CLOSE WINDOW


Lippard, Lucy R. On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place. New York: The New Press, 1999 (182 pp.). Lippard is an engaging writer whose prose is full of clever and often amusing insights, her discussions about art are frequently framed in larger social and political contexts (feminism, multiculturalism, class), and her commentary will often connect works of art to other causes, such as Vietnam or human rights. In this collection of twelve essays, her target is tourism, and most of the art she discusses is created by younger artists, whose work deals with tourism in general (usually critical), new forms of tourism (such as cultural tourism), or the ethnic and/or gender dimensions of tourism. One of her points is that artists, who help us see the world in different ways, should be more involved in tourism, since the travel industry is also about seeing the world (but many artists view tourism as corporate, uninventive, and shallow). For heritage tourism managers, the most applicable and interesting parts of the book are those that deal directly with trends in tourism; a few of the essays for instance, such as one about a proposed development near her summer home in Maine, say little about art. Others, such as those that deal with cultural tourism, in particular, include a great deal of art analysis because many of these artists are stretching the definitions of what museums, art, and cultural tourism are. Lippard believes that museums (both art and history) have been blinded by the potential economic windfalls promised by cultural tourism; as a result, their exhibitions are much safer because they fear offending tourists, who tend to be more conservative than the regular museum-goer. Museum curators and directors will also find her discussion of corporate sponsorships provocative and challenging. An unabashed tourist herself, Lippard does not have much to say about the tourism industry (or how it does or doesnít work with artists); most reflections are about the social underpinnings that create and sustain different attractions (many of them odd and curious) Ė and what these attractions say about us. She tackles some of the usual topics, such as sustainability (not much hope for that) and authenticity (is there such a thing?); and in addition to cultural tourism, some of the chapters include the evolution of Santa Fe ("Santa Fake"), travel magazine advertisements, tourism on the reservation, and tragic tourism (travel to places of death, such as concentration camps). The book is filled with small, out-of-the-way, curious tourist attractions, which Lippard is especially drawn to. Thatís the only real fault with the book: her New York, liberal, art critic credentials donít seem to allow Lippard to enjoy anything the masses do, such as a spectacular view of Yosemite or a blockbuster art exhibition. She revels in the odd, the challenging, and the messy attractions. Almost anything that is popular she dismisses, and there is a tinge of condescension that creeps in when she suggests casual tourists donít experience the attraction "right." At the Grand Canyon, for example, she hikes to Phantom Ranch; those who stay on the rim with their Kodaks are just not as enlightened. Hey, seeing it from the rim is still a thrill and something most people will never do; if they enjoy that view, give íem a break. Anyone designing a heritage tourism program around Lippardís preferences would probably go broke, because most people donít share her tastes, as informed and cutting-edge as they might be. She has brilliant insights about society and tourism Ė many of which we can and should act on now. But her thoughts about cultural attractions are probably too radical for many tourists.


CLOSE WINDOW