manhattan sign project"
Lucy Lippard has also written about their work: http://www.repohistory.org/work.html
Night at the Museum
In reading about museums and ideologies behind them, I was reminded of the new Ben Stiller movie: "Night at the Museum." Lucy Lippard's chapter on "Exhipitionism" in On the Beaten Track reminded me of the attempt made by the movie to, literally, bring life back to the institution of the museum.
Here is a link to the trailer: http://www.nightatthemuseum.com/
In the movie, the Natural Museum of History in NYC is turned into the set for the magical coming to life of its "different" and "authentic" inhabitants. As a comedy, the movie plays a lot with humor and with surprising the audience by reenacting or destabilizing racial/ethnic/historical identity stereotypes. In the end, all the different inhabitants of the museum come together to overthrow the evil doers and finally celebrate with disco dancing in entrance hall of the building.
"Night at the Museum" seemed like the Hollywood response to the seven-year-old girl's disdainful remark about her own experience at the Museum of Natural History as quoted in Lippard (p 89)
Nico on Lippard
Lippard proposes several examples of art created as a response to tourism. The “Back of the Bus” or the “Couple in the Cage” projects are creative and interesting, yet are either too complicated or too aggressive to enable a pro-active, redeeming response from a viewer/tourist. What is the tourist to do with this now that s/he is in the location? It is one thing to instill shame, but another to use that emotion for action. The main problem is that there is no follow-through or access to that emotion because most of these projects are created independently and only have their singular power. What is needed is a stronger “civil society” of arts and culture that not only criticizes but shapes the tourist experience. What this means is integration at all levels- from artists, community and arts and culture organizations to government and corporate, in a more “bottom-up” approach, where the community identifies its needs and receives the necessary tools.
Lippard wants to do away with the “middle men” of art- but it is the opposite, a closer integration that is needed. The key is for that “middle man” to be in tune with the needs of the community and yet be able to make a profit. Perhaps there is a need for the arts to get more serious. Not to reject corporate support, but to shape it and work in tandem with it while asserting independence of content. If the arts community is strong enough, in that it is pervasive everywhere, receives broad corporate support and has the backing of government, it can be subversive and challenging because that mode of action would be the norm. There will always be lowest-common denominator attractions, but that does not mean that there cannot be a strong and progressive group of stakeholders proposing alternatives. It needs leadership, local and global, and we can take inspiration from issues like global warming to see that everywhere people are starting to change the way they do things.
One of the important parts of tourism is the element of surprise, the spectacle. It is by including art and creative expression in the everydayness of life that we can contribute to a different type of surprise. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council is very active on this front. It works with local artists and cultural groups to help shift the discourse on what is important and worthy of attention.
See the Landromatinee
Public Art Walking Tours
Recipe for Downtown. Note that Radhika Subramaniam, the Director of Programs, holds a PhD. from Performance Studies…
Finally, Lippard talks about Eco Tourism. Since her book was published, this industry has exploded. There is even an International Ecotourism Society - http://www.ecotourism.org/ which is trying to set benchmark through certifications and training, and endorses a range of tours. See also the NY based organization Green Maps http://www.greenmap.com/ that produces maps—in collaboration with local stakeholders- of cities across the world. These include sites of historic preservation, green businesses, spiritual sites, etc. Imagine if immigration officers at airports handed one of these maps to each tourist?
February 09, 2007
Belfast: tragic tourism and living memorial
I was thinking about what Lippard says regarding “tragic tourism” in chapter nine when she discusses our occupation of multiple voyeuristic roles in the process of travel to sites of tragedy. Early in the chapter, she makes a startling statement about intention and an absence that somehow represents an eerie remainder of what was once there. I thought of my year abroad in England and specifically a weekend trip I took to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I actually (and now I find this a little embarrassing and hard to believe) had little understanding of the struggles within that tumultuous city. What I did know was historically grounded in that I was well aware of the hundreds of years of dissent between the Catholics and Protestants in Great Britain and that, as a result, violence had troubled Northern Ireland for the same great length of time. An early evening arrival brought myself and my two roommates to a ghost town; so silent and empty it was unsettling. I was to learn, in my black taxi “political tour” the next day that not only was a visiting a site of past tragedy memorialized through elaborate murals, but that I was experiencing an entire city living simultaneous historical trauma and contemporary tragedy.
On the tour, we were not to role down our windows or leave the taxi unless expressly given permission by our driver/tour guide (who consequently turned out to be Catholic; something I learned by the time we reached the Catholic side of town). He navigated us through the Protestant neighborhoods first, which were decorated by elaborate murals on nearly every home. The murals illustrated local kids murdered in gang fights throughout the years, similar to things I’ve seen here in NY; however, right beside such expected visual signifiers of struggle and martyrdom, were larger than life portraits of Oliver Cromwell, father of the Protestant cause who died in 1658. Getting back to Lippard and what she says about invisible monuments being the most haunting because of the pregnant absence we can experience when there is nothing there but a ghost of what once happened. I do not agree, for I think that without visual monuments of any kind, the past (particularly the horrors of the past) would disappear into oblivion and there would be nothing left to remind us of what humanity is capable of; both good and bad. I do see where she is coming from in that monuments are a mode of cross-cultural one-upmanship, in which different cultures, religions, races must substantialize their existence by monumentalizing their tragedies. I do not think that invisible memorial is necessarily the answer to any kind of colonial battle ground where we say to one another, “I’m sick of hearing about your privileged loss, what about my underrepresented tragedies?” There must be a middle ground, mustn’t there?
Getting back to my example, I was just about to get back into the taxi when it occurred to me to ask the driver what the real realities of the violence were now for a person living on either side in Belfast. I almost fell over when he told me that just three days before my arrival, one of the teenaged protestant gang members of the ULM or the Ulster Young Militants was shot to death almost exactly where I stood at that moment. As we drove through the barbed wire divider otherwise known as the only way back and forth between neighborhoods due to the “Berlin Wall of Belfast” we came upon the Catholic sector, which had murals as well but more abundant were these modest stone garden shrines behind homes. Our driver turned around and gave us three huge, rubber, cylinders, which he told us were permitted by the Loyalist (yup they still use that term) police but only at a distance of 30ft and from the waist down. He then took us into a garden strewn with stones and fresh flowers and told us that a three year old Catholic child was murdered not a week before when Protestant teens of one of the factions shot a rubber bullet from a distance of a few feet at the child’s head, where it was lodged through her excruciatingly long and painful last hours before her death. I’m not sure whether or not tourism cheapens sites of tragedy but I do know that in Belfast, my tourism was not only about the monuments but about the ongoing presence of tragedy that continues to repeat itself over and over again. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I arrived, does that change my role? I think that my Belfast experience is an example, or at least I would like to think so, of responsible tourism; such that I gained understanding while facing extreme unease and discomfort. I took a single photograph of the rubber bullets the entire weekend, which was and is enough of a monument not only to the living tragic tourist site that is Belfast but also to my own tourist identity as something in constant flux: “becoming” rather than “being”.
Can I call my trip an example of progressive tourism? I really do not know, but I can say that the experience was indeed a mode of inquiry into dealing with personal, social and political traumatic affect through a tourist lens. Lippard says that awareness of one’s placement and subjectivity in relation to the performance of tourism is crucial in attaining/maintaining a critical, responsible and respectful perspective. I could not agree more, particularly in relation to sites of memorial and monument, where sadness and hyped up empathy are not as valuable as analytical distance. The acknowledgment of not only the tragedy, but what such sites themselves have come to embody in their memorialization, is crucial in understanding their (new) function as tourist destination.
A little on embodying tourist attractions, for anyone interested:
February 08, 2007
CELEBRATING TOURISM-John Dietrich
CELEBRATING TOURISM- John Dietrich
Lucy Lippard’s journey through tourism in “On The Beaten track” plays into the on-going question of responsibility. Who is responsible for tourism’s affect on people and place. Is it the responsibility of those who are residents in a tourist environment, or those who are the actual tourists, or both? As she explains, it’s that simple notion that “Tourists often make ordinary places extraordinary just by showing up”. Tourism is an economic boost to any locale, so to what extremes, bearing what result, will a community go, to pour dollars into their pockets? Class, culture, tradition and personal satisfaction all play roles into the welcoming of tourism into a community as in the example of the RV Park being proposed on Sagadahoc Bay. The problem is finding collective reasoning and a common plan to move in the right direction that will satisfy all involved. Everyone’s reasoning for the RV park not existing was different: environmental, financial, or just nostalgic, but how do you find a proposal that will be “best” for all? We can complain all we want about the result of an action but as in the case of the redevelopment of Times Square, and all the backlash regarding its’ being Disneyfied, too often it’s “our own failure to propose a better idea.” As in the case of the World Trade Center Memorial being planned at Ground Zero. A battle has raged for years, by the families who have lost loved ones, over the appropriate design that will be the “best” means of paying tribute. As long as there are thousands of opinions involved, you will be left with people who will never be satisfied with the end result. Unfortunately, what is lost sight of is the fact that a memorial, in whatever form, will forever be a symbol of remembrance.
