Adriënne van der Werf

Curator, researcher & 
writer 

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Adriënne van der Werf

Curator, writer & researcher

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Resorts as exhibitions, exhibitions as resorts


01.04.20

Ever since curation became a form of cultural practice, more and more art exhibitions and places refer to other places rather than their own.1 The modern white cube is still relevant but as exhibitions become relational situations or installations, alternatives are found in other “Other Places” as conceptualized by French philosopher Michel Foucault. What happens when the exhibition space and the resort, two heterotopia - “realized utopia.”2, mimic each other and are taken as a starting point for curatorial practice?

Michel Foucault discusses his concept of Heterotopia, (literally ‘Other’ (hetero) ‘Places’ (Topos)) in his Paris lectures. In the recordings, he discusses the qualities and similarities of spaces like brothels, theatres, graveyards, museums & vacation villages. These places are ‘other’, they stand outside the normal places we encounter in daily life. They are also outside of conventional time and space, but Heterotopia exists, and is different from its counterpart: the Utopia, an imaginary place. This magical and real place, it is private and public: an inbetween.3 In being so, they contain all the spaces in one. Foucault explains this through the example of the theatre: the stage has the capabilities of representing the whole world. From this reasoning we can deduce that the white space of the exhibition follows this same rationale. The resort also contains the world, but in a different way. It is essentially a representation of the world by inhabiting private and public spaces while creating its own ecosystem. One of hospitality with a clear hierarchy and providing a space of leisure, play and wellness.

Resorts as heterotopia

This research reflects my personal experiences from July 2019 until February 2020, as I was involved in three different versions of Exhibition/Resort spaces. Whilst developing the resort exhibition ‘Enter Through The Void, Exit Through The Gift Shop’, I was at the same time curatorial resident of Art Space Pythagorion. This is an art space and residency located on the pier of the tourist town Pythagoreio in Samos, Greece. Just 2 kilometers away from the art space lies Doryssa, a seaside resort, stretching a wide area and beach. These three spaces all encompass something of this exhibition/resort crossover.

I would like to elaborate on my experience of this crossover by setting out my understanding of the concept of the resort, possessing three key features namely: hospitality, hyper-reality and play.

A resort is a place of hospitality as it refers to “a place designed to provide recreation, enter- tainment, and accommodation especially for vacationers : a community or establishment whose purpose or main industry is catering to vacationers.”4 It is a place where a community is formed between visitors and workers who take care of these visitors in exchange for money. They provide them with food, a bed and leisure. It has existed for over two thousand years, this concept of a resort, a place outside of daily life, and it is significant within our human condition.

The idea of hospitality has been widely dis-cussed and has been defined by Hepple, Kipps and Thomson (1990) as:
  1. It is conferred by a host on a guest who is
    away from home
  2. It is interactive, involving the coming to-
    gether of a provider and receiver
  3. It is comprised of a blend of both tangible
    and intangible factors
  4. The host provides for the guest's security,
    their psychological and their physiological comfort.5

The second feature of a resort, that reconnects with the idea of an heterotopia, lies in its hyper-realistic qualities and the way it libe- rates from the norms of our society. Through promotional gestures such as advertisement, that fuse with the expectations of the visitor, a different reality is acquired by the resort. Next to these aesthetic qualities tourism has the capability “to contest the dominant social norms that reign in space.”6 This heterotopia is thus a place outside of daily life, people are liberated from the norms of society. Through creating dreams and myths in advertising and promotion, resorts tend to create alternate belief systems. A key example is the beach, where social acceptability of states of undress and physical intimacy is different.

The final feature of a resort is the element of play. Henri Lefebvre critically asserts the ludic space as space designated for leisure and amusement. He exemplifies the importance
of play in resorts: ludic means playful. Elaborating on this idea of the playful place, Johan Huizinga offers us insights in the importance of play as a state of human activity. Play, as the opposite of seriousness, offers a place outside of reality. “When the serious business of life becomes unpleasant or intolerable, we can always resort to play: either by seeking an alternative to reality in play, or else by trans- forming reality through play.”7 More concretely Huizinga places play as the “easiest and most accessible path to the vision of a sublime life, also the ideal path.”8 To a great extent it also relates to the notion of heterotopia:

“Play is (...) in the world but not of it. Play is a voluntary activity that takes place outside ordinary life.”9

After my time in Samos, Greece during which I simultaneously worked on an exhibition which focused on the ecology of an arts festival, I now look back on these two places as hybrid forms possessing both qualities of exhibitions and resorts: curation, hospitality, hyper-reali- ty and play. They all proved to be essential to these places. Art Space Pythagorion (ASP),

an art space located in an old hotel along the tourist bay of Pythagorio, hosts an annual exhibition and a curatorial fellowship program. The exhibitions, curated by Katerina Gregos, have influenced daily life in the little town as her programs mostly react to the geo-political location of the art space. Being on the Euro- pean border, near a refugee hotspot, the cura- tor created multiple exhibitions that embedded these locational issues. The art space in a ludic space, one of hyper-reality and myth due to its location on a tourist bay, proves it can show a different reality, outside of our normative frame- work. Within its operations, ASP also reflects on the idea of hospitality and play. By involving curatorial fellows to host the audience for two months, the art space, even in its architectural form, served as a resort-like space. It contain- ed a private (bedrooms and kitchen) and public space (the exhibition hall). The element of play was brought about by its educational program, which according to the qualities of exhibitions and resorts, should be available for all ages. Play in these spaces can highlight the heteroty- pic character that might transform reality.

