Friday, 28 April 2017

The Tourist

I have the feeling there is a short thriller-like story with this title. Where the tourist obviously turns out to be something more menacing than previously thought.

In fact, “the tourist” is a negative figure. This short lecture asks, why?

The tourist is a paradox. It goes in search of an authentic experience or goal, but its[1] very arrival and presence transforms whatever it touches into a performance of the authentic. Inherently the tourist can never reach its goal.

The tourist travels and is defined by its journeying. But all journeying people are not tourists. Nomads are not tourists, they are fundamentally on the move, the movement is defining and primary. The tourist departs, to return. The nomad does not depart or return. Nor are conquerors or settlers tourists, they depart but their return is complementary.

The goal of the tourist journey is a hallowed goal (though never reached). In fact, pilgrims are the first tourists. They depart to visit a holy and renowned place and return with a prestigious experience and emblems as proofs of their journey.

The pilgrim is a noble figure, but already subject to criticism and popular ridicule. And when the pilgrimages secularize and the amount of pilgrims grow, we finally have our paradoxal, menacing and vulgar figure of the tourist. The tourist is not an individual, but a mass. It is menacing and it is vulgar precisely because it is mass-scale. The tourist evokes the same horrors as the mob, but in the comical register. Everything that the tourist touches becomes ridiculous and a little trite, because its touch robs everything of its local, particular, individual, specific, unique characteristics.

The tourist is all that we resent in the ordinary: everybody does it, except I who am unique.

Short intervention written for Words & Spaces Studio "Scholart" 28.4.2017

[1] I will use this neutral term to avoid messy use of more inclusive references.

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