Lucy’s discussion on numerous artists’ roles in voicing opinion about tourism through art, seemed to have a common thread in the obvious purpose of making a statement, more often in the destruction of society or community as a result of tourism, and the ignorance toward a locations true sociological problems. The art is often a platform for the activists approach to sparking public outcry. And that is a fine and affective way of using art, and for getting people to take notice or simply think differently. It is just another convention.
However, the art, whether viewed by the resident or the tourist offers an unexpected dimension or level of adventure to the experience. You won’t find it in the brochure or on a travel poster. It is more often something unexpected upon arrival and that is its’ impact. A new discovery, a way to think about the journey differently. As in the Ohio tourist brochure, it is a device that asks us to simply “open our eyes a little wider.” In most cases art is visual, which makes it easily accessible to everyone. Every culture, every ethnic group, every class level. A message will get out no matter how varied the interpretation.
One last notion of tourism that Lucy emphasizes is the purpose of escape. In an intense, highly technological, fast-paced world of today has tourism swung more and more toward leisure, fantasy and escapism? Are we seeking comfort through familiarity or are we trying to find that unspoiled place where the rest of “them” won’t be? An interesting location and concept to look at is a community called “Celebration, Florida”. An idea that is centered around being a tourist at home. It is a town built on the premise of rediscovering “Main Street U.S.A- part fantasy, part nostalgia, part escapism, part familiarity. It is built on the Walt Disney World property in Florida and is an extension of Walt Disney’s dream of a planned community of tomorrow. However it captures all the ideals of an Americana Home Town. Houses designed in a nostalgic small town sense with large front porches so you can wave to your neighbors, a village square with a lake that has rocking chairs on its’ boardwalk to enjoy warm summer evenings, the local movie theatre and ice cream parlor as well as its’ own school system and police department. Of course intermingled with this are fine restaurants and some high-end retail stores. A town in which, if you don’t want to face the problems of the ever-changing world outside, you can stay within’ its’ borders and listen to the crickets chirp at night and know that Celebration will remain safe and familiar. There have been studies done, and Celebration has discovered its’ share of problems but it is a fascinating look at a combination of urban planning, tourism and the need to create the perfect place.
From the website:
CELEBRATION is a community built on a foundation of cornerstones: Community, Education, Health, Technology, and a Sense of Place.
February 07, 2007
Cristina Diaz-Carrera responds to McCannell and Bruner
My brother recently went on a study abroad program that examined indigenous perspectives in Mexico, India, New Zealand and Canada, and I have found it helpful to think about the ideas in MacCannell and Bruner by identifying them in his experience. First there is the idea of the junior year abroad, which may not occur in the junior year and may not be a year long, but it is this quintessential experience of the university-attending youth who most likely come from the middle class.
MacCannell talks about the alienation that the middle class experiences in relation to the objects they produce, and the separation of work from leisure. More importantly, he discusses the use of leisure as a way of defining oneself because work no longer serves this purpose. Study abroad is an institutionalized experience that serves as a stepping stone towards defining oneself; it is meant to shape young adults into well adjusted members of society. My parents reported to me the positive changes they witness in my brother since his return, and comment on how his values and attitudes have improved. I myself claim to see differences since he has returned, but in reading MacCannell I question how this phenomenon fits into modern society, and our need to leave home and look at indigenous perspectives to find ourselves. In his dress my brother now wears an embroidered Indian scarf, a souvenir of his trip that visually differentiates him.
Bruner really concentrates on the different narratives of tourism, and from my brother I have the stories from his trip. There is, as Bruno says, an expectation of travel stories when one returns home, and all my aunts and cousins were expecting stories from him. Everyone asked him for details, and once he began, others of my family members could chime in with their own experiences, of course his stories were punctuated with pictures that were shown and circulated on the Internet. Both these rituals of telling stories and sharing pictures are discussed by Bruner, and extend beyond the family with the sharing of photo albums and accompanying anecdotes online. The sequence of photos provided the story with a timeline and geographic locations we the audience could hold on to (this was the first night we spent in Oaxaca, and here is where we celebrated our impromptu Thanksgiving, etc.)
The reason I have chosen my brother’s trip is because it makes me ask, is it possible to consciously not participate in touristic activities that are exploitive of local peoples, does the quest for the real always end in staged authenticity? My brother did not consider himself a tourist of local attractions, but instead a student of local traditions and interests, but in my readings it seems that many affluent tourists, such as the ones on the Out of Africa tour or the anthropological Balinese tour, also saw themselves as students of sorts. These affluent tourists perhaps saw their travels as an addition to their accreditations, and did not my brother consider this an addition to his worldliness (he would never call it that), but it is more important to his career goal to work in international public health, and his understanding of how intervention affects local communities. He participated in community dances and gatherings, that he understood as being local and “authentic”, yet how much did his presence affect the performance? More importantly how do the demands of international tourism, according to Bruner, and the visits of other student groups affecting those dances? Indicators of modernity such as wristwatches and Nike t-shirts may not be screened for his view as in the Mayers example, their very presence may in fact indicate a degree of authenticity that we travelers want to buy into. I want to see what the community “really” does, a desire that pinpoints me as a tourist, that despised of labels.
The last thing I wanted to look at was the importance of indigenous agency in tourist representations. It is easy for me to say that a representation of the Masai at Mayers is exploitive, but what of the Masai’s interpretation and willingness to participate. They saw tourism as a means to acquire income and were willing to perform the job. We obviously have to take into account the disparity of economic status of the Mayers to the Masai, and I do think giving a percentage of the profits is preferable to wage labor, but what Bruner argues is that there is an unstoppable driving force in international tourism with certain expectations. MacCannell posits these touristic desires as characteristics of our post-industrial world, our obsession to preserve the non-modern and make it consumable. But it must be a positive thing for bearers of local traditions to have agency in how their traditions are consumed, even if they have to mask their response to the commercialism to remain commercially viable.
February 05, 2007
Travel Guide to Molvania, "A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry"
As I was exiting the book shop a few minutes ago, I saw a copy of the Jetlag Travel Guide to Molvania, "A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry". They also have a book to Phaic Tan, "Sunstroke on a shoestring", San Sombrero "A Land of Carnivals, Cocktails and Coups" and they are working on several new ones including a guide to Gastronesia which will include information about Scorched Palate Archipelago. These are full-size guides that actually have maps, facts, photos and more. http://www.molvania.com
John Dietrich on Bruner
Authenticity vs. “good show” is a basis for Bruner’s writing. It is a fascinating look at different tourist experiences, in the case of the Kenyan examples, all generated from the same central subject, the Maasai culture and/or Kenyan Tribal cultures, and how the presentation of these stories by different “producers” can vary so greatly in purpose, function and experience. The other area of exploration in the reading, ethnic theme parks, addresses the variety of performance presentations based on a more political or nationalistic influence. What is common in all of Bruner’s examples is that they all can fall under the category of authentic tourist productions, experiences that claim to bring a level of authenticity to the event but are strictly conceptualized and produced for the tourist populous whether international or domestic. What does make Bruner’s insight so appealing is his lack of judgment or cynicism of the particular experience in regard to its’ value or worthiness in regard to authentic accuracy They all fill a niche in the tourist industry, provide a legitimate experience, and even more important, they have an eager audience.
What Bruner seems to emphasize through his research is “degree” of authenticity, or the politics of selection of what is important to tell. No doubt among anthropologists the question arises “Who has the right to tell the story?” and in Bruner’s case the answer would be anyone. Accuracy aside, quality aside, if it reaches out to a particular audience and fills a place in the consumerism of the tourist industry it has a function and a home. It is the old “Field of Dreams” adage in regard to the heritage of American baseball, “build it and they shall come.” What is interesting in these examples of tourist experience is how the role of producer outweighs that of writer. As Bruner states, the success of these experiences is based on “evocative visualizations” not on narrative. In fact narrative is often pushed aside and replaced with spontaneous interaction. For example, at Mayer’s Ranch, background and historical information is given, but it seems to be felt that too much narrative presentation works against the notion of realism.
