A Project for the The Resident Fellows Program, Visual Seminar 2003
The Balkans as a Tourist Sight
The project is focused on the analysis of visual representations of the Balkan city as a tourist sight. While Sofia will be the main part of the case study, several other typologically selected cities will be addressed in a comparative perspective.
Firstly, the representation of the city as a tourist topos stages it as an object of interest for the outside viewer. The process of inventing a desired image of oneself implies integrating the other’s gaze, imagining his/her centre of interest, and reevaluating one’s identitarian resources. Thus visual representations of the city helps us reconstruct the imagined addressee of local culture.
Secondly, tourist sight packages reveal the local notions of the urbanity. The choice of sites to offer to the tourist gaze articulate different narratives of the city, different strategies for invention of tradition and projects for the future. Thus, we can reconstruct the implicit interpretations of the city as European, Balkan, and national as well as various relations in between these notions.
Thirdly, analyzing the tourist images of the city, I will try to study the visual codes, formed in the visual arts. I will thus address the relations between art and tourist advertisement, as well as the possibility for the artist to model the perception of reality.
The study will be based on the representations of Sofia in postcards, albums, sites and virtual postcards. I expect that different media will depict different images and versions of the city. I will try to analyze tourist sights in a historical perspective especially concentrating on Sofia.
Contemporary images will be interpreted in a comparative perspective. I will try to reconstruct – if any – common urban visuality throughout the Balkans. My hypothesis is that different cities draw upon similar historical resources, develop similar strategies for visualizing the city, illuminate similar spaces and remain blind for others. The point is to find out whether there is a “Balkan visual code” that identifies cities as Balkans.
The Resident Fellows Program is the product of a partnership between the ICA-Sofia and CAS-Sofia activities and programs on a more theoretical level. It will be organised by the Centre for Advanced Studies Sofia in accordance with the ICA. Within a given year, CAS hosts four resident fellows from Bulgaria for a period of six months each. They come from the fields of contemporary visual arts, other artistic areas, or academia and are selected by the Experts' Unit of the Visual Seminar based on their submitted applications and the application/selection procedures appropriate in such cases. The resident fellows have a stipend and reside in Sofia for the period of their fellowships while working on a specific artistic or research project related both to the topic of the “Visual Seminar” project and to the other activities of CAS. The finalized projects are presented in public in Sofia and discussed by the Forum of Visual Culture (see Module 1).
The idea of cooperation between academics and artists is based on the familiar experience of the Centers for Advanced Study in Europe and USA. Their established practice involves the artists’ participation in the intellectual community of researchers gathered for other research projects of the Centers for Advanced Study. They engage in, and contribute to, the debates and the heuristic atmosphere of the Centers and develop their own artistic projects based on this experience.
Such fellows would be selected by a special procedure appropriate in such cases.