These ideas of exotism and romance lead on to my own project about tourism and whether you should give in for the attractions and picturesque restaurants, or if you should be wary and watch the places you meet with a critical eye, analysing the 'realness' of what your experiencing; The romantic France project.
”The data of cultural experiences are somewhat fictionalized, idealized or exaggerated models of social life that are in the public domain, in films fiction, political rhetoric, small talk, comic strips, expositions, etiquette and spectacles. All tourist attractions are cultural experiences”
“As cultural productions provide a base for the modern community, they give rise to a modern form of alienation of individuals interested only in the model or the life-style, not in the life it represents.”
The tourist – A new theory of the leisure class, Dean McCannel, 1976
The framework for this project was a road trip I made in Bretagne and Provence 1994, the summer before I started my education in the ceramics and glass department in Konstfack. I was very happy at that time, knowing that I was accepted in Konstfack, fully enjoying the romance of France, photographing everything I could find made of ceramics and glass; pots, sinks, tiles, road signs and maps. I painted aquarelles of wine bottles, lavender fields and picturesque villages. Aquarelles that later became part of the project and the solo exhibition showed in Akershus kunstnerssenter, 2004 in Lilleström outside Oslo.
The exhibition included three parts, Camping, Images of France and Signs of France. In the last one I reproduced ceramic signs I had photographed during the trip and also made some new ones with text and paintings I made up myself. In images of France I made a wine barrel using a wine tap of wood and cork I've bought during the trip. I placed it on a table and around it were plastic cups painted with hobby porcelain colour. The motives were things I associated with the tourist image of France, like wine grapes, Guide Michelin stars, cafe noir, petanque, wild boars, oysters, grotesques, laughing cow cheese etc.
The walls of the room surrounding the table was decorated by the aquarelles mentioned above. Jivan Astfalck wrote about my piece Images of France in an article in the book Six views on a practice in change, Craft in dialogue 2005. You can read an excerpt here.
In the largest installation, Camping I included a short text about a very special camping site we found during the trip in the middle of France on the way up to Paris. An unexpected and beautiful experience we had on the countryside beside a sunflower field and with hens picking outside the tent. Noone speaking anything but french, and probably the closest to 'real' experience during the trip. We bought a wine bottle with no etiquette from the neighbouring farmer and no need to tell that this was the best wine we've ever tasted. Accompanying the text I showed a photograph of me and my friends sitting and drinking the wine directly out of the bottle on the camp site, and the installation in the room contained the actual tent and a sculpted natural size hen, but also some of the unfitting 'ugly' parts that I could recognize on the photograph. Like two sculpted cushions in porcelain painted with 80s textile patterns and two casted porcelain plastic bags painted like they originated from a french supermarche. All things seemingly thrown out randomly on the floor.