[-empyre-] After ISEA: Traveling Artists

Karen O'Rourke mapper at wanadoo.fr
Thu Sep 29 18:01:05 EST 2011

Hello Tracey, Cynthia anf fellow-empyrians,

I've enjoyed reading your discussion on ISEA. I had been planning to 
come, but a nasty bout of pneumonia made me cancel my trip. Your remarks 
evoke my experience of past ISEAs, and other art/university symposia.
The questions Cynthia posed about the role of the artist "after ISEA", 
I've been asking them for many years now, as a traveler and an 
expatriate.  They are the questions of our relationship to others and to 
difference. Are artists more equiped to tell stories about what they 
experience elsewhere? For artists like other tourists, the trip can be a 
parenthesis, before getting back to business, but it can also become the 
object of that business itself. This can mean embellishing and 
describing but it can also take other forms, and extend to our gaze back 
at what is familiar. This is to give a little context to the rather 
cryptic remarks I made yesterday. It becomes difficult when we have 
spent much time reflecting on these issues to be synthetic, as you were, 
Cynthia , in your questions. There is too much to unpack!

Karen O'Rourke

Le 29/09/2011 02:13, Tracey M Benson a écrit :
> 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 critique.
> Regards
> Tracey
> On Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 4:18 AM, Cynthia Beth Rubin <cbr at cbrubin.net 
> <mailto:cbr at cbrubin.net>> wrote:
>     Greetings:
>     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
>     Cynthia Beth Rubin
>     http://CBRubin.net
>     _______________________________________________
>     empyre forum
>     empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au <mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>     http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> -- 
> Dr Tracey Meziane Benson (aka bytetime)
> Adjunct Postdoctoral Fellow || The Australian National University || 
> School of Music
> Visiting Scholar || The Australian University || School of Cultural 
> Inquiry
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