17 Dec 2018


Snapshots of Tourism

Snapshots of Tourism, HIAP Suomenlinna’s annual exhibition of 2010, is traveling to Norway. It will be open to the public from Friday, June 24, 2011 at Tromsø Kunstforening, Tromsø. The exhibition explores the rapidly changing phenomena of tourism – one of the largest industries of our time – in its plethora of forms as well as through the tourist-gazes it produces. The exhibition is curated by Maaretta Jaukkuri and Marita Muukkonen.

Today’s mass phenomena of tourism, with all its unforeseeable effects, has distant origins. People have been traversing the world since the beginning of human memory. The ancients sought enlightenment at sacred sites, and the medieval practice of pilgrimage common to many religions carried this into the modern world. It laid the path for mass tourism, which began to grow in the nineteenth century. It is a quite remarkable fact of our times that the business of travels and tourism surpasses all others, constituting the biggest branch of industry in the world. Ten artists in the exhibition explore what this mass of human activity means.

In Hüseyin Alptekin’s (1957–2007) work Hotel Signs (2004), for example, the impoverished underbelly of economic globalization is on display through the trade-signs of a makeshift capitalism of peoples in transit. The spirit of cosmopolitanism glimmers dimly in these hotel signs, evoking a series of failed hopes: “Hotel Bagdad”, “Hotel Gibraltar”, “Hotel Reykjavik”. Stark and poetic signs of our times. Travel clearly has a real price, and there are involuntary non-travelers too. Tourism is not possible for everyone, on the local and global level. Borders, too, restrict who can move and who cannot. But even when such frontiers may be breached or visa-laws bent, the laws of the pocket book are decisive.

Then again, there are people who don’t travel anywhere at all. If this is a voluntary condition, one might call this post-tourism. This is a state, which doesn’t demand physical movement from one place to another. The flow of information continues, of course, but through the TV, the Internet, moving pictures or gaming. Marianne Heir’s (b. 1969) work Landscape (2007) presents the sharp fluctuations of the share prices of Norwegian petroleum companies. The curves resemble dramatic Norwegian mountains reminding us of total the unpredictability of the neoliberal financial game. As we sit in our living rooms the landscape changes, as if we were tourists in a virtual world, a world in which no one needs take responsibility for the game’s winners and losers. Game over. Play again?

It is no secret that tourist resorts and their removal from ordinary life are packaged and marketed through the fashioning of illusions. People buy into their desires, constructing new and often artificial identities out of these promised experiences. What, then, could tourism be at its best? Could it be a real experience in which all the senses are genuinely aroused and informed? Could it transform our ways of seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, understanding, acting, wishing and loving? The works of Timo Vartiainen (b. 1960, Helsinki) present an anti-pod to the ephemeral, fast-forgotten illusions of tourism. His artistic practice is to walk. He walks from Helsinki to Istanbul, from the Baltics to Romania, and to other ends of the continent. These are incredible, almost sublime, distances in real time and space. Yet if you look carefully, you might face surprising truths – even on your own doorstep.

Hüseyin Alptekin (1957–2007); Jens Haaning (b. 1965); Marianne Heier (b. 1969); Amar Kanwar (b. 1964); Cildo Meireles (b. 1948); Gediminas Urbonas (b. 1966); Vegar Moen (1965); Timo Vartiainen (b. 1960); Elin Wikström (b. 1965); Darius Ziura (b. 1968).

Snapshots of Tourism
Exhibition period: June 25–August 14, 2011.
Address: Muségata 2, Tromsø, Norway
Opening hours: 12–17 Wed–Sun
tel. +47 77 65 5827