Art and Tourism Imaginaries III

Ruins Under Construction. The Attraction of the Inhospitable

Wednesday, 1 December 2021 - 5pm

Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior ticket collection on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on the last working day before the activity.

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and Online platform
204 people
Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía and the interuniversity research group TURICOM. La experiencia turística: imagen, cuerpo y muerte en la cultura del ocio

This lecture series, the third instalment organised by the interuniversity group TURICOM — which is part of the project Paradoxical Modernity: Artistic and Tourist Experience in Developmentalist Spain (1959–1975), PGC2018-093422-B-I00 (MCI/AEI/FEDER, UE) — endeavours to examine the relationship between tourist imaginaries and the visual arts from the 1960s onwards. By virtue of a selection of brief talks and a final lecture, followed by a debate, it looks to reflect on mass tourism and the way in which, as the industry of experience, it is connected to the search for lived experience that has shaped art ever since. More specifically, this new edition centres on the concept of ruin as a centre of attraction for cultural habits and practices inside the sphere of tourism.

Tourist enclaves maintain a unique relationship with ruin. Not solely because of the sheer number of establishments and infrastructures we might come across in a state of disrepair or ruin, but also because of their tendency to create, in their surroundings, exclusion zones and razed landscapes and, above all else, their proclivity to be erected in deserted spaces. It is no coincidence that the most paradigmatic place in the tourist industry is Las Vegas, a city built in a desert. The desert — along with the sea, snow, and forested and alpine areas — was one of the favourite scenes in the aesthetic of the sublime, that idealised attraction to inhospitable nature which in Romanticism renewed a liking for ruin. Untamed landscapes that were the hidden face of an irreversible process of technification. Opposite the ostensible mastery of technology, the nostalgia for nature buoyed a new idea of untainted spaces, the pictorial spectacle of unique, out-of-scale nature which banished the human figure from landscapes whose chief symbolic quality consisted of, in fact, being uninhabitable.

That uninhabitable nature came to “sublimate” problems of habitability in the modern city. When the urbanite dreamed of the spectacle of free and primeval nature, or places where life was more natural, the nascent tourist industry safeguarded this dream, feeding and monetising the ideal. Since then, tourism has continued to bolster the paradoxical attraction of the inhospitable and, as city life deepened the feeling of malaise, the tourist-based trivialisation of the sublime offered comfortable lodgings in remote locations that were temptingly inhospitable and, consequently, unliveable for us. This contradictory desire to inhabit the uninhabitable is met by the industry, which erects enclaves on emptiness and builds accommodation and entertainment infrastructures that tap into the illusionary image of an authentic place, yet without being part of it. Thus, the tendency of these settings to fall into disrepair and decay, with their only role being to monetise the flow of people, remains exposed to their transitory nature, subjected to the fate of shifting currents. But there is another thing: the production of habitats to enjoy the comfort of the inhospitable is the furthest possible thing from hospitality. A clear indication that its implementation is not aimed at the community creation of place, but rather at its decline.


Eugenia Afinoguénova is a professor of Spanish Literature and Cultural History at Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA). Her most recent publication is El Prado: la cultura y el ocio (1819-1939) (Cátedra, 2019).

Manuel Delgado Ruiz holds a PhD in Anthropology and is a professor at the University of Barcelona. Since 1984, he has been head professor of Religious Anthropology in the Social Anthropology Department at the same university. He is also the editor and author of numerous publications, most notably: El animal público (Premio Anagrama de Ensayo, 1999), Sociedades movedizas (Anagrama, 2007) and La ciudad mentirosa. Fraude y miseria del “modelo Barcelona” (Catarata, 2007).

José Díaz Cuyás is a professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the University of La Laguna. With Carmen Pardo and Esteban Pujals, he curated the exhibition Pamplona Encounters 1972. The End of the Party for Experimental Art (Museo Reina Sofía, 2009–2010), and his most recent publications include coordinating issue 10 (on art and tourism) of the magazine Concreta, and “Movilizados por lo real: turistas, soldados, artistas” (on Marcel Broodthaers), in Arquitectura: lenguajes fílmicos (2009-2016) (Tabakalera, 2018).