What Bruner did make me question was the role of ethnic theme parks in the United States, their degree of authenticity or whether they serve nationalism on some level beyond good old Yankee ingenuity. When defining what might be considered an American Ethnic theme park I considered three examples: Disneyland, Dollywood and Colonial Williamsburg. Obviously since two out of the three of these were not developed with any government influence, a nationalistic slant is not the priority. However it does manage to play an important role since patriotism is a common draw in American tourism.
Disneyland, on the one hand being a tribute to the creativity and genius of Walt Disney, the man, was conceptualized to be a place where children and adults could share the same experience of escape, fantasy and entertainment. That was its’ primary goal, in the 1950’s, a time when a shared experience for both children and adults was difficult to come by. What it has grown into, particularly since Walt Disney’s death, is a great marketing tool for the Walt Disney Company’s film industry and brand. However, deep in the philosophy of the Disney Parks is that need to display pride in American heritage and particular nostalgia. Whether it’s attractions such as the “Hall of President’s or “American Adventure” or actual lands in the Parks like “Main Street U.S.A., New Orleans Square, or even “Tomorrowland”, originally conceived to be a partial promotion for America’s space race.
Dollywood, again, generates a world based on an iconic figure, country music legend, Dolly Parton. However, the park is rooted in the heritage of the people of Appalachia and the Smokey Mountains. Through live entertainment and crafts it brings to life the identity of this culture and it’s significance and contribution to the region, and to the history of American music. The visual theme is American nostalgia, with themed areas that capture America in the 1950’s, a typical small town county fair and a Smokey Mountain craft village.
Colonial Williamsburg is rooted in the American history of the revolutionary war period. It is a reenactment of a functioning town of the period, and serves to capture America at a pivotal turning point in its’ history and independence. It relies heavily on authenticity mainly from a structural standpoint with many of its’ buildings originating from the actual period. It is a prime example of an authentic tourist experience.
Even though this was a very general overview, it’s interesting to scratch the surface on the conceptualizing of theme parks here in America and how obvious the similarities are to the examples in Bruner’s research. That nationalism, patriotism and heritage are key ingredients to this genre of tourism entertainment. That there are no rules to affective storytelling.
More for the NYTimes
Jewish Tourism in Cuba. Here is an interesting article that address the use of tourism for cultural sustainability. And it's great for anyone interested in the Jewish diaspora.
This New York Times article, about a tourist production that re-presents the experience of crossing the Mexican-US border as an illegal immigrant seems especially germane to our class: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/travel/04HeadsUp.html
February 04, 2007
reflection of Bruner's
I was debating from whether tourist production has positive effects or negative effects. It is perhaps a non answerable question, because obviously it has both sides in it. I enjoyed the perspective of Bruner, considering tourist productions as a natural artistic form with authenticity.
The positive or negative effects might differ from looking at tourism from educational aspect or entertainment aspect. If one look tourist from educational aspect, then it should be as more objective as it could be. Though there might be some arguments about what is objective, in what degree objective, and who can objectively mark it as a tourist site, just like how history has been engaged in a controversy with. On the other hand, if one looks tourism from entertainment aspect, then it could be fabricated and subjectively reproduce by a production. Perhaps it is better to have less restriction to be more creative in expressing. However tourism cannot be seen from only one side of aspect. It is more likely to be in a liminal space so that the dilemma might go on.
I still yet want to point out the importance of objectifying, as much as possible, the master narrative. Every tourist guide explanation is based on this. Master narrative is the most initial stage for all narratives with power. The initial stage is determining because it influences every next stages, making possible to modify the pre-tour, on-tour, and post-tour narratives expectation and memories. Additional performance by tourist guides or tourists could be filtered by the tourists themselves. I do believe, in some point, what Bruner said there are no naïve tourists who go to a place without any conception. However, without objectivity, this stage might be periods of building up stereo types that cannot be adjust.
Narrative and agency
Multiple narratives sustain the tourist experience, both on behalf of the producing and guiding agents of the tourist production, and from the tourist’s own perspective: his or her preparation, journey and consequent retelling. While each side of the production may have separate stories to tell, they are responding and in many cases perpetuating or reinforcing the master narratives that each place or culture has been assigned by the colonial west. These master narratives repeat themselves over time, with slight modifications, but Bruner emphasizes the idea that narratives themselves are performative and that the retelling of stories is never exactly the same. He stresses that culture is emergent and tourist performances are constitutive (p.5).
Bruner examines tourist productions as performance (“what is being produced here and how?” p. 34), and tourists as the audiences for them. He is interested in the distinction between national and domestic tourism, and how a same site or tourist production might be read differently by these two groups. Sites such as ethnic theme parks created with nation-building agendas-for example, museums built to showcase a nation's multiethnic heritage- may or may not fulfill the foreign tourist’s expectations, and may attend satisfactorily to the desires of a domestic audience. (An example that comes to mind more locally is the Smithsonian’s National Mall.)
Expectations are measured against the degree of commitment tourists have to master narratives. In many cases, tourist productions create a site for tourism based on these master narratives, catering to the demand for authenticity that the (mostly foreign) tourists bring. He calls the effect of this desire tourist realism (p.49). Bruner’s experience has been that tourists are generally not after a profound ethnographic experience, though a degree of realism is expected, and that entertainment is more important. The site produces itself, and creates experiences for the tourist to build his own narrative to take back home.
Bruner questions the claim that tourism is inherently expoitative. He casts locals as actors with agency, who have agreed to specific term and scripts presented by the institutions, tourist agencies, museums or parks who exist thanks to master narratives of nationhood, patrimony, munticultural ethnicity and tourism. Though he goes into detail about the economics of certain tourist performances, he does not address the cultural costs that allegedly agreeable communities may be suffering. He understands that for the Maasai, for example, performing their dances for tourists is paying work, but I wonder what rifts in the community result from these agreements. Locals are still being told what to do, how to behave; the agreement’s ultimate terms are not explicit, only the financial arrangement is exposed.
I am interested in this point, thinking of places where a master narrative has superceded the site or the community’s capacity to respond to it. Local, native or traditional societies that are visited have not always been consulted, and may have no wish to accommodate tourists. Since the tourists are going to come regardless and third parties will be profiting, some communities are forced into accepting tourism against their foundational principles.
In one Likanantai village, children respond when photographed in the fields: “you owe me for that picture!” Their hostility is perhaps performed to dissuade tourists from recommending others to visit. I still think of most tourist sites as contact zones.
February 03, 2007
Other Uses for an Ethnic Theme Park
In many ways I grew up 'next-door' to the sites Bruner examines in Culture on Tour, living in Malawi in 1986 and in Malaysia from 1988 - 1990. In Malaysia I lived in Sarawak, that nation's largest state, located on the Northern coast of Borneo, and in my final year there the Sarawak Cultural Village opened: an attraction that was evidently modeled after the Ethnic Theme Parks Bruner examines in chapter 8.
To my mind the Sarawak Cultural Village(SCV) provides an intriguing complement/counterpoint to the discoveries Bruner made at the Taman Mini park in neighboring Indonesia. Reading Bruner, I was struck by his implicit point that the majority of ethnic theme parks are intended for and utilized by domestic tourists. This was certainly not my experience at SCV. I visited the park several times in 1990, and again in 1994 and 1998. On each visit, the park was virtually empty, it seemed only a step away from the abandoned Japanese amusement parks one can find online, and what visitors there were were certainly international tourists. Indeed, even in its location, SCV appears to be primarily intended to attract western tourists: it was constructed alongside the Holiday Inn Damai Beach resort 2 hours outside of Kuching (the state capital), and since 1990 still more beach resorts have sprung up nearby. Nonetheless, the dearth of tourist traffic I witnessed led me to wonder whether SCV was in fact designed with neither domestic nor international tourists in mind. My thinking was spurred along by the events of my 1998 visit, which was part of the after party for a run with the Kuching Hash House Harriers (the colorful history of who and what the HHH is is perhaps to long a digression to indulge in here, but the short version is that it is a running club founded by British colonialists in Kuala Lumpur in the 19th century that now has chapters in nearly every major city in the world (even NYC) that features a run through the jungle followed by an extended dinner and drinking event. Kuching's Hash is somewhat remarkably in that expatriates make up a minority of its membership.). This visit began with a mug of Tuak, the local fermented rice wine, followed by a raucous participatory floor show (my parents still have the picture of me doing my best muscleman impression surrounded by Iban warriors... no, you can't see the photograph...). In light of this it occurred to me that the primary purpose of SCV might in fact be as an added-value attraction for the business convention centers in the surrounding resorts, that the primary audience might in fact be not tourists but business travelers, both foreign and domestic. The SCV website implicitly supports this conclusion, suggesting that it is the best locale to host your next product launch. I feel there must be some deep theoretical conclusions to draw from the idea that a tourist production can and hopes to be incorporated into an expressly 'corporate' situation - perhaps the notion that even in one's daily business life one can and should be on tour.
