“The Tourists” is a collective project for those who cross Southern Europe and for those who reach out to or watch them go by. Devised and run by Depression Era, the project operates as a subversive tourism campaign. “The Tourists” respond to History-in-the-making: the wave of refugee and mass migrations from Asia and Africa to Europe and the simultaneous increase of global tourism in the Mediterranean. These are parallel, converging global events producing states of emergency, distress investment, collateral conflicts and cultural patronage, at the same place, at the same time. The Tourist lives in a divided, burned-out, hyper-mediated public sphere. Her identity and citizenship are in flux; she is lost in transit, perpetually anxious, alienated, resigned or resisting; he is a simulator of social involvement, impotent to frame History in anything more than a postcard, slogan or tweet. Among the narratives of power, encounter, arrival and departure featured in Global Media and contemporary art, the images and slogans of “the Tourists” expose seemingly idyllic landscapes containing the debris of unspeakable violence; frame portraits of women and men in alien places, strangers in their land, visitors among ruins, stateless, networked, indolent and conflicted; and document a generation of fearless children. It is not clear whether these belong to tourism ads or disaster news streams.
We find the poster by the Depression Era Collective a provocative reminder of the emerging humanitarian economy that was part of the management of crisis which included huge funds to NGOs that were responsible for the management of daily life in Lesvos. At the same time the government criminalised solidarity by people who were not registered as members or staff of NGOs with many cases of arrests of solidarians under the accusation of trafficking. This was a direct attack to an international movement of solidarity that was present on the island and an attempt to shift solidarity to humanitarianism.