Archive for January, 2010

The Tourist

January 30, 2010

The Tourist:

Costa RicaA review of  MacCannal’s Tourist by J.E. Sandberg. Tourist is such a loaded word in contemporary times. MacCannal’s book is heavily dated and despite updated editions, fails to acknowledge modern events, internet, digital travelogues, and updated reasons for travel. His favorite example is people wearing merchandise from “Expo 70” which occurred in Japan. I don’t even know if we have World Expos anymore. Maybe updated references like “Beijing” stocking hats would have served to improve the text. More importantly is his use of the word “Tourist” He uses it as a whole of the part. Logic tells us that we cannot reference a subject from a lower degree. The parent grouping would possibly be traveler, though many want to use this term as a more p.c. replacement for [ugly] tourist. Therefore, to be able to discuss this subject easier, we need to qualify some terms.

I am working on a simple graphic model that references intention on one axis and impact on the other. For class, I will be trying to label various travelers and we can attempt to place them on the grid. Our working list now includes: Escapist, Documenter, Tourist, Researcher, Soldier, Refugee, Migrant worker, Contractor, Businessperson, Wayfarer, and Student. This is not an all-inclusive list. Contact me with any that I may have missed. To help with a couple of terms, “Wayfarer” replaces MacCannal’s “hippie” as a person who randomly travels for extended periods. Escapist is a vacationer gone less than one month. A soldier is an individual in a country as a result of military directive. Migrant worker includes both legal and illegal types as well as TCN’s (third country nationals), which cannot be technically grouped with contractors due to a huge difference in income and reason for working.

MacCannal wrote a very interesting, some say gold standard, academic piece conjoining different theories to understand travel intentions. I hope that our class discussions have made his work a little more approachable. Following are some writings to assist us.

The depth at which a traveler seeks is also very important. The groups above all have both a desired level of discovery and an actual. I appreciate his use of Goffman’s model dividing the depth of experience into 6 levels. I will list them with my own examples to help clarify, or possibly editorialize.

1. Social Space     (this is what most people want to break through)  Museum or Theatre

2. Themed Space     Welcomes people with extra aesthetics- Cell phone store or Restaurant

3. Authentic Look    Heavy theme, Steakhouse, Trendy Gallery, Natural attractions

4. Back Space Accessible    Tours of, industry, comm., and government

5. Back cleaned up      Normally off-limits but partially accessible- same as 4 but more in depth

6. Real Back    (this is what motivates travelers imaginations)  Total behind the scenes

I think that Goffman may have been splitting hairs but possibly, he had researched so many different areas that he had to break it down that much. At this point, I see minimal difference between the gradations of 2/3 and 4/5. It still is very helpful overall.

Basically, this helps us study how the modern person is fascinated with real life. We desire to see the inner workings of establishments. As an example, I have watched Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel. This is a chance for cameras to level 6 of the Crab boat. Last year, my partner and I went to Milwaukee and ate at a seafood restaurant on the water. The dining area was heavily themed with fishing décor. The cooks were visible to the patrons, as were the lobster in the tank. In addition, everyone wore “Time Bandit” shirts and would quickly reference the fact that all of their crab is purchase off that particular ship in the reality series. The servers go as far as telling stories from late night parties from when the crew visits.

I appreciate when authenticity and staged authenticity are too close to discern. Many times what one person stages may be authentic in another way. Enough talking for now, Feel free to email any thing that rubs you wrong. See you next week,


week 1

January 22, 2010

A Small place.
Greetings everyone! It is nice to be back. I was able to catch up on some reading over break concluding with the assigned reading of A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid.

It left a depressing tone about travel. At the end of the book, I felt like a guilty white man that should just stay home for the rest of my life and memorize ancient texts.

I will be the first to admit that Europe and colonialism ruined the world. I also understand that America began to shoulder this burden as Modernity neared. Despite the fact that America has a wealth of great citizens that do their best everyday for humanity, Westerners are still recognized by all of the bad things that they are responsible for. Many books cite shameful events intheir text but Kincaid’s book uses that as its theme. She makes it seem as everyone should remain in the location that which they were born and never travel or experience the world. She leads us to believe that this would prevent the embarrassment and objectification of native people.