Given that my memory of my visits is quickly fading, I called my father to see if he agreed with this hypothesis. His response suggested still further interpretations of the political purpose of SCV. When I asked him about domestic vs foreign tourists he pointed out that this was not such an easy distinction to make in Sarawak.
A Brief History of Sarawak in the Malay Federation:
In 1964 Singapore left the Malay Federation, and Sarawak had the opportunity to do the same (become independent), join with Singapore, or join with what was soon to be Malaysia. Given that Sarawak was facing a Communist insurgency, Sarawak joined with Malaysia. Nonetheless, Sarawak had some concerns regarding the ethnic make-up of Peninsular Malaysia and itself. Whereas Peninsular Malaysia had a plurality of Islamic Malays, in Sarawak the two dominant ethnic groups were the Iban people and Malaysian Chinese. To prevent changes to its ethnic makeup, one of Sarawak's conditions on joining Malaysia was that Malaysians who were not from Sarawak could not travel freely to Sarawak, but rather would have to obtain a visa like any other foreign visitor. (Jim Ball II, personal communication)
In light of this, the Sarawak Cultural Village can be understood as diametrically opposed to what one might traditionally understand as a nationalistic project. If anything, SCV asserts the cultural uniquity of Sarawak - its distance and psuedo-independence from the political center of Malaysia on the Siamese peninsula.
My father suggested that the foreign tourists SCV sought to attract might in fact be Singaporeans, looking not for an expression of the traditional cultures from which they hailed but rather a 'wild' or somehow more 'primitive' experience (like Bruner's encounters with the Maasai in Kenya) as an escape from their daily urban experience. (one of the featured attractions at SCV is to shoot a blow-pipe at a target, and indeed, the area tribes are popularly thought of as headhunters, and their longhouses still display ancient skulls taken in battle).
All this is to say that I think I whole heartedly agree with Bruner's conclusions at the end of Chapter 8, "that the idea of the nation, real or imagined, is perceived differently by those in distinct structural positions." (230) I only now think that tourist productions like the SCV indicate that such conceptions are even more complicated than I ever imagined.
Bruner makes some very provocative points about the presentation of culture and the mediations within conceptions of authenticity, tradition, primitive-ness, and tribal identity. Creating a nuanced and complex portrait of the tensions within different tourist productions, Bruner’s work points to the need for careful ethnographic investigation into the local specificities of these performances in the “touristic borderzone”. Finding that the trajectory of his work on tourism parallels that of anthropological inquiry, he is able to illustrate the ways in which the structuring of tourist productions function within certain ethnographic paradigms: real/surreal, activist, and postmodern.
It just so happened that after reading about the making and meanings of these ethnic cultural displays I saw a performance of Ronald K. Brown/Evidence’s “contemporary African dance” at the Joyce Theater. The juxtaposition of these readings and this dance concert has provoked some interesting connections.
Ron K. Brown takes movement sequences from traditional dance contexts – Afro-Cuban orisha, West African djembe, Senegalese sabar – and blends them with Western techniques to create a deliciously fluid contemporary art. The mission of the company is based on connections to history and heritage through this movement:
“Evidence’s mission is to help promote understanding about the human experience in the African Diaspora through dance and the performing arts. Evidence provides sensory connections to history and tradition, and incorporates music and spoken word to delve deeply into issues of spirituality, community responsibility and liberation.”
This strongly resonates with some of the tourist productions Bruner describes. Much like the Bomos performance troupe, Brown’s work is aimed to promote an idea of a unified African Diaspora – a nation displaced by a history of injustices. Brown conceives of his work as having a strong activist component for the African American community in the US, but at the same time, encourages all types of audience members to connect to these histories. While reading the analysis of Bomas theater/park in Kenya, I was keeping in mind my own experiences studying traditional African diaspora dances. These dances (and the live drumming music that is intimately connected to them) have an extraordinary power to communicate spiritual energy and heal. This is done, as stated in the Evidence mission, through the senses – and watching a performance of these dances really does somatically and intellectually move people. However, as Bruner notes, their presentation in the museum/spectacle “aestheticizes, centralizes, and decontextualizes ritual” (82). In doing so, “The troupe becomes an explicit model of the nation, melding diversity into a modern organization, disconnecting heritage from tribe. The implicit message of Bomas is that tribal dances belong to the nation” (79). Whereas Bomas purports to present movement that “belong to the nation,” Brown attempts to construct a movement vocabulary for a more disparate diasporic nation. He would argue, I am sure, that the forms he employs “belongs” to this nation. Yes, who else has custodianship over these forms? And in which contexts is it “okay” to present traditional and ritual movements? I am still wrestling with my own understanding of the effects this process of aestheticizing and decontextualizing traditions has on local communities and others that view, experience, and participate in these ex-traditions (I am using that in the sense of MacCannell’s “ex-primitive”).
Bruner argues that, “Ironically, Bomas represents what British colonialism was trying to achieve, the detribalization of Kenya. The British failed in their attempt to turn Kenyans into colonial subjects. Bomas succeeds, in performance, in turning Kenyans into national citizens” (82). I believe that, in this comment, Bruner is missing something essential about these performances, something that Ron K. Brown advocates in his movement technique: the fact that it is through dance that a sense of nationalism and connection to a nation can be conveyed, disseminated, induced. For Ron K. Brown, his dances are an evocative of meanings that connect viewers to African diasporic heritage and experiences. He is fashions kinetic stories to remind viewers of this history – whether or not these viewers are actually connected to these traditions by blood or by history. It is in this sense that the dance company is bringing to the audience new notions of history and new vocabularies of nationhood and belonging.
At the end of chapter eight, Bruner quickly touches on the effects tourist productions – specifically Taman Mini in Indonesia – have on the shaping of memory, the interpretation of [representations of] cultural heritage in younger generations, and conceptions of nation. (Issues also addressed in his conference paper.) He also notes the inevitable “discrepancy between producers’ intentions and audience reception” – a common concern in studies of any performative process. I think the core of the debate should lie in a question Bruner poses in his discussion of Maasai cultural presentation in Kenya: “To what extent do they control the images by which they are represented?” (91). By addressing this we may be able to examine the underlying politics of these representations and the quality of agency within tourist productions. For Ron K. Brown, his appropriation of movement traditions from Africa is empowering for his community, as his company exposes and creates heritage connections.
Bruner and the “improvised caravan journeys”
How tourist travels from one country or site to another? This question expressed by Brunner began a journey in my memories, ideas, and “questioning gaze” on the traveling experiences of international performers, specifically modern dancers, across Western European countries.
How tourist travels from one country or site to another? This question expressed by Brunner began a journey in my memories, ideas, and “questioning gaze” on the traveling experiences of international performers, specifically modern dancers, across Western European countries. Groups of dancers, teachers and choreographers travel every year searching for opportunities and experiences in dance/performance field. Bruner´s analysis of tourist performance as “the social practices to be studied in its own right” allows a different understanding of the dynamic within the dance community in this area.
The activities are programmed by local and international organizations that are in increasing demand relying on practitioners networks that program journeys to professional training centers, companies, festivals, and congresses. The encounters, changes, movements, mobility and process of the tourist that Bruner is focus on opens a space to understand the dynamic in the events to constitute small performance communities. The performer participates in activities that are organized every year inspiring to repeat the journey. There are different modalities for this pre-, on-, and post- tour that influences the relation with the site and the mobility between countries and the events.
The “improvised caravan journeys” called is an intriguing expedition because of its unique characteristics and informal relation with the activities. This type tourism tights a small group to travel with objectives such as participating on auditions for performance companies. The group foundations rely on one person with a vehicle that programs a journey to attend some activities such as workshops, performances, and auditions. In his/her encounters a new people will be invite to join the journey. In these experiences the participants do not have any relation to each other. Their common objective will bring them together as they participate in performance practices. The adventure attracts new participants until a small community is formed. The participants contribute with new information and destinies to continue this adventure as long as the community survives from internal conflicts and financial support.