Enter Through The Void, Exit Through The Gift Shop

The experiences in Samos helped me to develop an understanding of the potential of an arts festival mimicking the resort. Especi- ally as the starting point for the festival ‘Enter Through The Void, Exit Through The Gift Shop’ was a selection of artists who each had a different opinion or vision on a certain domain within society. We wanted to mirror society and show the ecology of the festival by mani- festing every element of the organizawith Laurens Mariën, an artist-curator, I took the resort as a starting point to create a com- munity that was critical of the current norms and values. The site of performance arts center CAMPO Victoria became the produc- tive place where the performative and visual art program was situated, while the art space Kunsthal Ghent was seen as a reproductive place. In this former cloister, shelters concei- ved by various visual artists were positioned in which the other various performing artists were sleeping, having breakfast and living their day to day life.

It confirmed that the festival was indeed a place of curation, hospitality, hyper-reality and play. While various installations, films and performances were on show (curation), the vi- sitors were able to dip into the jacuzzi’s (play). The hyper-realistic characteristics were both present in the artworks themselves, as well as in the concept as whole, both creating a place outside of daily life in which ideas were posed that were liberated from the norms of society. The idea of hospitality was articulated by the performance of Vincent Focquet who was the Customer Service Manager.

Alongside this productive side of the festival at CAMPO Victoria, the reproductive side was situated at Kunsthal Gent. For seven days, the curators were sleeping in the space alongside the other artists who were perfor- ming. In a way it flirted with what Maja Cicic defined as internalized hospitality of curatorial practices. She states that “in art context, hospitality could be manifested in practice by hosting curators, artists and audience; but also conceptually, by hosting
all possible concepts of hospitality”.”10 Hospitality was an integral part of the exhibition as the accommodation was part of the curatorial program. It created a community of artists that previously didn’t know one another, but then did get to know each other because of this usually non-public part of an arts festival. At one point, one of the makers of the shelters was talking to the artist staying inside, to- gether with visitors of the exhibition. It created a hyper-real situation mingling private and public space and creating spaces of play that proved to be viable as a different, less esta- blished way of getting to know each other.

Cicic ends her critical essay on Hospitality by stating how “curatorial hospitality (...) would be capable of creating new realities, connecti- ons and positions, and learning from previous exhibitions.”11 A lot of possible positive out- comes were attached to this hybrid exhibition resort space, but my own view is that we missed a point by not also critiquing this place of leisure. The negative side of tourism was not highlighted: inherently geographical and cultu- rally homogenizing creates places of sameness and can erode the geographical distinctive- ness of a certain place as its focus is on pleasure and place marketing.

However when the exhibition space and the resort, two heterotopias, or realized utopias, mimic each other and are taken as a starting point for a curatorial practice, new previously unseen relationships are highlighted. By creating a place outside of daily life, people are liberated from the norms of society and an alternative community can be established. Both exhibition spaces and resorts are heterotopia, but operate in a different way. While exhibition spaces behold a general aura of seriousness, the resort is one of play and leisure. The formality of the exhibition space, in which people feel they need to know or act in a certain way, is overthrown by the emergence of this ludic space. This opens up conversations and relationships that were previously incapable of being established.

Notes

1. Such as “The Kitchen Show”, New York, St. Gallen, Switzerland, 1991 by Hans Ulrich Obrist, or the practice of Rirkrit Tiravanija who stages spaces of care by using hospitality concepts as well - such as sharing meals, cooking, reading or playing music.

2. James Faubion, “Heterotopia: an ecology”, in eds. Michiel Dehaene and Lieven de Cauter, Heterotopia and the City, (London: Routledge, 2008), 31.

3. Lieven de Cauter, “Heterotopia explained”, inter- view by Maartje Nevejan, accessed on 22nd of March2020,https://vimeo.com/199574681

4. Merriam Webster, “resort,” accessed on 24th of March, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio- nary/resort

5. John Thomson, “The Concept of Hospitality and an Evaluation of its Applicability to the Experience of Hospital Patients,” International Journal of Hospitali- ty Management 9, No. 4 (1990): 307.

6. Georges Hughes, “Tourism and the semiological realization of space”, in ed. Greg Ringer Destinations: Cultural Landscapes of tourism, ed: Greg Ringer, (London: Routledge, ....), 22.

7. Robert Anchor, “Johan Huizinga and His Critics”, History and Theory 17, No. 1 (1978):

9. Anchor, “Johan Huizinga and His Critics”, 70.

10. Maja Cicic,“Unspoken Hospitality”, in ed.Beatrice von Bismarck, Hospitality: Hosting Relations in Exhibitions, (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017), 104.

11. Maja Cicic,“UnspokenHospitality”,in What’s love got to do with it, (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017), 110.






















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