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January 7, 2013

Boris Groys on the complicated dynamic of hosts and guests

“According to Kant sublimity lies not in ‘anything in nature’ but in the ‘capacity we have within us’ to judge and enjoy without fear the very things that threaten us. Hence the subject of Kant’s infinite ideas of reason is the tourist who repeatedly embarks on journeys in search of the extraordinary of enormity and danger in order to confirm his own superiority and sublimity in regard to nature. But in another section of this treatise Kant also points out that, for instance, the inhabitants of the Alps, who have spent their entire lives in the mountains, by no means regard them as sublime and ‘without hesitation’ consider ‘all worshippers of icy peaks to be fools.’ Indeed, in Kant’s age the romantic tourist’s gaze still differed radically from that of the mountain dweller. With his globalized gaze the tourist views the figure of the Swiss peasant, for instance, as a feature of the landscape — and thereby does not disturb him. To the Swiss peasant kept busy by and taking care of his immediate surroundings the romantic tourist is simply a fool and an idiot he is unable to take seriously. But in the meantime, as we well know, this situation has again completely changed. Even though the inhabitants of any particular region might still regard internationally roaming tourists as fools, nonetheless they increasingly sense the need — no doubt for economic reasons — to assimilate the globalized gaze pointed at them and to adjust their own way of life to the aesthetic predilections of their visitors, the travelers and tourists. Besides which, mountain dwellers have now also started to travel and are becoming tourists too.”
–Boris Groys, “The City in the Age of Touristic Reproduction,” Art Power (2008)

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