Man as a tourist

Wanderlust-driven brainwashing and narrative tickets to emancipation: the colonization of reality by tourism and the strategic dimensions of travel

Tourist operators like to advertise that they leave no wish unfulfilled. In fact, the travel cosmos today leaves no stone unturned to fill every millimeter of our lives with meaning. What can be said with regard to the distant world also applies to our everyday life in the here and now: tourism is everywhere. But what is so astonishing about it? Basically nothing. Tourism is the second biggest industry in the world after the automotive industry. But the point is: we too often forget this and with it the fact that we are significantly shaped by tourism. So it is time to be aware of this and to focus on the strategic dimensions of travel.

Man as tourist

Man as tourist: bathing enthusiast on the costa del sol. Image: greenpeace

Hardly any advertisement can do without a breathtaking landscape. New locations from the exotic mail order catalog are also constantly presented by hollywood. And television? As the "travel agency of the little man" (bessing), it is probably the most reliable source of images that hold out the prospect of a break from everyday urban life. The trivialization of wanderlust knows no bounds. But this also means the naturalization of tourist impulses. We also easily forget the context of our activities. Windowshopping in munich, a visit to a museum in dresden or a singing weekend at the baltic sea are hardly associated with the tourism industry. Why also? Mobility is part of everyday life and so are leisure activities that are not in the immediate vicinity of one’s own home.

Today, cultural tourism is a significant part of the tourism industry. Cities like new york, barcelona and paris have become world-famous hotspots, not least because of this sector. Apart from that, there are countless varieties of tourist consumption, offers that range from health to educational trips. Nothing is unthinkable in this industry. As in every capitalist system of meaning, new products are constantly being invented and target groups constructed in tourism. It goes without saying that in this context media are also understood as a means of transportation: virtual journeys to exotic metropolises, joystick-supported dives into the victorian era, cinematic excursions to middle-earth, and so on.

Man as tourist

Man as tourist: soldier in baghdad. Image: us army

If you look more intensively for tourist varieties, you soon feel like a conspiracy theorist. Somehow, nothing seems to have anything to do with traveling: the way to work leads through the rough urban jungle and requires special equipment, which fashion article manufacturers present as survival kits in colonial-urban khaki gray; one’s own office, equipped with a pc, is a cockpit (fasten your seatbelts, please!); the canteen serves dishes that are portioned as in an airplane; the secretary dresses like a stewardess; the dinner after work is like a vacation in the far east or at the mediterranean sea, in any case, the asian and mediterranean gastronomies look like tourist theme parks.

We are all tourists

When are we not tourists?? As if the answer were "never", advertising plays out one offer of meaning after another, in which even the most tourism-distant company seeks to join forces with the travel cosmos. Insurance companies, health insurers, funeral homes, etc. Hardly any industry refrains from incorporating tourist codes into its appeals. The current campaign of a cigarette company is particularly significant in this context. It is simply called "road movie" and holds out the prospect of "wild trips on the road to glory". Winners are shipped to the u.S. Where they are given a car and a camera. The goal is to shoot his own road movie.

The campaign is advertised with a postcard-like brochure containing a story ("the strabe calls"), a map with a route marked on it ("you drive with the top down…") and eight decals: a lonely roadside hitchhiker, an old sports car, billiard balls, drive-in billboards, a speedometer, a gas station, a coffee can and a turntable. The idea is to arrange the pictures on the map. That is, to put them in a narrative order. As it suits you. The idea of this participatory advertising is based on two things. First, the ritual habit of arranging snapshots from one’s vacation in an album. Secondly, the need to place the personal lifeworld in a narrative context. The significant thing is that the (post-)vacation ritual and the system of narration (based on the cinema) are one and the same here.

Significant, because it should be obvious that the omnipresence of the tourist on the one hand leads to the fact that reality as a journey is not only perceived, but also modeled. And thus as a story with a beginning and an end point. Stopover included. Admittedly, the participatory advertising of the tobacco manufacturer does not offer many opportunities to construct a story of its own. Too much is already given. Too little room left to go your own way. Are these the conditions of our reality?? Or is it just a lack of imagination that is expressed here? Should we be prepared to develop our individuality in a confined space? Or should it rather be about showing new possibilities of appropriation and self-empowerment??

Man as tourist

Cultural tourists in angkor wat

God is a tour guide

The latter seems to be on reproducts’ agenda. The hamburg-based art group, which has made a name for itself nationwide with its television museum project, has recently been working repeatedly on topics related to travel and tourism. In its most recent work, which was presented at the end of november at the kampnagel theater in hamburg, it staged a fictitious editorial office for travel mediation. Travel packages were presented, which – laced by oneself – were supposed to amaze the audience. And did so. Most spectacular was probably the offer of the baptism journeys, which a clergyman from the usa organizes, presented by reproducts ko-grunder stefan eckel.

Swimming pools, bathing establishments and lakes are the order of the day in his offer – all places where the tourist sheep can be baptized in a relaxed manner. Waterfall baptisms. Mud baptisms. Mountain lake baptisms. What the heart desires. Motto: who can stand it under water for a long time?? The offer was presented with postcards, archival photographs and glossy photos – the spiritual undertone condensed the tenor of all the offers made during this memorable performance. Power fields and power places were praised. Shared evenings, charged experiences and authentic thalers in prospect. God is a tour guide – such a slogan was only missing. It remained unspoken all the time in the room.

Decontextualizing religion is always good for a joke. But biblical references here do not only refer to the diaphragm. Relating: like good humor, reproducts open up spaces for reflection with their fictional travel offerings. The juxtaposition of seemingly arbitrary motifs with a coherent narrative creates a relational framework in which both levels question each other in an exchange of views. Perhaps something like this will inspire you to recreate a hollywood film in the production of your next photo album. Or, using comparable tools of domestic use, scanning the marketing fictions of tourism for their legitimacy, while at the same time establishing their own unheard connections and narrative patterns. The personal biography as an odyssey that is not preordained.

In any case, it is clear that it can never be a matter of bowing down to the tourist system. But rather to comment on it, to reflect on it and, in the proverbial sense of the word, to deconstruct it in terms of its essence. To illuminate its construction principles, to take it apart and put it together again – so that the construction becomes transparent. The spiritual references of the reproducts performance indicate: tourism has become a substitute religion (kingdom of promotion). At least it is said that the economy today has the role that the church once had. No wonder that tourism, as the second largest industry in the world, shines in the light of the halo. But this also shows: yesterday people went to confession, but today they prefer to travel without their luggage. Yesterday you read the bible, today you leaf through the tui catalog before falling asleep.

Man as a tourist could emancipate himself, if he began to write the holy scripture himself. In other words, to condense existing images into travel rewards and to invent fictitious offers, to rearrange personal fetish objects in the system of meaning of tourism, and in the process to occasionally – ironically, of course – resort to religion as a level of description.