Bruner comments on how the social systems work in tourism. This informs how the small communities of performers are constituted, and how they interact with local and international performance organizations. The “improvised caravan journeys” are examples of small communities of tourist that performs diverse routes suggested by the activities planned by this performance sites and practice. This is not a new activity but its increasing demand relies on the activities that are program yearly to promote bodies to dance between countries, workshops, sites, performances, communities, festivals, and bodies/histories/cultures transforming the visited sites and the members of the groups.
Rebekah's response to Bruner
I was intrigued by what I read in Edward Bruner’s text, as Culture on Tour confirmed many of the opinions I already head regarding tourism, but also presented new ideas. As I searched to apply his descriptions of othering and exploitation in the first two chapters, I realized I have little experience of the native in the way he describes. I’ve never traveled to sub-Saharan Africa, India or Asia. I’ve been on few official tour trips, and I’ve really only encountered the civilized/primitive dichotomy Bruner speaks of in Morocco, when I was on a trip lead by Bedouins for a night in the desert. After reading Culture on Tour, I’ve realized how much of what I experienced on that trip was a production.
I was intrigued by what I read in Edward Bruner’s text, as Culture on Tour confirmed many of the opinions I already head regarding tourism, but also presented new ideas. As I searched to apply his descriptions of othering and exploitation in the first two chapters, I realized I have little experience of the native in the way he describes. I’ve never traveled to sub-Saharan Africa, India or Asia. I’ve been on few official tour trips, and I’ve really only encountered the civilized/primitive dichotomy Bruner speaks of in Morocco, when I was on a trip lead by Bedouins for a night in the desert. After reading Culture on Tour, I’ve realized how much of what I experienced on that trip was a production. Bruner’s descriptions of the use of narrative are striking. It’s important to recognize the stories that are created within tourist sites to make them viable and the stories that are left out or forgotten. During traveling I’ve done I’ve been aware of how I approach my excursions and site-seeing with the awareness of how I will tell these stories later. I found interesting his story of visiting Benares, India with his students and the city lacked that lacked a tourist narrative, and how that made it difficult to visit the town. That’s almost disturbing—can we not visit a foreign place without needing to narratize it? Is it true that everything we experience must be put into the context of our worldview and if it doesn’t fit we’re unable to comprehend or appreciate it?
I see Bruner’s new approach to Tourism in the questions he poses regarding truth and authenticity. MacCannell made the distinction between front and back (the back being more representative of the authentic culture). Bruner pushes this when he brings up issues of the performance of culture becoming the real culture for a people. He causes us to question what actually is “authentic” and to look at the consequences of all the tourists that regard with a “questioning gaze.” He says, “the questions become: What do audiences see as true? From whom does a performance derive its authority?” (96) If we reach a point where there is no authentic culture, then what are ethnographers studying? Our bases for identifying ourselves become skewed.
One of my biggest questions while reading the text relates back to my own research interests. I’m exploring how to teach culture to elementary school children. We often think that teaching “everyone is the same” is the way to negate hegemonies. Yet, on page 62, Bruner describes what Hazel Mayers says about the Maasai, she compares them to the British, saying that they “have similar characteristics, so in her view the two share basic character traits.” However, she precedes this by referring to the Maasai as “like children.” Here, a notion of equality is not truly what is felt. This is my concern when teaching about different cultures to kids. How can the teacher assure that culture is addressed in a way that counteracts oppressing ideologies?
After reading Bruner’s Culture on Tour and “The Role of Narrative in Tourism”, I am interested in the relationship between ethnic theme parks and the representation of nation-state building; narrative and tourism. I will briefly articulate my responses respectively in the following paragraphs.
Burner figures out that, “Ethnic theme parks are paradoxical because they display difference yet promote unity. Their focus is on the distinctiveness of the various ethnic groups, on how they differ from one another rather than on what all the groups within the nation have in common, even though the ultimate aim is to promote nationalism” (2005: 212). In my opinion, this passage pinpoints the anxiety of the developing process of nation-state, the way how nation-state treats the internal diverse ethnic conflicts, and the way how nation-state promotes itself in the tourist industry in the age of globalization. In the chapter of discussing Taman Mini, the ethnic theme park in Indonesia, I think that Bruner regards ethnic them park as not only a tourist site, but also a performance site which attempts to represents the unity yet diversity of the nation-state.
In addition to this, a reflexive thinking of the ethnic theme park in Taiwan jumps in my mind. There are two famous ethnic them parks in Taiwan, one is owned by private industry and the other is governed by the Government. They all attempt to re-create, or to put it more specifically in cultural critique context, simulate the authentic lived living environment and life style of the different ethnic groups in Taiwan. To a certain extent, they announce that the establishment of ethnic theme park is not only for entertaining purpose but also for educational one. However, in the real aspect, the function of entertainment is much more than the function of education. After the heyday of incoming local tourists, they face the problem of decrease of tourists and income. In order to increase income, they have to change the target tourist from local to international. But, what interesting is the highest percentage of tourists’ nationality not any of the western countries yet Mainland China. Due to the political issue, people from Mainland China or Taiwan become the tourists in each other’s country. In other words, political issues will turn a country into a tourist/performance site even the tourists might come from the same ethnic origins. Here are the websites of the two ethnic theme parks in Taiwan.
In terms of Bruner’s concept of narrative in tourism, I think it could be in relation to Jean Baudrillard’s concept of simulation, simulacrum and hyperreal. The complete of process of pre-tour, on-tour and post-tour is such like the process of simulation, simulacrum and hyperreal. The master narrative of a specific tourist site provides the tourists the process of simulation to imagine. Then, the tourists construct what he/she saw and heard during the trip and the master narrative as a simulacrum of tourism in-between the living experience from his/her own trip and the master narrative of the specific tourist site. Then, after the tour, the memory of the tourist isn’t real anymore. Tourists might regard his/her memory authentic, but to a certain extent, his/her memory of trip is a fusion of living experience and master narrative, a memory in-between real and hyperreal.
Beatrice's response to "Culture on Tour
Bruner’s “Culture on Tour” brought up several issues in relation to the final project I am designing. I am interested in looking at Little Italy as a site for representation of American Italian immigrant culture in New York City.
Bruner’s “Culture on Tour” brought up several issues in relation to the final project I am designing. I am interested in looking at Little Italy as a site for representation of American Italian immigrant culture in New York City. My work will involve both historical research (on the community and on how it has been represented in the past) and a creative project involving intervention on the site (the medium for the intervention is still unclear, although I have been considering giving my own tour or, in some way, making my subjective experience of the sight a focus of the project.)
I was particularly interested by Bruner’s suggestion that:
“Tourism performances throughout the world frequently enact imperialist nostalgia (Rosaldo 1989) and regularly reproduce stereotypic images, discredited histories, and romantic fantasies.”
This statement triggered a series of considerations. Firstly, I was reminded of Italian representations of “Italianness” within the countries in touristic sites such as Rome and Florence. Here the focus of the performances is on national pride, on “The Holy Roman Empire” and “Renaissance Art and Artists.” Imperialist nostalgia is perpetuated by the state as Italians look back on the greatness that (supposedly) still defines their culture. Simultaneously, this is the image sold to international tourists who travel from all over the world to see the David, the Colosseum and the great Ruins.
The grandiosity of nationalistic representation at home greatly contrasts the American Italian (or Italian American) representations of itself in the United States. I am thinking about Italianness as understood through typical foods, cultural conceptions of family and religiosity, mandolin playing, and folkloristic costumes as performed in Little Italy. In the United States, Italian came as poor immigrants. This meant that 1) a majority came from a specific class and social background, many coming from Southern Italy; 2) as immigrants into a new ideology, they were not encouraged to uphold their own nationalistic history but to integrate into a new one (i.e. away from the Roman Empire mythology and towards the Lincoln myth.) The reproduction in Little Italy of “stereotypic images” and “romantic fantasies” of Italian American identity provide an interesting site for learning more about the evolution of cultural productions over time and within particular political contexts.
