And although we tend to relate the concept of authenticity to the notion of time, it’s also an ethnocentric idea that was created out of a Western construct of art from the 19th century. So with “Cynopolis” I was trying to explore the awareness of this phenomenon by adapting the same idea to the way African and Asian culture has been appropriated in Western art and how guilt had become integrated into the aesthetic of works produced during colonialism. You can definitely see this phenomenon in Cubism and Surrealism and the way those movements appropriated African and Polynesian culture while lots of people were being tortured, pillaged and dispossessed. The French Surrealist Michel Leiris’s description in “L’Afrique fantôme” of how he stole a sacred sculpture is a good example of such ambivalence towards the realities of exploitation.
I guess this comes from a deeper curiosity in finding something familiar in something foreign.
I think we are only able to perceive the exotic through the familiar. The creation of the exotic is a familiar process. The exotic is the way “otherness” is transformed into something familiar, and so the exotic cliché becomes more familiar than the actual reality. In fact, these clichés really belong to Western culture, and the real “other” and experience of “otherness” can only be accessed once you have accepted the idea of delusion and disappointment. You know human beings are still like kids, we take pleasure in hearing the stories we have been told before.
The ideal of authenticity can be characterized by either nostalgia or romanticism. It is nostalgic because it idealizes the ways of life in which people are supposed as freer, more innocent, more spontaneous, purer, and truer to themselves than usual (such ways of life are usually supposed to exist in the past or in childhood). People are nostalgic about these ways of life because they want to re- live them in the form of tourism at least temporally, empathically, and symbolically. It is also romantic because it accents the naturalness, sentiments,and feelings in response to the increasing self-constraints by reason and rationality in modernity. Therefore, as a contrast to the everyday roles, the tourist role is linked to the ideal of authenticity. Tourism is thus regarded as a simpler, freer, more spontaneous, more authentic, or less serious, less utilitarian, and romantic, lifestyle which enables people to keep a distance from, or transcend, daily lives. The examples include camping, picnicking, campfires, mountaineering, walk-about, wilderness solitude, or adventures. In these activities they do not literally concern themselves about the authenticity of toured objects at all. They are rather in search of their authentic selves with the aid of activities or toured objects.