— Delphine Bedel

Photography: Reality Check – Notes on Tourism

28 April- 26 May 2007
Lumen Travo gallery, Amsterdam

“The contemporary tourist, often dislocated and adrift, seeks a vista of the past to understand the present, the contemporary artist can be seen as a journalist (the word comes from journey) who reflects on the world and creates new markers and signs.” (1).

In the perspective of the tourist gaze, the work of Delphine Bedel engages different layers of representation of architecture, of leisure and cultural artifacts. As one of the largest world industries nowadays, tourism and leisure influence our way of life and reflect upon shifting cultural, economic, social and historical realities. There, visual representation, the production of meaning through images, takes center stage. From amusement parks and monuments, to camping and beach resorts, her photographs and videos document sites of tourism in diverse contexts.

Reality Check, Notes on Tourism is a photographic project and a book. During her three-month artist residency in Berlin in 2006, Bedel researched various sites in Germany in relation to tourism and the ‘politics of memory’. Starting from the social imaginary which she built based on architecture, cinema, literature, politics, and history in a Reality Check process, she investigated the city of Berlin and other locations and also confronted her own memory and experience of the time she lived in Germany.

For her first solo exhibition at the gallery Lumen Travo, Delphine Bedel will present a new series of photographs and text works, in relation to three (potential) tourist sites: a natural viewpoint made popular after a famous painting of Caspar David Friedrich, an architecture complex, and a memorial located in former East Germany.

The chalk cliffs on Rügen, painted by Caspar David Friedrich in 1818, have now fallen into the sea, but the site still remains a popular tourist destination. Also this painting as a cultural artifact has established a popular imagery of romantic nature throughout the 20th century, the understanding of his work was long tainted by the misuse of it for political purposes, and is now reconsidered.
The giant memorial to Lenin in Berlin was dismantled and buried in the ground in 1991 in a nearby forest, but a recent call to reinstall the statue in the city, for the purpose of tourism among others, is now being debated.
The Prora Holiday Resort was the first monumental building for mass tourism. This propaganda construction was never finished. It was originally intended to be a seaside resort of the NS-organization “Kraft durch Freude”; 20,000 workers were to spend their holidays there. It remains the largest architectural project carried out at that time, and spreading over 5km, it is still one of the biggest constructions ever made for tourism. After WW2, the complex was turn into a secret military base and hidden from sight for forty years. Most of the complex is now abandoned.  The building’s future destination remains controversial.

Tourist destinations and cultural heritage see their meaning and identity shifting over time, according to, among others, the politics of memory that prevails.  But memory is also made of wounds and fractures. Addressing and understanding the shadows of the past and their representation is urgently needed, and tourism is often too quickly blamed for the palimpsest or the iconoclastic gesture. Multiple perspectives and polyvocality are requested to make sense of our ambivalent and fragmentary representations of the world.

(1) Universal experience art, life and the Tourist Eye, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2005 (cat.).

Thanks to the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture / Project Studio Berlin.

Lumen Travo Gallery
Opening Saturday 28 April, 17.00- 19.00
Lijnbaansgracht 314, NL-1017 WZ Amsterdam. T: + 31 20 627 08 83
Wedn. – Sat. 13-18 pm, 1st Sunday o/t month 13-17 pm