Tourist Utopias

This collection, "Tourist Utopias: Offshore Islands, Enclave Spaces, and Mobile Imaginaries" contains a chapter by me on a "Virtual Bulgaria." In it, I try to link together Bulgaria's tourism industry in both its socialist and post-socialist forms with the kind of travel and mobility experienced in contemporary video games. This may seem like an odd combination, but it is one motivated by the concurrent growth of the gaming industry and tourism industry in Bulgaria.

Both the narratives and experiences circulating around tourism and gaming involve ideas about escape, mobility and an approach to the city. The post-socialist landscape of an imagined post-socialist city provides a kind of post-apocalyptic imaginary to be traversed and witnessed. Violence and mobility interact in both the experience of the tourist and the gamer. The chapter jumps from imagery around gaming and tourism to contemporary concerns around terrorism and migration. Please find more information on the book here,

Azulejos em Macau

Books, like research, are often made of chance encounters. I met Carol through just such an occasion when she joined a workshop I taught on 3d modeling. As an American Anthropologist who had recently moved to town to teach at the University of Macau, it was a pleasure to meet someone who viewed it through the lens of an already established career as a commercial photographer in the UK and Hong Kong. Since then, I have watched her artistic ambitions and exhibitions steadily expand.

In fact, artists and craftsmen have been coming to and working in Macao for centuries. The azulejos seen in this book speak to this legacy and form part of the visual patchwork of a city that continues to grow, spurred on by burgeoning tourist and gaming industries. Many of these azulejos are still intact and some are new inventions; but one thing is clear, all around them the signs are changing from neon to led, from local restaurants to jewelry shops. So what are we to make of this mixture of eras and art forms? 

 The photographs in this book and the authors' accompanying texts give us an opportunity to slow down and take in these works, to appreciate their origins and consider their legacy. Their detailed strokes and intricate construction are a reminder of the technique and planning involved in making them. The tessellation used also seems to predict the grids of pixels that form the digital images we consume daily. Ultimately, the images in this book do more than communicate the messages and stories behind these azulejos; they also invite consideration of the politics of preservation, the lasting significance of Portuguese presence in Macao, and the shape of its future development. 

-preface to Carol Kwok's "Azulejos em Macau"

100 years

-entry for New Gen. Monthly on Macau 100 years in the future

Predictions can easily turn into lists. Lists of all the things we do or don't want to see. The temptation is to try and fit it all in so as to increase our chances of being right. Whether or not we are, it is a privilege to have a place from which to speculate, a place from which to look ahead. This is what it means to have a future.

So one hundred years from now, where will we find ourselves, in something of the same position, with the same preoccupations and problems; surely there will be some new inventions, new media, and new distractions? As an American academic brought here to teach ways of seeing, I can honestly say I don't know. I can't see that far.

 What I do know is that I won't still be here in one hundred years. In the future, Macao will not be like me, it will not look like me, it will not talk like me; but there may be more people like me, people from different places who find themselves here looking for a future. 

 When I first moved here, I used to say Macao felt a bit like science fiction, invitingly foreign and eclectic. After just five years in town, it already feels familiar. Now people ask me why I am still here. I guess my reasoning has something to do with that distant future. That future, with all its uncertainties and potential, gives me, gives us that privileged place from which to speculate, a space in which we might experiment with new ways of seeing, new technologies, and new media. This is what it means for me to consider the privilege of this future. 

An American in Sofia 

-published in Egoist (Bulgarian Lifestyle Magazine), July 2001.

The day starts to become a blur around 10:00 am. At this time the sun burns off the morning, melting things together. And I'd been waking up late, losing my mornings to my evenings. In the market, I ordered my double espresso and waited for the plastic cup to reform before risking a sip. I brought a paper and tried to understand the world. The stories of war and conflict, theft and murder rubbed off on me, like ink from the page, leaving my fingers stained like a criminal.

Everyone I meet asks me, "sus kakvo se zaminavesh?"(what do you do?) I don't have an answer, but I've started making them up just to make it easier. I lie that I'm studying this or that fact; "I'm studying the history of pravets". If I explain too much of my academic interests, that I'm an anthropologist interested in Bulgarian culture, someone inevitability offers to drive me out of town into the mountains where the real culture is to be found. But I am interested in Sofia, in how she moves and how she has grown.

After lunch, I went to the center to give film to be developed. On the tram there was a man who dropped his ticket, a child with a toy AK-47, and two grandmothers seated ever so perfectly in the light. At one stop, a man entered who looked like he had just taken a shower. He sat across from me and I couldn't help but not look at him. I am always suspect of those who look too fresh and clean in the middle of a summer day.

Waiting for the film to develop, I sat in the park behind the library. This was an invitation for a Roma woman and her daughter to talk to me. She asked for a cigarette and I gave her one. She asked to sit and I said yes. I didn't have a light and she told me I always should and then she proceeded to tell me my future, of women, of my marriage. All I understood was that I'll have to wait. I didn't want to hear my future, and I told her so. So I listened like an American lost in Sofia. And in the end I gave the stotinki and left. I had to go and pick up the film.

Read more

Categories: article