Saturday, June 29, 2013

Yet another countertourism tactic - 2

I had ordered the countertourism book but it had not arrived yet. But I had seen all the countertourism videos and I was very much motivated to apply the tactics to my own heritage visits. Unexpectedly one of our walks through the Green heart of Holland ended at the Muiderslot, one of the most touristic castles in the Netherlands. An ideal site to try to replicate some countertourism tactics. Below are the results.

1 - Do not approach the heritage site by the main entrance. Take a long detour. Take the most inaccessible route. Pretend you are an army coming to conquer the heritage site. Plan your siege. 

2 - Don't be satisfied with the heritage materials that are presented to you. Try to do your own archaeology. See if you can find some ancient remains. Dig your own trench. Collect some remains, however insignificant. Do your own research. (I still have the archeological find somewhere, old brickwork and ceramics.)
... sculpture from before the iconoclasm, the period when mobs destroyed many images in the city's Catholic churches. Never before has there been a display of so many sculptures that escaped the waves of destruction unleashed between 1566 and 1580. [Catharijneconvent brochure - found "in situ"]

3 - Study the modern artifacts with the same attention you give to the ancient artifacts. In 10 years these will look different and you will have forgotten how they looked. Do you still remember the bakelite telephones? And later the curly extension cords? Aren't you sorry you have forgotten how they looked?
What happens when you put two objects from the museum next to each other. What kind of a story do they tell together? What do they say about the world of then and now, about image forming and contacts between different cultures? [Tropenmuseum brochure]

4 - Study the different signs with regulations. Try to find the oldest ones. Compare. Notice how modern times are more restrictive. Is it because we have become less tolerant of bad behaviour? Or were we better behaved in earlier times? (Many years ago a tiny "non-smoking" sign was sufficient.)
In order to establish the new Soviet state in the largely illiterate country of Russia, it was important to convince people that it was better to join this new order. ... The communist party established a separate department to win the hearts and minds for their ideology, the department for agitation and propaganda. [VanAbbeMuseum brochure]

5 - Try to find alien (UFO) artifacts. (I still don't know what this was. I suspect it was a kind of computer game. But it didn't work, I think.)

6 - Use leaks in the heritage site to wash the mud from your walking shoes. (My wife did this spontaneously. I had not told her about countertourism yet.)

7 - Try to correlate the old heritage signs with modern infrastructure. (In this case: privy = toilet.)

Don't imagine that the building is just an accumulation of bare corridors. Far from it. There are landscapes to be found in the building, inns, waiting rooms, barracks, studies - and yes, cities and mountains. / An optical illusion. / Actually you really are in a building with bare corridors. But you don't notice it, and that's what makes it so beautiful. [Armando quote in Museum Oud Amelisweerd brochure]

8 - View and analyse the non-heritage objects with the same attention you give to the heritage objects. Imagine you're looking at conceptual art. Is it any good? (Actually this is quite an interesting object.)
 Otherworldly highlights the revival of interest among artists for miniature structures and the production of artificial environments such as small-scale, handmade alternate realities in the form of dioramas, models and specific on--site installations. [MUba brochure]

9 - Try to be an anthropologist. Study the population of the gift-shop as if it were an Amazonian tribe. What do the adults look at? The children? The foreigners? The locals? What do they really buy?
10 - Study the objects in the gift-shop as if they were object in the museum. What do they say about current culture? About our relationship with history? (Especially: what's depicted on the fridge magnets?)
I hope to God you will not ask me to go to any other country except my own. - Barboncito, Navajo chief, May 1868 [Nieuwe Kerk brochure]

11 - Collect brochures for other heritage sites museums and art events. Read the texts. Try to correlate them with the current heritage site. See if it gives new insights. (Examples below and interspersed with the text above.)

Does a person's location determine their identity? Imagined Places is not about the significance of physical place, it is about our sense of connection to places elsewhere. [Tropenmuseum brochure]

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Kittlerian horror of Fritz Leiber

 Recently I noticed how perfectly the bleak theories of Friedrich Kittler resonate with the bleak phantasies of Fritz Leiber. Below I quote a description of (one of) Kittler's theories. Now in your mind replace "language" by "technology". And then read the two excerpts of Fritz Leiber:
Kittler’s analysis presupposes that we are not masters of our language. Language was there before us, we grew up surrounded by it, we grew into it, it colonized us – whatever “us” was before it was framed, carved up, and identified by language. ... We do not speak language as much as language speaks us. To phrase it in the shortest way possible, language subjects us. [1]
In the first excerpt, oil / petroleum is not the servant of mankind but its master. And it permeates our whole society and is ever present and all knowing. And it is communicating with (some of) us:
Daloway's theory, based on his wide readings in world history, geology, and the occult, was that crude oil — petroleum — was more than figuratively the life-blood of industry and the modern world and modern lightning-war, that it truly had a dim life and will of its own, an inorganic consciousness or sub-consciousness, that we were all its puppets or creatures, and that its chemical mind had guided and even enforced the development of modern technological civilization.
Created from the lush vegetation and animal fats of the Carboniferous and adjoining periods, holding in itself the black essence of all life that had ever been, constituting in fact a great deep-digged black graveyard of the ultimate eldritch past with blackest ghosts, oil had waited for hundreds of millions of years, dreaming its black dreams, sluggishly pulsing beneath Earth's stony skin, quivering in lightless pools roofed with marsh gas and in top-filled rocky tanks and coursing through myriad channels and through spongy rocky bone, until a being evolved on the surface with whom it could realize and expend itself. When man had appeared and had attained the requisite sensitivity, and technical sophistication, then oil-like some black collective unconscious — had begun sending him its telepathic messages. [2a]
And in the second excerpt, electricity has a mind of its own. And this "medium", this technology is also ever present and all knowing. It might seen friendlier than oil, but in the end it will prove just as lethal:
“Yep, I hear voices in the electricity,” Mr. Leverett said dreamily. “Electricity tells me how it roams the forty-eight states — even the forty-ninth by way of Canadian power lines. It's sort of pioneer-like: the power wires are its trails, the hydro-stations are its water holes. Electricity goes everywhere today — into our homes, every room of them, into our offices, into government buildings and military posts. And what it doesn't learn that way it overhears by the trace of it that trickles through our phone lines and over our air waves. Phone electricity's the little sister of power electricity, you might say, and little pitchers have big ears. Yep, electricity knows everything about us, our every last secret. Only it wouldn't think of telling most people what it knows, because they believe electricity is a cold mechanical force. It isn't—it's warm and pulsing and sensitive and friendly underneath, like any other live thing." ...
Mr. Leverett, silently rocking, said, "Electricity tells me about all the work it does and all the fun it has—dances, singing, big crackling band concerts, trips to the stars, foot races that make rockets seem like snails." ... "Electricity doesn'tmind working for us. It's generous-hearted and it loves its job. But it would be grateful for a little more consideration—a little more recognition of its special problems." [2b]
I'm also very much reminded of William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Thomas Pynchon and William Vollmann. Now the question is: If writers from 30-40 years ago feel so extremely modern ... then who are the writers that correctly predict our current future? How can we find them?

[1] Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey, Kittler and the Media (TM - Theory and Media)
[2] The Black Gondolier and Other Stories,  Fritz Leiber: [a] The Black Gondolier, [b] The Man who made friends with Electricity
[3] Cascade, Joep van Lieshout,
[4] Electricity pylons in the "green heart" of Holland