[-empyre-] After ISEA: Traveling Artists
Tracey M Benson
bytetime at gmail.com
Thu Sep 29 10:13:13 EST 2011
Hi Cynthia and all,
I love your questions about the role of the artist traveller, particularly:
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?
These are very pertinent questions which go to the heart of the project I am
currently working on as part of a residency in a rural village in Cappadocia
(with the working title 'Cultural strangers').
So far we have been in Turkey a month (incidentally ISEA was a side event
and not the main reason for being here). Towards the end of our stay in
Istanbul we were starting to feel (every so slightly) that we were
scratching the surface, so to speak. We had established friendships with a
couple of local people via the cafe we frequented. One friend in particular
liked to tell us often that we were not like tourists because we didn't
drink alcohol and we enjoyed tea and smoking the nargile (water pipe).
Methinks he was just being nice :-)
Anyway, we are exploring ideas/layers of mapping - social, historical and
cultural as starting points to try and explore our relative position as
cultural strangers and to hopefully move beyond being a tourist.
One of the things that helps a lot is language. Although my Turkish is
beyond bad, I have found some of the nice Arabic words I know are much
appreciated and understood. I only realised this after several weeks of my
ears being totally confused and then emerged some familiar words, for
example 'inshalah' (God willing) and 'as-salamu alaykum' (peace be upon you
- often used as an evening greeting). Perhaps people are surprised when a
'western tourist' comes out with such words.
As a participant in ISEA (this was my third), I would argue that it is
impossible to get beyond being a tourist (even a sophisticated one) per se
given many people only come for the event. In fact, for many there is not
even time to be a tourist and to see the sites of history and culture. In
Australia this activity is often referred to as FIFO (fly in, fly out) and
is often used for people who work in remote areas but live elsewhere - eg
mining, government employees.
At the moment I write this post from my little cave, asking myself how can
some of these issues be resolved in our project. I would love to hear what
other empreans think about this topic as I think it has much wider social
and economic implications beyond the lenses of creative production and
On Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 4:18 AM, Cynthia Beth Rubin <cbr at cbrubin.net> wrote:
> 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
> 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
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Dr Tracey Meziane Benson (aka bytetime)
Adjunct Postdoctoral Fellow || The Australian National University || School
Visiting Scholar || The Australian University || School of Cultural Inquiry
You can find *bytetime *on twitter, delicious, scribd, flickr, linkedin,
identica, slideshare and facebook.
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