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.