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Art & Social Space
Tourist Series by Micaela de Vivero
by Mónica Vorbeck & X. Andrade

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In the Tourist Series, photography captures a continuous performance, before others and for others. In the series the role of the sight is essential. Tourists perceive the world with their sight, but only in a passive and non-critical way.
It may be that the touristí­s eyes underscore what is different from what is ordinary in contemporary cities, but mostly they consume a landscape designed especially for them. By means of her camouflage, Vivero explores in a critical, ludic, and ironic way the artificial distinctions between a "raw" and a "composed" reality; such distinctions are ambiguous because human behavior is simultaneously "natural" and "composed." How one sees the world, how one sees oneself, and how one sees others are fundamental dimensions of human identity: identity, like camouflage, is relational and it is based on commonalities and differences with others.

Throughout history there has been a deep and implicit connection between art and human identity. Vivero consciously explores it by questioning the impulse to privilege a dominant view of the world that differentiates between hegemony and periphery. She departs from the traditional European perspective, that is, the exoticism that pervaded the world view of 18th- and 19th-century travelers. Indeed, with her sight and her word, Vivero conquests the world, her world. Tourist Series, the bookwork, is a sort of a manifest; it portrays the artist both visually and textually (in the phrases embroided in the T-shirts) in terms of those identities she shares with groups historically marginalized: as a woman, an immigrant, and an artist born and raised in a postcolonial world. With her workbook Vivero also addresses the inequalities between different artistic practices: in relationship to museums or international biennales, which are dependent on economic privilege. Despite advocating for the inclusion of those marginalized, these institutions can fall into trying to have a stage for major visibility and at times end up supporting views of subalterization. The book articulates and expresses Viveroí­s project at the same time as it multiplies its reach and opens the possibility of a new circulation of signs — the postcards, absolute emblems of the tourist, that are to be dispersed in a touristisized world.
Quito, november 2007.

From Fetishism to an Artistic Experience

By X. Andrade

A view of a tourist is in itself a tourist experience. "Natives" from everywhere are exposed, aggressively and inexorably, to hordes of tourists with digital cameras and bazaars filled with T-shirts and other similar and interchangeable souvenirs. Indeed, the tourist dynamic is built upon a gaze--a mirror of distinctive reflections. The touristí­s power consists of the invariable objectification of the locals. Classified as "natives," they are viewed as social types rather than as individuals with personal histories. They are human banners exhibiting their folk life as a service to visitors, add-ons to a landscape that is seen either as architectonic, archaeological, or ‘natural,í­ displayed exclusively for the travelerí­s pleasure.

The tourist experience is, therefore, based on a perverted anthropology, one that places the subjects in a landscape, with no other mission than being there. Silhouettes cloaked in authenticity, posing readily for the camera with a big smile. Nothing is improvised in the planning of a tourist experience, not even the appearance of the visitors and their voracious consumerism. Before them, following the display order of a supermarket, medieval castles are displayed as are also master pieces of the postmodern architecture, iguanas, monuments, plaques, theme parks, and industrial parks. All of it must be apprehended through the prosthesis and mediation of the camera viewer. Photography allows the appropriation of a commercialized landscape and has a key function inspiring feelings, also interchangeable, of longing and nostalgia for landscapes, scenes, countries, and borders.

In the supermarket of remembrances born out of these exchanges, one object epitomizes the dynamic of the tourist experience, a clear expression of its unbalanced power structures. This sign encapsulates both the experience of consuming and the nostalgia of such an experience. This object is the T-shirt.
In its innocent and informal appearance, decorated with the most simple slogans, designed to register the tourist appropriation of a landscape, a T-shirt assumes both an ideological role proclaiming the freedom of a global flow, and an economic role expressing the conditions of exploitation on which such freedom is based. Like a wolf disguised under the processed cotton of millions of maquila sheep,
the T-shirt is the ultimate expression of fetishism in late capitalism. It is a powerful expression of the commercialization and fetishism that constitutes the tourist experience. Indeed, in the T-shirt, the tourist will confine a memory of that constant traveling to real places in order to have only virtual experiences, that is, tamed simulacra of exotic landscapes. While the tourist industry offers new destinies as "packages" and the museums of souvenirs grow endlessly, the
T-shirt maintains the basic etiquette of the tourist experience to the delight of a not-very-innocent industry.

To parody, to reverse ironically, to caricature this simulacra of the tourist experience, Micaela de Vivero inscribes on her T-shirts a variety of texts: quotations, references to the local history or to the history of art. In the pictures of this artist-tourist-terrorist taken in a variety of locations, where she poses conventionally, her T-shirts display texts manually embroidered, commentaries of the very same places where the pictures were taken — commentaries on arts institutions, marginalization, the center-periphery order, and so on. These pictures, therefore, question the "naturalness," the "spontaneity," the "authenticity" promised by tourist packages, guided group visits, pilgrimages to the local saint, and the overwhelmingly artificial welcome cocktails.
Guayaquil, November 19, 2007

Translated by Eduardo Gillespie

Micaela de Vivero (born Munich — Germany, 1972) works and lives in Ohio, USA. Micaela obtained her BA at Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador and her MFA at Alfred University, Alfred, NY, USA. She has been artist in residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE, USA (2001); the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (2003); Chretzeturm, Stein am Rhein, Switzerland (2005); Koli Ryynanen, Koli, Finland (2007) and RONDO Marienmahle, Graz, Austria (2007—2008). In her work she explores sculpture and its possibilities to expand, getting into the use of space, performance art and photography, touching on themes of inter-culturality and resistence. She has exhibited her work in the USA, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria and Ecuador.

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