Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Souvenirs from Romania
As part of my continuing curatorial project into Fashion Souvenirs (visit www.fashion-souvenirs.com for more or click the link on the left) I have been asking various friends and relatives to collect anything interesting or typical of the places they visit. My youngest sister recently returned from a trip to Bucharest in Romania, where despite the countries recent entry to the EU and its intriguing history, it has yet to fully take off as a tourist destination. According to her observations the main thing seemed to be to take a visit to Transylvania, and Dracula's Castle, with many a gothic/dracula themed gift to be found. Overall, though, it was intriguing to hear there is a distinct dearth of souvenir shops or opportunities for souvenir hunters in general in Bucharest, which the examples my sister brought back probably attest to. The first is hand-woven book-mark in the Romanian colours, while the second a key-ring featuring landmarks from the open-air museum. Strangely, while abroad it is often the familiar, just as much as the exotic or strange that we seek out on our travels. My sister, for instance, cannot seem to get through the week without her Starbucks fix. Although it appears even that behemoth has already reached Bucharest, she was flummoxed as how to find a branch there, despite the evidence of seeing passers-by clutching Starbucks carrier bags. Instead, she found the local option to be just as satisfactory in stemming her desire for a cappuccino, which goes by the excellent name of Coffee Attack (here above are some souvenir sugar sachets). It is often intriguing to see how as native-English speaker, the global lingua franca is interpreted abroad, often to unintentional comical effect. In the case of the name Coffee Attack, they seem to have hit on an intriguing combination, implying how the need for a caffeine fix is also an attack both on the body (in an unhealthy sense) and on our desires (in a pleasurable sense).
Research is often a solitary occupation, yet in some instances it is necessary to seek the help of others in collating aspects of a research project. In seeking out such help, however, it poses interesting questions regarding how reliable others viewpoint or skills are in collating research. It sometimes also raises questions about ownership. In the case of the Fashion Souvenirs project many of my collaborators have been happy to help out, as a fun diversion to their main activity in visiting a place, and then it is up to me how I interpret or make use of the artefacts I bring back, so ultimately the decisions regarding the process and outcome of the research are down to me. Yet, as I now consider how it may be necessary to collaborate with others on my main research project here at the RCA, it brings about the continuing question of how 'wise' it is to collaborate with others on aspects of the research, and whether, ultimately, this is even strictly necessary. I am guessing only time will tell...