It seems to me like in the case of Little Italy the question brought up by Bruner of who is entitled to represent who (p. 12) is complicated by what counts as worthwhile of representation in a particular context. For Italian Americans coming to the United States, what cultural representations were and are still possible? Which parts of that representation have survived to today? What informs these performances of Italianness? And how do they enter in dialogue with other perceptions of Italianness (such as my own, as a new U.S. permanent resident)?
These questions are also closely linked to the concept of tourism as “a privileged representational economy.” Part of my own research will seek to look at what economic aspects informed the changes in the geography of Little Italy in Manhattan, as well as the incentives within the U.S. that have caused the protection and perpetuation of particular performances in the Italian American neighbourhood.
Furthermore, I am interested in what Burner calls "the questioning gaze" and at looking at what has been previously concealed in tours of Little Italy. Should a concept of "hopeful tourism" always incorporate the stimulation of the questioning gaze? How can an artistic, site specific intervention provoke thinking on the processes within tourist productions while redefining the touristic experience?
On Bruner's Culture on Tour
The most interesting reading experience in Edward M. Bruner's Culture On Tour is to see him deconstructing Mayers Ranch by getting into the back region (MacCannell 1999) of its Maasai performance in the context of English colonization/enterprise. He freed the tourist studies from “the lens of simulation, hyperreality, authenticity, or orientalism” (Bruner 1995:28), reframed it with the idea of “performance,” revealed a startling “tourist’s realism” of Mayers Ranch by analyzing its performativity and theatricality, and brought the tourist productions to “what they are in the present” (Bruner 1995:28).
The narrative is important in tourism: it not only serves as the marker for the tourists to access to the new culture, but also force the local people, consciously or unconsciously, to reconstruct and redefine their own culture and ways of life in the context of tourism. Through narrative and performance of all kinds (brochures, the lawn, the English afternoon tea, the Maasai warriors, etc.,) Mayers Ranch not only created a successful tourist attraction, but also stagnated the Maasai’s way of moving forward into modernity. But since the “tourist realism” that the Mayers created failed to become a mainstream or master narrative in Kenya, Mayers Ranch did not last for long. Its reality was denied by the Kenyan government, though even the government was unable to create a national myth of its own in the struggle between tourism, tradition and modernity.
On the other hand, the narrative provided by the tourist institutions also retarded the tourists’ realization of a new culture. According to Bruner, the tourists are lazy. They actually have few interests in understanding or interpreting the different cultures in their journey. They rely too much on the information provided in brochures, TVs, or magazines. They are unable to “see” the different culture/people in front of them. They can only see themselves. Such incompetence may arise from the rupture between the signifier and signifying. The tourists are unable to decipher the new semiotic system in front of them. Their “questioning gaze” may never have an answer. The tourism for most tourists is like a Lacanian mirror, reflecting just the tourist’ own face and identity, but never the new reality of the Other culture.
(As I post I am realizing that what I wrote is almost entirely narrative. Why such a strong desire to tell our stories?)
I was interested in Bruner’s writing on tourism in Bali. I went there for a study abroad in 2001 for three months and again the next year for two. I stayed mostly in the same town for the whole time I was there, which was a new experience for me as a tourist. Even though it was an amazing experience, I had a hard time knowing how to be there. Because Bali is such a popular destination, I felt there were these strong currents or obvious pathways to take as a tourist and at times ushered through in what felt like a predetermined way.
The director of the study abroad program who was also a performer, made an effort to encourage us to have what Bruner would call a “questioning gaze.” Bruner writes that this is the “doubt about the credibility, authenticity, and accuracy of what is presented to them in the tourist production” (Bruner, 95). In an attempt to be aware of our presence there, we often witnessed performances and talked about the history of Bali as a tourist site. One of the many souvenir stories I collected along way was the opportunity to meet this man (I am forgetting his name) who claimed to be 105 years old -his family said 100. I think he was related to someone affiliated with one of the teachers on this study abroad trip. He was the dancer who in the 1930’s collaborated with Walter Spies to create the now famous and fully incorporated kecak performance (or the monkey chant). When we were there talking to him (his grandson translating) he stood up to dance. Because he could not move well on his old purple legs, his grandson stood beside him and did the leg movements of the dance, while he did the arm and head movements. I have heard the story of the collaboration several different ways- one being that this dancer approached Walter Spies with an idea of how to make money from the tourist who were starting to come to Bali. I think the kecak performance is an interesting example of a tourist production.
After I returned home, in the retelling of my experiences- I favored the types of moments that felt different than the standard Bali tourist experience- even the stories that did not support the general master narrative of Bali as “paradise, mysticism, and beauty” (Bruner essay, 5). I think for me the narrative of a non-ordinary experience was valuable (and questionable) part of my post-trip narrative as it was an attempt to not to feel that I was exploiting another culture for an interesting experience.
In the introduction of “Culture on Tour”, Bruner makes a triple distinction between the trip lived, the trip experienced, and the trip as told (19). These stages are inherent to every tour, one leading to the next in a natural unfolding that results in a narrative. However, the desired formation of the story may influence the “trip lived” and the “trip experienced”, as what will make a better tale in the end affects what the tourist seeks along the journey.
During my reading of Bruner, I frequently considered the organic vs. inorganic tourist experience. Is there any such thing as an organic or pure, non-contextualized, site on tour? Tourism is largely based on replication, containing what Bruner terms as “existential residue”. Does the luster fade on a site if it is over-viewed or extensively visited? And how do those in “the picture” breathe new life into it so that it will continue to serve themselves and the tourists? Also, does a pure site (if there is such a thing) become impure once it is discovered? Does the tourist gaze pollute or preserve?
Reading Tara’s post about her experience in Peru was reminiscent, as she and I shared some of those moments together, but what it reminded me of is just how hard everyone in Peru was trying to provide us with an “authentic” or “organic” experience. Yet, much of their effort (sometimes bordering desperation) had the opposite affect, as I found much of what I experienced to be over staged, inauthentic, and inorganic.
In regards to what I mentioned about the desire for the ideal narrative shaping tourist decisions, I must also consider individual perceptions of “authentic” experience. While we were in a group tour setting for much of our time in Peru, sharing many of the same experiences, our personal narratives were/are extremely diverse. Oration of embodied experience is distinctly individualized, rather than collective. Narratives are, as Bruner notes, “not only structures of meaning but structures of power” (21). Thus, meaning and power for the tourist are self-constructed through the telling and retelling of the story, during which “authenticity” can be construed.
Seeking the ideal experience/ pending narrative can often cause a “blurring of boundaries” on the part of the tourist, which can sometimes lead to dangerous situations. One member of our group strived so hard to not be considered a tourist by the locals that she often put herself in precarious or potentially unsafe conditions. She wanted so badly to be part of “the picture” that she crossed the “borderzone” into a frame in which she did not belong. I find it is imperative that the tourist (and ethnographer) remember to gaze responsibly and respectively.
The game of pre-tour narratives and concepts of authenticity
Bruner’s paper “On Voyage: New Directions in Tourism Theory” contributes to the “new tourist studies” with critical questions on the relationality between pre-tour narratives, on-tours phenomenology and post-tour condensed impressions and memories; yet though the questions are very important, Bruner’s ways of trying to answer them are often inadequate and lacking in depth. As if to make sure the reader would not criticize his writing for superficiality, Bruner states that his study is “more a sketch of a research project than an empirical study,” and yet many points where he starts with interesting ideas end up with a weak argument or insufficient elaboration.
In the first part of his paper, Bruner asks to what degree pre-tour narratives are more or less powerful than the actual experience. I liked his take on Heidegger’s hermeneutics of reading pre-tour narratives as pre-understandings of the place and people to be encountered, as he sees these master narratives as “not only stories of meaning but of power” (3); however, the degrees of difference between “hard” and “soft” pre-tour narratives (14) which Bruner offers as factors predetermining the on-tour experience are not sufficient in accounting for effect of pre-tour narratives. What I think is missing in this part is a broader exploration of the pre-tour concept of “authenticity” tourists and tourism producers possess.
A misunderstanding of authenticity generally and not so much the pre-tour narrative of a place in particular is, I believe, the key illness that both tourist productions and tourist phenomenology suffer from. Tourists inevitably arrive at a place with a set of some images and expectations, which can often differ from the actual experience and result in frustration and a feeling of lacking authenticity. Yet this frustration is only due to a faulty expectation of the tourist experience as something outstanding, idealized and brought to perfection to the purpose of satisfaction.
