Exhibition: Travel Bureau Europa

Anything to avoid having to stay put

2 September till 20 November 2022

Travel, explore, marvel. Bureau Europa turns its attention to people travelling, from silent reflection at home to the hustle and bustle of mass tourism. The desire to constantly expand our horizons, to venture out individually or in groups, is a given. Even though we have every possible imaginary or virtual destination at our fingers – we only have to read about them or look online – a physical journey is still preferable. Sometimes, travelling long distances is not possible. Ailments, old age, and imprisonment have all inspired the perambulatory reflections of artists and designers. After all, you can always recall travel memories or imagine yourself in remote destinations. One thing is certain: we humans are not good at staying put.

Humankind’s Wanderlust is irrepressible. As the American romantic Ralph Waldo Emerson said: ‘The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.’ Travelling is almost a necessity of life. The COVID pandemic limited our freedom of movement. We yearned to travel so much, we began seeing stories in the minutiae of the everyday, to paraphrase Xavier de Maistre. Indeed small journeys were born out of necessity, such as rediscovering your garden, reappraising your country, taking to the water, and doing something you wouldn’t normally do. This raises interesting questions about who we are.

Humanity: a collector of travels We are fairly home-loving, yet we still want to leave our abodes and families behind to tackle unfamiliar terrain. But why do we travel? Is it the lyricism of new experiences, the adventures, the different tastes, smells and cultures? Or is it the memories? Gerrit Komrij saw travelling as a twofold process of leaving and coming home. While travelling, you always think of the moment of being home again. As a traveller, Komrij writes, you slosh around the world like a sponge, absorbing impressions you only experience and explore for the first time after returning home.

Voyage autour de ma chambre But what if you could combine staying put with gaining impressions and experiences? What if travelling did not incur a physical or financial cost? What if you could do it at your leisure and not have to take anyone into account? What if you could visit all the destinations you want? In the 18th century, Xavier de Maistre staved off boredom after being put under a 42-day house arrest following an illegal duel by writing A Journey Around My Room (Voyage autour de ma chambre). Every print, every object and every piece of furniture he encountered evoked a memory, which in turn conjured associations. His ‘journey’ was one through his imagination.

Virtual travel pleasure Today, we no longer have to go anywhere to get to know other worlds. We have the internet at our fingertips any time of day and the technological possibilities it offers, such as Google Street View, YouTube walking tours, 360-degree photography and VR goggles. Movies and video games allow us to visit real-life fantasy worlds, explore the entire galaxy or travel back in time. So how impressive is a mountain top or a jungle?

Looking for real experiences However, this does not mean that the ‘real life experience’ has become less important. Or does it? Look at Mount Everest, where hundreds of often inexperienced but invariably spoilt tourists create human traffic jams at the roof of the world. Once at its summit, they push and shove to take that ‘unique’, dime-a-dozen Instagram photo. Is mountain climbing still the ultimate human experience, as it once was, or has it been reduced to a recreational outing devoid of challenges? Everything is giving way to modern mass tourism, from the Himalayan sherpa’s age-old and respected profession to the pristine habitats of animals and plants on the savanna and the long-term stability of a dream city like Venice.

Tourism in miniature It appears that all this is done to avoid staying at home. If we indeed travel like sponges, what are we looking for? What is tourism? Is it being detached from home, leaving behind your origins, or just enjoying our free time? And what is the tourism sector’s focus? Has that unique experience of a lifetime lost its importance and distinctiveness? And if so, how can tourism address this? What makes a place attractive and a space worth seeing? How do we present a place to the tourist, and how do we want to experience it as a tourist?

(Travel) Bureau Europa During the lockdowns, when streets were uncannily deserted and options were limited, we learned to see the city and the countryside differently. With fewer people to watch, the architecture and our surroundings became more prominent. Bureau Europa has invested in mapping out architectural walks. Every social development leaves its mark on the design of our cities, buildings and landscapes, and physically negotiating them helps us understand them better.

In the autumn, together with the Travel Bureau Europa, we present a roster of changing exhibitions, installations and manifestations, an extensive range of walks, bike rides and excursions, as well as lectures, events and workshops. All entirely devoted to vacations and staycations: visiting distant countries versus your familiar – or not – surroundings.

The Travel Bureau Europa consists of two abstract ‘destinations’ of changing works and installations, with an introduction with works by artists George Mazari and Anne Verhoijsen. From 2 September to 9 October, there are city trips with photo exhibitions by Theo Derksen and Connie Akkermans. Destination 2 runs from 15 October to 20 November and features travel in prison and artist interiors, with works by Robert Glas, Guus Beumer, Johannes Schwartz and Ger van Dijck, and an exhibition about the development and importance of travel guides and tourism.

Tickets are available via the website for €7,-. Do you want to visit both destinations? Maybe a passe-partout is a good option for you!
If you have difficulty paying, other options are available. Please inform via info@bureau-europa.nl.

Floor van Spaendonck | Co-curator Remco Beckers | Production Ilona van den Brekel | Visual identity Anne Kuban, UnknownDesigners | Texts Floor van Spaendonck, Remco Beckers | Translation JLC Coburn | Communication Myrthe Leenders | Film Sam Nemeth - Poppe & Partners, Hussein Al Khayat | Construction Fran Hoebergen, Charlotte Koenen, Bo Oudendijk, Emanuel Riksen

Participants Connie Akkermans | Ger van Dijck, Guus Beumer & Johannes Schwartz | Christian Cargill | Theo Derksen | Robert Glas | George Mazari | University Library Maastricht | Anne Verhoijsen

Thanks to Ger van Dijck & Nel Roodenburg | Annemieke Klijn & Odin Essers | Visit Maastricht | Visit Zuid-Limburg

Opening with Leontien Mees, director Maastricht Marketing; music by Ernst Jansz and Jos Wigman (photos by Moniek Wegdam)