How can one inhabit the world? How can one travel and experience hospitality: to be welcomed and know how to welcome others? According to Jacques Derrida, hospitality should be infinite, even if unconditional hospitality is impossible. Aporia, paradox and imbalance characterize hospitality, and by extension, the Eternal Tour project. What is the status of the host, the tourist or the migrant at the geopolitical scale on one hand, and at the scale of thought, know-how and specialized fields, on the other? How is one to act, and why, in the context of contemporaneity?
If universalism and other Western mechanisms are strongly discredited, what should be preserved of this heritage for building a future that is already present? Experimentation of content and form is put into place, accompanied by a perpetual creolization motion, free from the trap of the definition of being or of origins. Though one can anticipate the results of miscegenation by synthesis, one cannot guess what creolization will produce—it can be addressed only through the imagination (Édouard Glissant) in an adventurous, speculative move, and is therefore tinted by a fondness for risk taking.
More than things given:
Founded in 2007 in Geneva by a dozen artists and scholars, Eternal Tour has produced a new crossdisciplinary festival each year since. The project unites and regularly renews a network of people who only deal in symbolic values: knowledge, imagery and sound. Its different editions—Rome 2008, Neuchâtel 2009, Jerusalem/Ramallah 2010, from New York to Las Vegas 2011, Geneva and São Paulo in 2012—are opportunities to be exposed to otherness in a game inspired by the Grand Tour.
Travels of northern European elites going south during the 17th to 19th centuries engendered and led to a homogenizing neoclassic culture. By ricocheting off this strategy of movement and its consequences for identity, Eternal Tour has given tourism a political content through an intense appropriation of physical and immaterial territories. The stakes are high: they reveal in an obvious way that nothing is given, only obtained (Pascal Amphoux).
For an initiatory tourism
By admitting what generally founds the criticism of tourism, that is, the brevity of sojourns, their relative superficiality, or the gaze that is always “foreign” to the place, Eternal Tour bets on the strength and concrete dimension of the initiatory tour. Becoming then a true tool for networked research and practice, tourism is emptied of its globalized and contemporary mercantile content to rediscover its dimension of interpersonal transmission. In fact, if one refers to the Grand Tour’s principal characteristics, one can note the interest given to networks of sociability present in tour organization in which familial, cultural and professional circles are asked to contribute. In a certain light, this investigative method can also seem an anthropological or sociological endeavor. Eternal Tour thus promotes knowledge of the world based on interaction and exchanges by turning to its indigenous peers. It bets on a personalized, intimate and oral transmission of knowledge: artists, academics, institutional leaders, curators, architects, activists, educators or teachers are actively sought out. The meetings line up, overlap and sometimes contradict one another—the accumulated ideas are juxtaposed and sharpened.
A performative program
The result is a program where Genevan, Swiss and international artists and scientists collaborate intensively for a given time, in a structure that favors workshops, conferences and discussions around proposals in multiple formats. The festival is also relayed on the Internet and in publications, peculiar in both their editorial form and their contributors. Over the years, the complexity and irreducible character of certain human phenomena, or the danger of cultural relativism, have become more and more evident. Instead of a tabula rasa, Eternal Tour is written on a palimpsest; better than a mineral or architectonic sedimentation, the desire for acclimation is ceaselessly renewed, dreamt and performed, tributary to the epiphany of the present moment.
Background picture: project layout for the upcoming “Eternal Tour 2011-2012” publication. Graphic design: Rollergirl.