I would argue that a tourist experience can achieve higher levels of authenticity when tourist agencies learn from anthropological work and prepare the tourist not for a structured, molded, machine-made, perfect copy of hundreds of other tourists’ experiences, but when they create in the tourist the passion for the living of moments that could range between a wide variety of tangible and intangible phenomena and that are everyday experiences to the local people and as such should also be seen as any other life experience, with all of its uncertainties and discontinuities, which in the end make it authentic and really alive. Instead of a “clean and clear” copy, it is the messy original in any cultural discourse that needs to be searched and lived if local life is to be authentically touched, because by omitting the prosaics and probelmatics of the everyday life of a tourist place, the tourist misses the spirit of a culture, or that pulsating “centre” that Cohen talks about. In this dichotomy between everyday and extraordinariness, I deem useful to borrow some of Michel de Certeau’s work, such as his “The Practice of Everyday Life” and explore the problematic compartmentalization of life in huge segments of monotonous “nothing-is-happening” and a few exceptional tourist “happenings.”
To bring an example of my own trips, when I worked for UNICEF in Peru, I observed various tours in the downtown of Lima. Tourists were complaining about the dirtiness all the time, with disgusted and disappointed faces; however, expecting only beautiful colonial mansions without appreciating all the vibrancy of the street food vendors, gaudy pubs and flashy modern appliance stores of a living heritage site is the same as drinking an extract of a liquid that can never convey the entire taste, even though it might be sweeter than the whole: it is the whole that has the advantage of presenting the most intense richness and plurality of observations, experiences, and gates for intellectual linkages and analyses. Intelligent tourism is one that thinks of itself as a chaotic everyday where all is possible and all is welcome, even what might at first sight seem a negative event.
Let me present another, more recent example of the roles of a. the pre-tour notion of authenticity; and b. the pre-tour narrative of a place. It was a cloudy day, the first of January of 2007, when I went up to the Christ on the Corcovado Hill, perhaps the greatest attraction in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, it was so cloudy that we could see literally nothing around us from the view below but a thick white curtain of clouds. All the tourists there were tremendously disappointed and kept talking with lament about all the pictures they had seen of the view from the Christ and that was now hidden from them. For me, it was an experience even more amazing than if the view had been present, since the peculiar, unexpected surroundings created a very particular experience, surprising and thus very interesting precisely because it defied all our expectations and “pre-tour master narratives.” Perhaps it would have made a difference if the tour guide had talked about the beauty of surprise in tourism and of the authenticity of the unmediated tourist experience which takes the place and whatever is happening within it as a living, moving, changing organism, allowed the right to change and present us with surprises, rather than as a rigid monument.
One other point in Bruner’s article that I found interesting and needing further elaboration is the idea of the domestic narrativization, where “agents in the destination societies construct their own narratives of themselves for foreign consumption which may either reinforce or work in opposition to the Western ones, serving as a corrective”(4). Again, however, Bruner does not go into more detail on showing us examples of local narratives: local in the sense of the people who dwell in the place visited by tourists or in other senses belong to it more than anyone else because of cultural links). Bruner is predominantly preoccupied with the tourist industry that takes tourists to those places, but it is fascinating to study more the ways in which the locals who take part in the creation of the tourist productions.
To follow a bit on my entry from last week, the people creating and organizing the memory management at the community museums in the favelas in Rio often hope for curious and analytical tourists, asking questions, observing keenly, talking to the locals. The locals involved in the museums and the ones simply dwelling close-by hope that the visitors would be willing and able to delve into the local reality and ask questions that help them understand it holistically and hopefully deconstruct the previous negative pre-conceptions they might have had about the place. In this sense, what Bruner called the “questioning gaze” of the tourist trying to figure out if a tourist performance is “authentic” can here be expanded to a different vision I observed: the hoped-for analytical gaze, which does question the experience but with sensitivity and open-mindedness, beyond the cynicism and disbelief often saturating the “questioning gaze,” as well as beyond a superficial gaze which allows the subjugation of hermeneutics to the mere experience (entertainment), as Kirshenblatt-Gimblett observed.
The second part of Bruner’s article on the on-tour experience is better developed than the first, as Bruner distinguishes first telling - when the tourist gives an account ( mental, oral, or written) to him/herself of what has been experienced – from the second telling, when the story is told to others (7). The moment of each individual’s personality and creativity, working as a sift of the pre and on-tour experience, are fundamental factors to be considering in tourists’ narrative-making. People use a variety of approaches to personalize the tourist place and internalize it by connecting it to one’s own sensation of reality: some take pictures with the particular landmark; some eat special food there and turn it into a mix of visual and olfactory experience; some buy souvenirs; some perform an action (dance, song, game); some write a poem; some meditate; etc. There are literally innumerable ways in which the individual can show ingenuity in trying to connect to a space and modify it into a familiar place. The experience of the Other by the tourist Bruner compares to the ethnographer’s fieldwork, and importantly points that “the discrepancies between pre-understandings and observation in the field are precisely how the ethnographer learns something new, makes a contribution, and revises the literature” (10), while for a tourist such discrepancies are often a source of disappointment, as I already mentioned earlier and think mainly due to the tourist’s faulty notion of authenticity.
Here I tried to present a few additions to Bruner’s ideas, which do give us a useful overall framework of analyses on the three main stages of tourist experience. However, elaborate analyses are needed to understand the local’s motivations and ideas on “tourist productions,” which seems to me to have been ignored by the majority of research as it focuses on one of the sides of the relation - the experience of the tourist more so than of the visited people.
Narrative and artistic performances... and Barbados
Bruner’s writing represents the “new tourist studies” in that he thrives to goes beyond the authentic-inauthentic discourse and looks at tourist productions themselves as a new form of culture being created. It is what he calls the realm of “constructivism”. I found these readings fascinating and am interested in exploring all of his concepts in more depth, however for the sake of this response, I focus on narrative and artistic performances.
I find Brunner’s “pre-tour, on-tour and post-tour” analysis very relevant to artistic performances and I can relate it to work I have done with ethnic performances. Indeed, audience members come to a concert with their prior understanding of a given culture, framed by their own experiences, stories shared by friends and the marketing around the event. During the concert, they “experience” the culture and after the event, they share what they have experienced, a process of telling, that they, perhaps unconsciously, initiate during the actual performance. More...
This poses several questions such as: “what are the roles and responsibilities of the producers of such events in the way they carry out their marketing? During the performance, what are the roles of introductions and contextual materials such as program notes? Do these serve to control the interpretation like at Mayers Ranch or do they provide important information to audience members to better experience the concert? How about Q&As with the artists? How will the post-tour/post-performance narratives of the audience members shape the pre-tour/pre-performance narratives of their own audience? This seems like a cycle of a script always re-interpreted and in transition and Brunner’s writing helps us think about the roles of locals, tourists and producers in this process, and the blurred lines between these categories.
I recently worked on a US tour of international sacred musicians and I thought about some of these questions. For instance, I fought hard with the artistic director to include an introduction from the stage that would give some context to the performance which was sacred Sufi music and dance from Morocco. At first, I was told that an introduction would “break the mystique”,and then when it became clear that the Moroccan’s themselves wanted an introduction, it was granted. I am unclear about whether I influenced their desire for an introduction or vice-versa, but in any case, they certainly had agency. What I had not thought about until now, is how the introduction may have controlled the audience’s interpretation. Also of interest is how the Moroccan musicians would run to get into their jeans and everyday clothes as soon as the performance was over, and go out to meet the audiences. In some instances, the audience members did not recognize them at first, and when they did I often sensed a feeling of happiness at being able to talk to them, as well as sadness at breaking the “mystique”. Surely this played into the experience of the audience members and influenced how they would tell their story.
The differences between Boma, Meyers or Taman Mini experiences, and the roles and agency of producers, performers and audience members, are so precisely the types of things I am thriving to explore more through this Gallatin program that I could not write about these in a short response. However, it makes me think of a possible project for this class that would look at the experiences of international ethnic musicians traveling in the US- who is the tourist in this case? Who is home and who is away?
Finally, on a different note, I found this 3-minute clip about Barbados on a random search on “tourism” on youtube: http://youtube.com/results?search_query=barbados+tourism+video&search=Search What is particularly interesting to me is the ad plays on the concepts of “home and away” and “colonial/tribal” while at the same time asserting that it is not a place for people who seek fast-food and those types of comforts. In this sense it sells itself as what it is not, and even shows another island with skyscrapers to assert it is more pure because it does not have those. Also, one of the responses is obviously from someone from Barbados who says: “oh god bim sooo sweet. i miss homeee!!!”. This is what Brunner talks about when he says that in some cases the portrayal of the local culture by the tourism industry becomes intrinsic to the local’s view of their own culture, and I wonder if it is particularly true when the local no longer lives in the home location.