My difficulty with her compartmentalization of culture is that I believe it hinders society’s memory. I think back to some of my friends in the lower Midwest that volunteered at agricultural living museums. They may have dressed funny in the inaccurate attire that people wanted to see (farm girls wearing Victorian style dresses as opposed to more functional work clothes) but it still educates visitors in many other ways about life on the prairie farm. When I think critically about cultural representations to the tourist, I often compare it to those local experiences to study how harmful the depiction is compared to the amount of learning that the viewer receives.

Kinkcaid’s reasoning also affects the ability to maintain tradition for the group. I would not have remembered how to quarter-saw wood, thresh grain, make apple butter or weave chair seats had it not been for the regular miniature expositions that my family and friends worked at.

Kincaid refers to tourists as “ugly human beings.” I understand the group of people that she is referring to in her generalization however, there are others that tour with a willingness to honestly and respectfully learn about other cultures and share on a human level.

Toward the end of the book she spends a lot of time on the idea of bad money. Everyone deals with bad money. All of my friends back home work for the grain industry. The corporate agricultural giants are known for lobbying the government to side with their monetary interests in every way. The largest of which, levies high import taxes to the Caribbean islands to insure that sugar tariffs are high enough that corn is used as the primary sweetener in the world. Still everyone needs to do the best they can for their family. If my hometown is 85% employed by agri-industry, I would like to think that many are using the money to better their family’s life and educating their children to make better decisions possibly allowing a break away from these business practices in the future. After speaking of politics, prostitution, car dealers and the country club, she still fails to acknowledge that good or bad, the visitors were spending money inside their country. It is difficult to condemn current practices unless you have a possible solution. Like most governments, Antigua has a great deal of corruption to deal with. Maybe a solution lies in something new. Possibly, they could use tourism to their advantage both earning money and building a large network of small business people that could eventually stand up against the tainted government leaders. Along the way, while the drivers in the sputtering Japanese taxi-cabs bounce the tourists down the road to the hotel or country club, they could tell the cab’s occupants about the rich heritage and ecosystem that Antigua possesses and give them a short list of all of the amazing “small places” that they could go spend their tourist dollars at. They would be learning about the country while providing a positive influx to the economy.

Thanks for listening.
-Sandy 🙂

First Semester Down!

January 5, 2010

Well, we finally made it! At times, I felt like my head was spinning trying to hold everything together. Like when you grab all of your materials for a class, head to school and realize that you are a day early. But, I am very happy with my first semester performance. I hope to have some more financial stability this semester as my G.I. Bill finally got straitened out, or so they say. I got my eye on you Uncle Sam! (He is pretty stingy for a rich Uncle!)

I am currently planning with Dale and Trina, our piece for the Chicago Show. Our piece will be in a funky shaped room called the Infinity room. It is not near as infinite as House on the Rock’s room by the same name. It is 14 foot long with a ten foot opening at one end narrowing down to five at where the piece will be. To maximize our efforts, as we learned the first time that installations NEVER go as planned, I built a scale model of the space to aid us in our planning. I have named this model the Death Star, as I searched for a figure to base the scale on, all I found was an Imperial Officer from Star Wars. I will post some pictures I took of him standing in the gallery holding a 2X4. I wonder if the Death Star had a gallery? I would imagine it to be a Constructivist space with alot of posters reenforcing the power of the Empire. I digress. Anyway, this model should aid in our planning of installing tiles, projectors and airplanes in the limited amount of space.  The show will be great visibility and I am happy to be showing work there.

Holidays were great. We changed up some plans and went to my family’s town for Christmas in Central Illinois. We wanted to go to St Louis but could not justify a 5 hour detour. I believe that my Mom tried to poison us as we all became sick within two days. I was first. It was Christmas eve and I was miserable. It knocked me down for about three days then Angie and my oldest, Asyntha. They were not as sick. (I must have ate alot of what ever the culprit was!) Soon, we were all healthy and back in Wisconsin. I have been doing alot of computer, paperwork, and modeling at home to utilize the break time. This week, I will be in the studio more as I need to catch up some stuff here. Basically, it is a mess. I clean and organize, but by the looks of second and third years, it never really gets passed a certain point of chaos. I am thinking about building a storage loft in my studio, I have some extra 2X4s and really need a place to store sculptures as opposed to the floor. Some things get dismantled or taken to another place but I need the room for those pieces that I may work on more, or submit to a show. I once got a piece submitted that was in my storage unit and spent an entire afternoon cleaning to get to it!

Gotta go, Thanks for reading after the semester!