A Couple of Chapters
Me, a professional tourist.
The work of the professional tourist is the result of the professionalization of the tourist, of the sightseer, of the Situationists' drifter. His work emerges from strolling around the city, exploring a foreign everyday life, performing a clever observation, wandering, speculating and merging with the cities’ informality and tales. The professional tourist is unrestrained and autonomous, he attempts to not be defined by a particular nationality and tries to be unattached to any particular medium. The professional tourist aims to understand the effects of history on what is usually overlooked and one of his methods of research is closely related to Guy Debord’s ‘dérive’. He believes that by letting himself be drawn into the encounters, activities and attractions that he might come across while wandering around a certain place he will be able to study the flows, fluxes, conventions, contradictions and operations of the location of study as well of the objects and people that make part of it. His labor is playful, unconventional and resourceful; he would have to find his own strategies (avoiding predictable courses of action) to let himself go, to wander almost like without destination and attempting to get lost. By allowing himself to meet by chance and to come across things and events he will engage in a new kind of awareness.
Kanaalstraat, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
A very captivating street, a place that could be anywhere and nowhere at the same time, a street where people, places, signs and images coming from all around the world come together. This is a seductive place for a professional tourist. On one end of this street it’s possible to find a muslim mosque and in the other a catholic church. Chants and prayers get mixed with Suriname markets, Moroccan bancs, avocados from Spain, Turkish restaurants, Dutch popular stores, Greek feta cheese and Colombian plantains. Persepolis is not only in Iran is also in Kanaalstraat. But is not only this diversity what makes the street so appealing, it is also the particular character of each of its shops and the kind of relations that are generated around them. Here is possible to revive the ‘neighborhood’ kind of life that seems each day more distant and rare to the contemporary cities: the stores and shops do not belong to big multinational companies and are not big chain stores. Costumers are attended by the owner and most of them are small family businesses. The fruit shops, the bakeries, the liquor store and the butcheries do not belong to the “marketing” world neither to the ‘product branding’ they just posses a unique and spontaneous character.
Localities undertaking journeys
The professional tourist might not recognize the place he is in, he might get lost in the diversity of people, signs and images that surround him. He has realized that the city is a global world city[i]that is no longer isolated from the rest of the world, no walls surround it so communication and migration allow cities to move, not only through time but also through space. The professional tourist doesn’t think that cities are going through a process of homogenization where differences and idiosyncrasies are disappearing, he knows that each city keeps its own unique characteristics and inherent rhythms, but he has been the witness of the journeys that have been undertaking any elements of all kinds of local cultures. People, objects and images belonging to any local culture have displaced from its original place and are spreading all around the world. There is a place in any city that looks just as any other place in another city.
As the professional tourist derives trough the streets he might find himself reflected in the shops windows. The glass shine might prevent him to see what goes inside the stores and he might just prefer to let himself be trapped by the attractiveness of the images, typographies, signs and other people’s reflections that are displayed in the windows. He would let himself go and he will start connecting and disconnecting ideas and symbols, he will speculate about origins displacements and traces. He will always remain conscious about his position, he is outside, he knows that even if he gets inside the store his work will still remain in the public space. He is a professional tourist and he is not pretending to be something else, like a sociologist or anthropologist.
Professionalization might or might no lead to any result[ii]
If one thinks in life as one pure activity that does not lead to any specific result (except for dying), that life is just an activity in which persons are carried continuously from one place to another with and without deviations, from one thing to another, from one event to another without any other goal than mere living, then the professional tourist seems to be the perfect character to engage life, to refer to itself and to help understand it. The result of his work, of his labor might be just an activity (ex. the activity of preparing a refreshing drink with local fruits to be shared while strolling around the city) and he might present us some of the activity’s documentation. The professional tourist collects souvenirs, memories and traces. His actions might or might not lead to any result.
Chapters to come:
-Accumulating, collecting and archiving
-Ground level and 1st floor
-Desire and decoration
and some others…
To see more about my previous and current works click here
[i] Boris Groys. Art Power
[ii] Francys Alys. Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing (1997)