School for Tourists


Emma Smith

School for Tourists, 2011 ongoing

School for Tourists explores global relationships through transience, using the issues of tourism as a model from which to consider global mobility more broadly. School for Tourists examines our relationship to place, questioning the roles of host and guest and asking what it means to belong.

To date, the School for Tourists has been hosted in the UK, Spain and Switzerland, addressing a variety of questions, each stemming from the particular circumstances of the location in which the project has been hosted.

School for Tourists was initiated in 2011 during an artist residency with Grizedale Arts in the Lake District UK, hosted by the Coniston Institute – a building created by John Ruskin in the 19th century to support education, the arts and social cohesion.

Through a one week programme of walks, mountain top debates, alternative boat tours, contribution to local resource, films, talks and workshops, the School for Tourists questioned the construct of tourism, tracing its development from the elite activity of the Grand Tour, to the popular package holiday, the modernist quest for authenticity to the post-modern quest for the inauthentic. In so doing the school aimed to consider and propose new models of relationship that might offer more to host and guest, to pilot and test news forms of tourism that are reciprocal, contributive and sustainable.

A key question that emerged from this first School for Tourists was the relationship between responsibility and rights, sedentary and the hierarchies of sedentary and nomadic practices.

Between 2012 and 2013 the School for Tourists was hosted in Casares in Andalucia in Spain – a picturesque hill village overlooking the coastal region of the Costa del Sol – an area renowned as a holiday destination for what we might call “mass tourism” or the “package holiday”.

In Casares the School for Tourists considered the issues caused through the tourist expectation of service provision; living in the tourist gaze and the phenomenon of cultural high-jacking. Inverting the notion of service to one of contribution, School for Tourists asked why should the experience / education / facilities available to the tourist be any different to those for locals? How might the potential of the vast range of skills, interests and knowledge of visitors and residents that come into proximity through tourism be connected and contributed to a location?

Through skills exchange, cooking together and collective wayfaring the School for Tourists invited both residents and visitors to develop activities that would be of interest to all and could be developed as future resources for the village as platforms through which locals and visitors could spend time together.

In 2015 the School for Tourists is being hosted in Lucerne in Switzerland where this year the central region of Switzerland celebrates 200 years of hospitality. School for Tourists Lucerne asks who has the right to hospitality? Examining human rights across borders the school will question the roles of host and guest, exploring the right to stay foreign and asking how we might better overcome the fear of the other. Through a 5-day programme and exhibition of actions, discussions and exchange, unconditional lunches and walking activities the school will culminate in a public assembly to found a new-state – a macro-nation of global citizens that exists in hearts and minds, not territory, without condition.



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Emma Smith