Video Art Program[The 60th Program] Simon Roberts

Sight Sacralization: (Re)framing Switzerland Part 1 – Winter, 2016 colour, sound, 3min.40sec.
Sight Sacralization: (Re)framing Switzerland Part 2 – Summer, 2017 colour, sound, 3min.55sec.

This video work shows tourists excitedly taking photographs of themselves amid the breathtaking magnificence of nature. Tourism in Switzerland, with its spectacular natural environment, can be traced back to the custom of the Grand Tour, originating in 17th-century England. In the 19th century, youngsters went to Switzerland in a quest to experience the sublime. Simon Roberts builds on this historical background while reframing Switzerland from a sociological standpoint. The phrase “sight sacralization” in the title is a concept proposed by French sociologist Dean MacCannell, and focuses on the process of sites being elevated to the context of “sightseeing” when they are newly “framed” by people’s perceptions. MacCannell defines sight sacralization in terms of seeking the “authenticity” lacking in our everyday surroundings, which is the essence of tourism or sightseeing. In that sense, there is no difference between the “travel” of the past and modern tourism. While the tourists posing in this video may look ridiculous, we realize that in an information age where social media dominates, they are the actors who disseminate diverse representations of sites around the world, and continue to produce the “frame” that contextualizes tourism.

Simon Roberts:
Born in London, UK in 1974, lives in Brighton. He originally studied a BA Hons Degree in Human Geography at the University of Sheffield (1996). He is a photographer whose work deals with our relationship to landscape and notions of identity and belonging. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (2013). Major solo exhibitions include Merrie Albion (2018) at Flowers Gallery (London, UK), New Vedute– Alternative postcards from Rome (2016) at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma (Rome, Italy), and group exhibitions include The Great British Seaside (2018) at National Maritime Museum (London, UK), Unfamiliar familiarities: Outside Views on Switzerland (2017) at Musée de l’Elysée (Lausanne, Switzerland).