[-empyre-] After ISEA: Traveling Artists

Cynthia Beth Rubin cbr at cbrubin.net
Thu Sep 29 04:18:27 EST 2011


I spent a few extra days in Istanbul after ISEA, and began to break through the overwhelming disorientation that I experienced when I first arrived in Istanbul.  Since this was an important trip for many of us, I would like to open the discussion to thinking about what it means to be a "traveling artist" in the age of digital communication.  This is an aside from the primary ISEA discussion, and thanks to Davin's post I agree that there is more to talk about there.  However, as thoughts of Istanbul are on our minds, I wonder on a very personal level how we responded as artists and theorists.  I would also like to hear from our Turkish colleagues - perhaps this can be inverted to include their experiences of traveling outside of Istanbul?

My thoughts:

As artists, we like to think that when we travel we are engaging in research, that we are not mere tourists.  But in Istanbul, at one point or another we became indistinguishable from average tourists.  I found this to be true in part because the typical tourist in Istanbul seemed more sophisticated than the tourists that we often see, for example, in Paris.  Most of the tourists I observed acted as artists do: they looked carefully at the historic sites, and photographed patterns of beauty and site of interest with respect for the culture that inhabits the spaces.  And they tried to learn history as they looked, tried to put this in the context of the Turkey that they saw around them.  It may have just been my luck, but I did not see people running treating places of deep history as just an older version of Disneyland.  I saw thinking, thoughtful, "tourists."  

In this scenario, what is the role of the artist?  What is there for us to interpret and reveal? After the tour guides have told the stories, what can we embellish, describe, and tease out of our observations that goes beyond the stories that tourist travelers will share with their neighbors and families when they return home?  

I am interested in hearing from others about the role of the artist in the age of sophisticated tourism.  And I would love to hear about projects that are doing something really unique in bringing about new approaches to interpreting, representing, juxtapositioning, and creatively making connections that point to new roles for artists in the age of travel and digital communication.  I know that AR is one route - but are there other collaborations going on? Personal diaries?  Muddled thoughts after a long trip to a far away (for some of us) ISEA2011?

best wishes,


Cynthia Beth Rubin

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