Julián Díaz Sánchez is a professor of Art History at the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM), and has written, among other works, Políticas, poéticas y prácticas artísticas. Apuntes para una historia del arte (Catarata, 2009), La idea de arte abstracto en la España de Franco (Cátedra, 2013) and Pensar la historia del arte. Viejas y nuevas propuestas (Universidad de Zaragoza, 2021).

Pablo Estévez Hernández holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of La Laguna and is a professor of Anthropology from the same university. Moreover, he is a professor of Anthropology of Tourism at the Iriarte University School of Tourism. Notable among his publications are: “What about the hardcore? Pensando el turismo, el poder y la transculturación en Canarias” in ¡Autonomía! ¡Automatización! (TEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, 2019) and “El bautismo de una isla. Sobre ese terrible acto de nombrar” in Desmitificación y redescubrimiento de las Fortunatae Insulae. Tenerife y Canarias de los siglos I al XV (Minutes from the 8th BIEREHITE Sessions, Museo de Historia y Antropología de Tenerife, 2019).

Alicia Fuentes Vega holds a PhD in Contemporary Art History. In 2018, she joined the Art History Department at the Complutense University of Madrid, where she co-directs the research group Imaginaries. Cultural Processes in Western Contemporaneity. Her publications include articles in academic journals such as Journal of Tourism History, Iberoamericana o Art in Translation, most notably Bienvenido, Mr. Turismo. Cultura visual del boom (Cátedra, 2017).

Isaac Marrero is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Barcelona. His publications most notably include de Antropología en la Universidad de Barcelona. Entre sus publicaciones se encuentran The Art of Dissent: Adventures in London’s Olympic State, with Hilary Powell (Marshgate Press, 2012), and Reassembling Activism, Activating Assemblages, with Denise Milstein and Israel Rodríguez-Giralt (Routledge, 2019).


5pm Presentation
José Díaz Cuyás

5:10pm The Horizon of Spanish Tourism’s Extractivism
Eugenia Afinoguénova

In 1962, Ediciones del Movimiento published Nuevo horizonte del turismo Español (The New Horizon of Spanish Tourism). Attributed to Manuel Fraga Iribarne, the future designer of tourist-based developmentalism, the book offered a strategy for converting economic and social underdevelopment into a tourist attraction by means of controlled preservation. This talk, therefore, delves into the consequences of this strategy, still visible today, contending the start-up of processes to redistribute the symbolic and material assets which allowed the tourist industry to be equated with extractivism.

5:25pm Between Desolation and Promise. The (Symbolic) Construction of the Spanish Tourism Landscape
Julián Díaz Sánchez

Built upon ruin, the tourist landscape — glistening, new, ludic — appeared as some kind of miracle, consumed as a spectacle (the second definition of the term landscape in the María Moliner Dictionary of Spanish Usage was: “the countryside considered as a spectacle”. The process of (mythical) construction can be traced back to literature and painting, which, on many occasions, appear to engender nostalgia.

5:40pm The Strange Thing Is that it Remains a Hotel. A New Theory of Broken Windows for Tourism
Pablo Estévez Hernández

In a dilapidated hotel we can make out telephones which are still connected, fire extinguishers lined up, dust-covered glasses, and every kind of sign stating rules to workers. The windows are smashed and there are no tourists… Yet, isn’t there the distinct feeling that it not only remains a hotel, but is also a happy place? Can something so unstable and undefinable such as tourism endure in things? This talk looks to provide an answer to these questions.

5:55pm Politics and Aesthetics of Suspension. Monument to Tolerance by Eduardo Chillida
Isaac Marrero

This presentation explores an unbuilt project which is not completely abandoned: Chillida’s Monument of Tolerance. The concept of suspension enables us to think about a form of existence characterised by a multiple temporality (between anticipation and nostalgia) and a distributed materiality (maquettes, simulations and budget allocations).

6:10pm Review of Argument Strands from the Lectures and Debate
—Moderated by Alicia Fuentes Vega

6:40pm Break

7:00pm Master lecture. On the Ruins of the Present. Cultural Infrastructures in Disagreeable Environments
Manuel Delgado Ruiz

8:40pm Debate and conclusion