Tackling the Clichés

As we make our way ‘up the river’, in pursuit of our aesthetic Kurtz, I find myself somewhat at a disadvantage to my travel companions. As someone who grew up in the suburbs of New York, I freely admit that I brought some very heavy baggage with me. Bags packed with preconceived notions based on my northern chauvinism, i.e. things that I am trying to leave behind me along the route.

I’ll do my best to elaborate later, but here’s a short list of some of my initial, and possibly superficial, impressions, clichés included:

New Orleans is in many ways like Amsterdam – a place where people go to spend a few days of debauchery.

New Orleans is not the same place it was the last time I was there 16 years ago. Hardly surprising.

New Orleans will be an extremely difficult place for an artist to make a site specific work about the place and not walk into a minefield of clichés about Katrina.

I find myself wondering if my drive through the lower 9th to see the devastation was a social responsibility to witness how hard hit by Katrina New Orleans was – and more importantly CONTINUES to be – or was it a “holiday in someone else’s misery”? It brings back memories of tourists lining up at the temporary viewing platform at Ground Zero, with Century 21 shopping bags in their hands.

An art gallery and a small super market with great food and friendly service is a sure sign that the urban renewal of the Mobile city center is working well.

The clichés about the Southern State Trooper are only partially true: they’re friendlier than they are in the Movies, but they still like the bait and switch tactics. Fortunately the speeding fines can now be paid over the internet instead of via hard labor in a chain gang.

In Birmingham my pre-conceived notions were justified: it’s not a great place for Thai food.

If you’ve always wanted to visit Birmingham, but couldn’t find an excuse, here’s the best one: The Civil Rights Museum.

Traveling with two Europeans through the deep south is – for lack of a better word – an interesting experience, which either amplifies one’s previous prejudices, or surprisingly puts me in a position where I feel the need to defend those whom I previously criticized (out of preconceived notions).

At least it goes to show that I’m not the only one who brought some baggage, mine just happens to be a lot heavier.

Oh… one last thing, as I wait for my travel companions to come down from their rooms once again – at least on this trip, the cliché about artists always being late is overstated.

originally posted on http://heartland.vanabbe.nl/

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