Poverty and Wealth in the same space or: What tourism doesn’t want you to know.
The uncomfortable proximity of poverty and wealth is least at ease where the tourism industry is conducting business. Predetermined destinations of a given place are also the sites that are most maintained.
The commodification of place necessitates a preened and presentable outward appearance, pristine even. Attractions mustn’t be sullied by anything categorized as undesirable. There is a mentality that deems poverty as an unsightly appearance, such that even the homeless citizen bystander dampens the economic potential of grand images and ideal narratives. Poverty may be a direct result of a rarified condition that tourism fosters (land values going up, gentrification taking hold), but thereafter poverty is, as the activist Kym Hines states, stigmatized by the very same agency that creates it. As poverty strays into areas of tourism, everything becomes awkward. Often times the signs of poverty are forcibly and violently relocated, depending on the security apparatus that is in place.
The Market Square in Victoria
The Market Square in Victoria is one of the few stops on the anti-tour, selected by anonymous participants during the production residency at Open Space Arts Society, that is itself an actual tourist destination.
The Market Square is even known to play host to “ghost walks,” a popular conceit for tours of the city. With the ghost walks visitors are lead around historic sites and told of unsettled spirits who “still walk these halls.” The macabre content is anecdotal and personal, however, lacking any sort of reflection of the cultural fabric that engenders place. The content may be “sordid,” but the ghostly distraction remains a cultivated and censored affair, salacious perhaps but in the end, it remains a palatable rendering. Ironically, the Market Square may actually contain real ghosts from its historic past, the kind of apparitions that are left to an anti-tourism. Today the courtyard development is host to privilege and affluence, in terms of retail, leisure, and luxury condominium developments. The interview attached to this particular destination contends that the wealth established here resides on land appropriated over the ashes of a Chinese Candian community razed to the ground. Here are the real ghosts that haunt Market Square: racism at the bottom of land appropriation, the hostility towards poverty that is nevertheless created by the system, and the installation of colonial interests. These ghosts are not a sales hook for the boutiques and bar patios that operate presently. Here is the specter of citizens past gathering around a bonfire started by thugs and cheering, dispossessing the people who tied their hopes and dreams to this place. Perhaps the most persistent expression of this ghostly content is the management policy that still, to this day, locks down what constitutes permissible behaviors, ruling out hackeysack and sitting on the ground.