POC ZINE PROJECT — ZINE SPOTLIGHT: 'Tourist Art' takes on Haitian art, tourism, border relations, commercialization and the global art market

ZINE SPOTLIGHT: ‘Tourist Art’ takes on Haitian art, tourism, border relations, commercialization and the global art market

tourist art

TITLE: Tourist Art

CREATORS: Gabrielle Civil and Vladimir Cybil Charlier

Gabrielle Civil is a black woman poet, conceptual and performance artist originally from Detroit, MI. A catalogue of her work “In & Out of Place: Black Feminist Performance Art in Mexico” was announced for fall 2012. She teaches at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. The aim of her work is to open up space.

Vladimir Cybil Charlier explores the construction of visual language and identity from the perspective of a Haitian-American who has lived in and between cultures. In 2007, she and her husband André Juste represented Haiti at the Venice Biennale. She lives and works in Harlem and Philmont, New York.

RELEASE: October 2012 through CreateSpace

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Combining original poetry, drawings and watercolors, Tourist Art addresses Haitian art, tourism, border relations, commercialization, and the global art market. Created by two Haitian diasporic artists, the book highlights multiple ironies: how Haitian tourist art is produced in Haiti, a place with virtually no tourists; how it is the shadow of a rich, Haitian fine art tradition collected around the world; and, how Haitian tourist souvenirs are exported and sold in high volume, largely outside of Haiti itself. “tourist art is always selling time. wood carvings, figurines, postcards of sans souci. in santo domingo, viejo san juan, nassau, brooklyn, miami, detroit, in holes in the wall. tourist art by haitians doesn’t need haitians at all.”

Carefully designed, each page of the book offers iconic, Haitian images (market women with baskets, vodou spirits, historical figures), juxtaposed with pop images of globalization (tour guide badges, McDonald’s French fries, a do-not-enter sign.) Ultimately, the poem reveals how Haitian art receives more mobility and access than Haitian people. “take the art tour. to jacmel air stream to boston donkey hoof to port-au-prince shark raft to montreal cracked foot to cap haitïen tap tap to brooklyn aux cayes dark limousine visa to miami shot to croix-des-bouquets return tracery of tourist art itinerary en route.”

Exploring cultural authenticity and commerce, Tourist Art is the only fine artist book in the Haitian diaspora to tackle high and low culture in art. Its production through print-on-demand technology underlines this concept. The book’s rich language and dazzling illustrations are overall a stunning achievement.


By Chaun Webster, POCZP Midwest Coordinator

What an explosion of the senses in Gabrielle Civil and Vladimir Cybil Charlier’s Tourist Art. Its serene water color paintings are juxtaposed by the sometimes clean, sometimes spiraling yet always piercing text addressing the relationship between the mobility of Haiti’s artistic production and the stinging immobility of Haiti’s people.  

I found myself dizzy by the power of the questions being raised, “haitians walking in place, waiting to travel to the money embrace, standing still, omnipresent, erased. ourist art as static market place.”

At the heart I hear this book howling for space, psychic and material, for a transgression of borders, for where do oppressed peoples find reprieve when the markets consume everything?  Our cultures, which are a means of mapping freedom, of carving out more terrain for struggle, are so important to the vitality of our resistance.  

What happens then when they are bound to an insatiable market which speaks only in the vocabulary of “more.” That “more” a violence which Civil and Charlier turn on its head as they employ the making of an object.  

Seemingly odd in that it is the objects of Haiti’s artistic production that are being so fetishized by way of the silenced inhumanities of the conditions endured. This object though takes form at the intersection of a mirror and a hammer to make known the invisibilities, and build a room for another discourse, creative and treacherous. Read this and be read by it!  

Here is treacherous discourse, here is trickster tale wrapped in fine art as it mocks it, here is a poetics that doesn’t cover but sharpen the blade!!


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