Digital Composite Prints
The cruise ship is a strange case of the special sovereignty afforded to non-national commercial territory. It fuses the safety, self-segregation and control of a suburban, gated community (or the well-policed borders of wealthy nations) with the duty free desires of global capitalism. To those who are allowed the privilege of cruising, the world becomes a theme park, as they sail from port to port across nations, taking in the spectacle: Ethnic food is served up for sampling, native goods are sold as souvenirs, local people and local scenes are photographed to share online, to post on travel blogs, and to illustrate memoirs on self-discovery and authentic experience. To the global, neo-liberal Flâneur the world offers itself up as a spectacle for consumption. The analogy, noted by Hegel, between eating and imbibing knowledge is literalized in the rhetoric of the global Flâneur.
It is impossible however to ignore the fact that the spectacle of globalization can only be viewed as a success from the safe distance of the self-enclosed, economically privileged bubble of the metaphorical “cruise ship”. We only have to look at the case of immigrants fleeing various African nations, who perish on their sea route to the tightly guarded borders of the European Union to comprehend the one-sidedness of this view.
This one-sided world-view is, however, concretized by the ubiquity of travel photography found online: from the totalizing view of Google Earth, which is seamlessly interfaced with sites such as Panoramio and Flickr, allowing you to “explore the world” and “show your favorite places,” to personal travel albums offered up by members of social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace.
In a world awash in (constructed by?) photographic representation, how is one to investigate the photographic image? How is one to engage the tourist photograph when one’s very tools of engagement are self-reflexively encoded? Is the matrix of representation totalizing or are there modes of rupture that allow for the “real” to emerge or invade it?