25 July 2011

You Can't Go Home Again (Not Even If You'd Stayed There)

Finally getting around to reading Lucy Lippard's On The Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place. It's more or least an extension of her prior book The Lure of the Local, ultimately having more to do with sociology that with art criticism or art history. Representation, myth and mediated encounters, space and place, the "disneyfication" of certain cities and "false unities" of how town or locations present themselves for outsiders, plus many of the economic and sociological issues that arise from all of these things. Quite refreshing, really.* And yielding (no pun intended) plenty of points of interest, including these passaged from the book's first chapter "The Tourist at Home":

"Viewed from the perspective of the places 'visited,' even in those disaster areas that are victims of downsizing and deindustrialization exacerbated by NAFTA and GATT, tourism is a mixed blessing -- sometimes economically positive, usually culturally negative, and always resource-depleting. ...Tourism leads to summer people leads to year-round newcomers leads to dispossession and a kind of internal colonialism. As an increasing amount of the world's acreage is 'opened up,' the search for the 'unspoiled' intensifies, exposing the most inaccessible places to commercial amenities and barbarities, from vandalism to jet-skis."

A few paragraphs later [emphasis added]...

"One of the obvious contradictions in tourism concerns what is being escaped from and to. Absence (sometimes) makes the heart grow fonder. If we live away from native ground and then go home to visit, we can see the place anew, with fresh eyes. Some return to their hometowns to find the mines and factories they escaped now glorified as museums. ...Long popular in socialist countries, industrial tourism is catching on again in the United States. And edifying example is the themification of the history of tumultuous labor relations in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and in Lowell, where the first national park devoted to industry has caught on. Are the visitors simply the curious, the history buffs? Are they those whose worked in factories or remember their parents' and grandparents' experiences? Are they lefties looking for landmarks of rebellion? The ways in which places and their histories are hidden, veiled, preserved, displayed, and perceived provide acute measures of the social unconscious. Yet their relationships to broader economic issues seldom surface overtly in daily lives. We live in a state of denial officially fostered by State denial.

Such grand-scale abdication from the present does not bode well for the future. One can only wonder what our hometowns will look like when the fad passes. Will the ghosts of fake ghost towns haunt the twenty-first century? Or will our places be ghosts smothered in new bodies we would never recognize as home?"

How like hauntology, that last part.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* I say that because each of these books appeared in the late 1990s, and seem (in retrospect) prescient of certain economic trends that would kick in hyperdrive in the decade that followed. Also, it was a welcome break from all the "viva Las Vegas" nonsense of the '80s and '90s -- from the celebrations of "colloquial" architecture so common in doctrinaire post-mod architecture circles, to the blinkered "analysis" of Dave Hickey, Baudrillard, et al.

No comments:

  © Blogger template 'Solitude' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP