tourism dot com - smoking butts from ashtrays [2-video projection]  2008
exhibition text by Stephen McNeilly

tourism dot com
smoking butts from ashtrays

2-video installation by ruth bianco and richard davies
contemporary rooms of the National Museum of Fine Arts, Malta, 2008

In Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957), Dean Moriarty, Carlo Marx and Sal Paradise (Kerouac himself) travel erratically across the American continent in search of spiritual and sexual liberation. Moriarty's character in particular is given special significance. Singled out as the catalyst of the group, forever in search of new and unlimited experiences, he is cast as a 'liberated spirit', a walking embodiment of free flowing Jazz, whose lines of expression are left to follow their own direction.  Legitimizing a new and utopian form of 'tourism' - one that, ironically, emphasizes the dystopian underbelly of the 'American Dream' - On the Road was subsequently to become 'the bible' for a generation of hobos, drop-outs, beatniks, hippies, and bohemians.  Kerouac offers an image of the road as a symbol of a restless endeavour, a means of inventing a new modality of self discovery (and also, albeit accidentally, new means of consumption). 

Ruth Bianco and Richard Davies' work presented here, entitled - smoking butts from ashtrays, like Kerouac's On the Road, deals with a stream of consciousness along with direct issues of travel and consumption.  Drawing on footage shot on location in Malta, the United Kingdom, China, Belgium and Spain, it offers a broad mix of diverging images overlaid with a voice-over of Kerouac's iconic text.  Unlike Kerouac in On the Road however, it also speaks directly of the cultural and geographical scarring produced by tourism, and the resultant slippages within the landscape.

Recent research undertaken by the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourist Organization) in recording and highlighting the negative effects of tourism on natural habitats - both in Europe and throughout the world - forecasts a bleak future.  Once beautiful and natural habitats are now compromised or lost altogether due to rampant strains of commercialism and capitalist gain. Such gain, paradoxically, is also cited as vital in maintaining the economic stability of the places and sites most openly affected., thus, is precisely not a celebration of tourism (a travel guide of hotspots for the cultural elite).  It is rather a warning, a witness to the unlimited effects of commercialism, of a restless migration (first evidenced during the 18th century with the 'grand tour') which is now changing, irrevocably, the face of the world in which we move.

Stephen McNeilly
Editor Swedenborg Society, London
Editor, Dedicus Press, London

June 2008

double projection installation 2008

This work explores the ubiquitous iconography surrounding the tourist trade, arguably the most powerful and pervasive economic tool swaying the globalised world.  Tourism and travel are not just about tantalising city trips and beach cultures, but also a mass leisure industry grounded in politics, myth and spectacle.  This work layers divergent cultural contexts as a subtle way to define the utopian touristy promise from its repercussions.  Photos and film shot in Malta, UK, Spain, China, and Belgium, are appended to sound tracks from Jack Kerouac's travel-logue On the Road.  In a second projection, text rolls against a backdrop of power buildings extracted from current UN and EU documents on eco-tourism.