February 02, 2007
Reflections on “Culture on Tour”
In “Culture on Tour” Edward M Bruner uses tourism as a lens to understand a number of fascinating cultural dichotomies. Some of these include authentic and produced, tourist and native, regional and national, observer and observed. In focusing on moments of contact between these supposed binaries he identifies the natural obscuring of cultural lines which occurs in the touristic event.
In “Culture on Tour” Edward M Bruner uses tourism as a lens to understand a number of fascinating cultural dichotomies. Some |
of these include authentic and produced, tourist and native, regional and national, observer and observed. In focusing on moments of
contact between these supposed binaries he identifies the natural obscuring of cultural lines which occurs in the touristic event.
While considering the theoretical foundation which he establishes I found myself arriving at a deeper understanding of a tourist
event that I recently experienced. This last summer I went to Peru with NYU’s Hemispheric Institute. After classes ended in Lima
ended, I ventured off to the Andes to indulge my spare time as a tourist. The last leg of my trip in Peru was spent in Puno, a small
town on Lake Titicaca where I had encountered a local hotel owner, who then connected me with local tour guides and arranged my
visits to the surrounding sites. On my last day I went on a small tour to a pre-Incan burial site,
|Sillustani, let by a man of Aymara decent. After a lovely tour of the
‘sight’ he stopped the bus about 200 yards off, at a small housing
complex of local natives, also of Aymara decent. The setting was
picture perfect. One of the men was even waiting for us with an
Alpaca. Our guide told us that we could take pictures, but that we
should give the family some money out of respect.
Bruner’s description of the Mayer family’s tourist production
as a performance of cultural history brought this experience back
to me with flashing colors. Like the university students he
describes, I felt my self questioning my presence, as a North
American, in the home of an indigenous family I did not know.
My sense of awkwardness was compounded by an impassible
language barrier. Unlike my guide who spoke English, Spanish,
Quechua, and Aymara, this Aymaran family hardly spoke Spanish.
Retrospectively, Bruner’s usage of “the Questioning Gaze” (95) eloquently encapsulates my experience that unfamiliar surrounding
I had suddenly found myself in. I wanted to participate as they cooked bread and served us fresh cheese, but was distinctly aware of the
bounders of the pictorial frame which I found myself in. Throughout “Culture on Tour” Burner returns to the question, who's in control?
I do not presume that my white skin and my ‘supposed’ wealth
unequivocally places me in a place of power. Far from it. Even
though I was the one taking the pictures, I felt I was really the one
in the frame.
I had not intended to make this stop, rather I arrived there
because I was inhabiting the role of the tourist. In performing
their cultural identity, this family was making a financial gain.
| For tourists wanting an ‘authentic Andean experience’ here was an extra mud hut where they could spend then night, for a small price.
The mother sold hand made trinkets and the little girl, like a virtuoso, performed for an attentive audience. She performed both
‘cuteness’ and ‘otherness’ when she sat in the hole in the middle of the yard
|to pose for pictures. And when our guide to explained that the |
‘hole’ was in fact a ‘crib’ the tourists could not help but gasp at
the primitivism. This was all then translated to ‘tips’ for allowing
us into their home.
My “questioning gaze” forced me to ask
the guide about the circumstances of the encounter. He replied,
“They are my friends, I’ve known them for along time.
| When they see tourist pass up and down this road, they are sorry, they feel left out. They want to be apart of and share.” Was that a
line to appease my colonialist guilt? Guilt for a colonialism that my Northern European heritage had nothing to do with, yet in the very
act of viewing, photographing, and by default commodifying this ‘other; culture, I couldn’t help of feel some culpability. In retrospect,
Bruner’s discussion of internal tourism and ethnic theme parks as help clarify these conflicting sentiments. For that I want to refer to a
moment a week earlier in the trip when I visited Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu has a complex history as both a national heritage site for Peru, but also a commodity that has been manipulated by
the Creole dominated Peruvian government. During my tour to Manchu Picchu, I encountered a Indigenous Peruvian tourist group. I was
struck by this dichotomy: how Spanish colonialism and it’s legacy has estranged the Quetchua people from their own heritage. In the
context of his own research, Bruner explains this phenomenon by saying “To the extent that Han (or Javanese) domestic tourists behave
|as foreign ones, the stark opposition between domestic and foreign
tourism is blurred, suggesting that there is a need to move beyond
a reductionistic dualism to take account not only of the nation’s
social demography and power differentials, but also its historically
constituted and changing patterns of ethnic relations.” (216)
Machu Picchu has a particularly informative history in that it was
‘invented’ as a touristic destination by the Creole government.
The location was known to local Indigenous people, but seeking national revenue the government invited the Yale professor Hiram
Bingham to ‘discover’ it. After being splashed on the cover of National Geographic, Machu Picchu has only multiplied it’s international
|value as a tourist attraction. It’s precarious positioning between
the financial interest of local Andean and Liman Peruvians, as well
as it’s future as both a tourist and heritage site was written about
by the BBC three days ago. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6292327.stm
Observing the group of Native peoples
behaving as tourists to their own culture, from which colonial
history so radically separated them, I can’t help but wonder on
what side of the ‘frame’ they find themselves, or if that is even a
consideration at all.
Is there a positive model for tourist productions????
I would like to preface my entry by saying that in my travels I have been in my situations pinpointed by Bruner in his text; however, I've been thinking that it is the questioning of one's position that is the first step in recognizing a flaw or injustice. I think that Bruner is quite brilliant in pointing out that he cannot and does not condemn the tourist (as he himself is one) but seeks to deconstruct our post-modern sensibilities by collectively grouping tourism as a performance of all forms of authentic or otherwise cultural practice.
Bruner’s three examples of Maasai tourist productions in Kenya each provide an individual insight into the different ways tourism is performed, produced and re-produced from an ethnographic standpoint. Bruner exhibits tremendous skill in presenting his ethnographic research through narrative; an ideal mode for understanding how tourism operates on a multitude of levels. In the first case of the Mayer’s ranch, members of the Maasai indigenous Kenyan tribe are a controlled by a re-colonialization of their cultural practice. The Mayers require their employees to be authentic so as to adhere to the illusion of a “native habitat”. The image is necessary for the business to continue and the production is both exploitation and counter exploitation of all the performers within the tourist production including the British neo-colonialist Mayer family themselves. In the second case of the Bomas, the Maasai culturally reproduce themselves as a spectacle of tribal culture that no longer retains even the merest façade of authenticity (as in the case of Mayer ranch). The Maasai utilize the tourist industry to their advantage by commodifying themselves in the Bomas performances in order to make a living (thus achieving the de-traditionalizing aim of imperialism by themselves). The last example of the Sundowner resort is the most blatant fabrication of authenticity of the three; there is no false pretense of cultural practice, rather Bruner describes the Maasai at Sundowner as actors in an appropriately Western safari performance. In varying degrees, each example displays a culture of people who are what Dean Maccannell calls “ex-primitive” in that they must play their parts according a production script and stage directions, which associate the players with something they may once or might never have been.
It is tremendous to encounter three different examples of virtually the same situation. Tourism is always commodification, even the most socially conscious, educationally minded tourist production remains economically strategized and ultimately produced for consumption. The difficulty in reconciling the necessary binarization of subject/object placement in tourist productions in an unending and vicious cycle that, as Bruner points out, not even contemporary anthropologists and ethnographers can escape. Even if we seek to understand and experience an “other” we are in that very model feeding into power structures beyond our control. How do we participate in a tourist production without denying agency and choice to those who rely and actively engage in the tourist model? One of Bruner’s most compelling questions is regarding authors of authenticity. Who has the agency to name authenticity to any given tourist production? What gives that person or entity the right to delineate truth and fabrication? I think that if Bruner and Maccannell are correct, the most acceptable tourist site must be one in which experience is genuine (is that possible? I have no idea). What I mean to say is that because of the great machine tourism has become, every organized tourist experience is necessarily tainted by a theatrical farce existing in place of reality. The problem is that without the production, is tourism still tourism? What is travel without tourism? Does it exist? Does tourism necessarily imply commodification and all that is negative about a transnational world? Although Bruner’s narrative accounts are fascinating, the problem of the tourist model seems to be fundamental and permanent.