© Gianni Wise, 2012-17

| | |

2001 | Disaster Tourism, Rubyayre
Bronia Iwanczak, Suzanne Treister, Philipa Veitch, Gianni Wise
Curated by Bronia Iwanczak
Catalogue essay, Richard Grayson:
the exhibition

Part of it must be pure bloody relief that it's not us. We use the car wreck splayed over the central barrier
of the motor way as a measure of our own continuing functioning as we gawk, draw in our breath and drive on by. Ditto our responses to shots on
TV. of droughts and famines in far flung places. Think of all the starving girls and boys in Africa it used to be said as one bucked the offered
Brussels sprout. We were meant to revel in our, suddenly poignant, viability, and celebrate this fortune through stuffing down our throats more of
the world's food supply. Relief that we are not victim turns so quickly and unconsciously into some sort of weird overweening triumphalism, that
we can feel personally quite how easy it would be to turn into some sort of weird right-wing vengeful Christian, singing and chanting together in
large bungalows behind barbed wire perimeter fences on the western plains of the USA. For these people, perhaps for the right-wing xenophobe
mindset generally, the misfortunes visited upon others are transformed into ontological acts of some partial, vengeful god: and they bloody
deserve all they get, for being the unwashed heathen, the other, the non believer, the scourge, the Jew, the sodomite, the unsaved, etcetera.
Basically for being different. For not being US. Perhaps - some part of us may whisper -'bad things happen to other people because, well, excuse
me, but somebody's got to say it, because they are bad.' Because they stick out because they misbehave.....goddamn they had it coming to
them......

Of course, on the private, individual, solo biological level, we all have it coming to us, each and every one of our million trillion cells has it coming
to them. A mini Rambo will kick the shit out of each nucleus, each cell wall, and leave everything entropic and deliquescing, and we know this. We
will at some point in time each meet our own private disaster which we will, slowly or otherwise, NOT survive. This knowledge inflects our
reactions, our reading to the disasters that surround us. You could theorise that we might infer some weird mathematics from the quotidian toll of
misery, where there's a fixed amount of disaster each day, where, because they've got theirs we feel that we have ducked ours. It was our buddy
that bought it, not us. So maybe then on some level we feel guilty. We don't feel guilty because we didn't act to avert this disaster or to mitigate
its effects, but merely for coming through. That wreck there -not only could it have been us, perhaps it should'a been us. As if there's a fixed
amount of bad karma in the universe and those people there just got what could have been our share. So, these pictures on the TV, in the
newspaper, from the web, fascinate, hypnotise through their ability to suggest an inevitable future. Rabbits in the headlamp situation, but played
in extreme slow motion. And this time, we got away. And like Primo Levi, like a million others, our escape triggers inevitably, our own
survivor guilt.

But shit, at the same time you get to feel sort of good. As every teenager knows the death struggle damnation and destruction thing makes one
feel terribly ALIVE, and you get to feel even better if you empathise, cos, well, uh.......you know.... it may be hard, but its REAL - unlike the white
middle class oh god they don't care, can't they look around them? world of parent and teachers and of, all of, well........ THEM......as Iggy Pop
said, 'that's what it's like out on the edge'... Like REAL man........ Hence junkie chic and another thousand slow mo disasters and lifestyle car
crashes - booze... pills - skinny white kids hanging out in a place that they might consider to be a ghetto. We know in this situation they're (we're)
not too fussy as to exactly which ghetto it is as long as it's, er, real. Careful with the dreadlocks Nigel. The Dead Kennedies had it: "So you been
to school/ For a year or two / And you know you've seen it all / In daddy`s car/ Thinkin` you'll go far / Back east your type don`t crawl/ Play
ethnicky jazz / To parade your snazz / On your five grand stereo / Bragging that you know / How the niggers feel the cold /And the slums got so
much soul / It`s time to taste what you most fear/ Right Guard will not help you here / Brace yourself , my dear / Brace yourself , my dear/ It`s a
holiday in Cambodia / Pol Pot Pol Pot Pol Pot Pol Pot / Pol Pot Pol Pot /Pol Pot Pol Pot Pol Pot Pol Pot Pol / Pot Pol Pot Pol Pot /' Pol Pot Pol Pot Pol Pot
Pol Pot Pol Pot Pol Pot Pol Pot / And it`s a holiday in Cambodia

When it comes to disaster, we are all - so far - visitors, and we are all - so far - survivors, but we are doomed survivors. Our relationship to the
event is, as I have tried to sketch, various, complex and contradictory, but central to our responses however is the realisation, conscious or
otherwise, that oneday - and a day that we are unable to nominate or name - oneday we will be unable to leave the disaster behind, but that it
will engulf and subsume us entirely. Rather than being the viewer, we will be the viewed. As Marcel Duchamp wished to have inscribed on his
tombstone 'Besides, Death always happens to others'