Friday, May 08, 2009

Polis Adriatic Festival / Pula-Croatia

Polis Jadran Europa - Pula-Croatia
21-23 May 2009


Curator: Branka Benčić

Millions of people travel in far regions. But, they don't find the unknown. Cities resemble one another; local customs have become world trends. All the places we long for are reachable in every moment; tourism has destroyed old utopias… Mobility among the cities, in all kinds of tourism and migration, has changed in its basis our relation towards the city and our cities… For tourists and migrants, the land on which the city is lying, has become again the main subject.

(Boris Groys: World On Travel, in: Making Things Visible. Strategy of Contemporary Art, Refleksije book collection, MSU, Zagreb, 2006, page 66-67)

In accordance with this year’s topic, the Tourist City is settled as a platform for discussion and interdisciplinary reflection on the culture of travelling and its social, cultural, economic and urban consequences. The homonymous exhibition tries to explore in a larger contest the phenomenon of contemporary tourism, the aesthetic and iconography of travelling, as well as the possibilities of its implementation in the society and environment.

The development of tourism in the last decade, although relatively short, but almost quick as lightning, has proved its wide-ranging spectra of effects. Whereas, contemporary life diminished the polarity between “work” and “free time”, the concept of free time has undergone through a numerous transformations in the last decades. In 1957, Roland Barthes has written on a few occasions and in a few chapters of the Mythologies, about tourism as one of the myths of the contemporary society. The interest of the tourist is based on the investigation to participate in new and noteworthy cultural experiences, whether they are aesthetical, intellectual, emotional or psychological. Tourism is a delightful and educative experience, which combines art with natural and social cultural heritage and history. Today, contemporary art is recognized as an important and unavoidable factor of tourist offer. Tourist's experience amply represents an aesthetical experience (together with the hedonistic and educative), whereas tourism is conceived as a complex assemblage of relations and generative factors of future culture, while economy, tourism and culture are closely connected parts forming the definition of national identity. Since contemporary art implies criticism of contemporary society, tourism becomes the subject of interest for artists, who while using the language of tourist materials, behave as tourists or become tourists in search of new experiences. In distinction from the tourists, they take a critical position and reshape and comment the reality. Artists map certain spots of cultural, historical, artistic or natural heritage.

Journeys are midwives of thoughts, wrote Alain de Botton in his Art of Travel. The phenomenon of travelling and relating strategies are explored from different perspectives. Travelling is a multilayer process, a state in between. It represents a symbolic and private experience, at the same time something banal, as are spending and massive entertainment, while art works explore the same subject from different angles. Artists with their installations shape different spaces with which they are going to suggest the processes of tourism, as well as the critical relations towards a kind of symbolic, economic and social exchange or stimulate experiences and expose them to humour and irony. The numerous works mostly deal with the “consumer’s” aspect of tourism submissive to criticism, which represents the prevailing field of interest comprising the social context, people, experiences, contents, experience of being a tourist, travelling, locations, souvenirs, memories… The photos of Paula Muhr and Jelena Kovačević Jureša represent a kind of typical tourist snapshots, capturing the tourists while posing. On the other hand Gani Llalloshi and Paula Muhr deal with a subversion of the self-portrait genre. While Paula poses in front of the important sights of Italian architectural heritage, Gani Lalloshi catches hold of the composition and takes the pose from Manet’s Breakfast on Grass, but the scene is situated on a sandy beach in present time. The video works of Tanja Dabo and Goran Škofić are autobiographical recordings representing the “oppression of tourism”. Goran Škofić manifests his ecological responsibility with the repetitions of the action of taking out objects from the sea, whereas Tanja Dabo repeats the word welcome till she gets out of breath. The installation of Nika Radić reconstructs the experience of summer vacation on the isle of Zlarin, where courtyards are filled with summer gadgets and projections simulate houses with shutters wide open. The Souvenirs collected by Marko Tadić, on which he makes interventions, are old-fashioned memorabilia shaped as decorative wooden boards representing different tourist views. According to Ana Dević, these objects evoke nostalgic elegancy of the passed times, the pathos of kitsch, the uneasiness of cheep pleasures, the naïve bad taste, the rustic idyll of the vanished times and journeys. The works of Ferhat Özgür, Renata Poljak and Slaven Tolj deal with social, architectonic and urban phenomenon, the documentary film We are not selling Hollywood by Dejan Karaklajić and Jovan Aćin with subversive nostalgia gets us back in 1972 to the Penthouse episode of the tourist complex Haludovo on the isle of Krk. Whereas, the photos of SofijaSilvia represent scenes from the Brijuni isles as idyllic landscapes of romantic spirit, their absence being almost fixed in time, and transform this romantic tourism into, according to Boris Groys, a machine which transforms the temporary into permanent.

Branka Benčić

P.S. I am thanking Marko Lulić for his artistic production and strategy of appropriation, due to which I got acquainted with the film We are not selling Hollywood.

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