01 Jun, 2009

Emanuel Licha’s War Tourist series at LOOP

Posted by: admin In: We make money not art

0aalooplogogo.jpgAs i mentioned yesterday, the LOOP video art festival and fair that closed a few days ago in Barcelona has been the good surprise of this Spring. To be honest, i arrived expecting intense boredom to fall over my head. Video art to me evoked mostly those long days at the Venice art biennale where i’m usually too tired to stand through a long string of videos that last at least 30 minutes each. Sure, the LOOP fair presented a couple of videos that didn’t make me want to check whether they would last more than 20 seconds but my experience of the whole festival was generally a very enthusiastic one.

The festival part of LOOP was distributed throughout the city center, in museums, cultural centres and other venues. Meaning that i could shop, see a video, shop, get lost in the small streets, see another video, have a drink, see a video or just have an aimless walk. No video overdose in sight. I didn’t find the time to see everything but over the next few days, i’ll blog some of the pieces i particularly enjoyed in the festival:

Emanuel Licha, War Tourist in New Orleans. Image

For his video series, War Tourist, Emanuel Licha traveled to five cities which have recently been through a war, deep crisis, natural catastrophe or which are known to be dangerous. There, he pretends to be curious tourist, hires a professional guide and asks him to organize a guided tour of the worst destruction or the most dangerous zones of the city.

Emanuel Licha, War Tourist in Sarajevo, 2004-05. Image

The videos brings into full view our voyeuristic attraction to human misery. The guide organizes a tour of his client’s phantasmed city, inventing an idealized version of reality, thus not reality itself. It would be easy to pretend that none of us, politically correct, smart and sophisticated people, could risk to be regarded as a war tourist. Yet, the videos are so fascinating that one realizes that it’s hard to be immune to the fascination for suffering, ruins, destruction and desolation. War Tourist is therefore a deeply disturbing series. Not only does it contains heart-breaking details about the tragedy that the cities have been through, it also reveals a voyeuristic side we’d rather pretend we never had.

Emanuel Licha, War Tourist in Chernobyl, video still

In every city the guide speaks in a perfectly clear English. Yet, his speech is subtitled in English, keeping thus a safe distance from all that torment and devastation.

Emanuel Licha, War Tourist in Paris, video still

War Tourist in Sarajevo visits post-war Sarajevo’s ruins; War Tourist in New Orleans goes on tour of the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina; War Tourist in the Suburbs of Paris brings the visitor to Clichy-sous-Bois, a suburb of Paris where riots took place in 2005; War Tourist in Auschwitz is set in the famous death camp and War Tourist in Chernobyl visits the area devastated after the explosion of the nuclear power plant.

Emanuel Licha, War Tourist in Auschwitz, video still

You can get a tour of the city of your choice through the project website. If you understand french, you might be interested in watching a video interview of the artist. Or maybe this other one.

Related: Adel Abidin’s travel agency ABIDIN TRAVELS that caters for those who’d fancy vacation trips to Baghdad.

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