Virtual Tourisms

    By Megan Kendrick
    Programming by David Lopez

    Open Project

    Throughout different phases of urban planning history, influenced by distinct systems of transportation, hotels have played a leading role in the way Los Angeles has been planned, formed, and imagined.

    - Megan Kendrick, Author's Statement

    Users can browse through a series of tourist brochures to explore the early Los Angeles tourist landscape.
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    Editor's Introduction
    Digital histories are all too often imagined in terms of totality. The promise of the online archive offers virtually limitless capacity to store, categorize and retrieve historical data, images, and texts. The goal of such histories is typically to make as much information as possible available with the greatest efficiency. And while some allow for narrative threads and interpretive connections among archival elements, far fewer are predicated explicitly on resistance to the sense of mastery that such histories afford. In Megan Kendrick's Virtual Tourisms, history appears somewhat more elusive, presenting itself as an amalgamation of fragments and contrasting narratives that may never be grasped in their totality. For Kendrick, the hotel serves as an interpretive lens to examine the cultural imaginary of Los Angeles as seen from a variety of social class positions. Although not exactly the heterotopic space imagined by Foucault, hotels do seem to occupy a liminal position between myth and reality; a carved out social space that functions according to its own rules and internal economy. In Virtual Tourisms, the hotel also offers a concrete manifestation of abstract cultural ideals; a symptom of the collective unconscious of a particular age and geographic region.

    The interactive structure of the project invites exploration of a revealing range of artifacts including photographs, brochures, postcards and other ephemeral sources. Like Pat O'Neill's work on the Ambassador Hotel with the Labyrinth Project, Tracing the Decay of Fiction, Kendrick positions the hotel as a possibility space for thinking about the past and exploring both empirical documents and the many layers of fictional construction through which we negotiate a relation with the past. Virtual Tourisms goes a step further to suggest the transformations of experience that occur because of geographical as well as temporal distance. We are familiar with histories that attempt to reconstruct the future visions of our own present, but what about the construction of alternative spaces as they were imagined by inhabitants of centuries past? Kendrick offers us both a literal and metaphorical lens by which to scan the documents and images of the past, inviting us, in effect, to construct our own histories, mindful of the constant influences and limitations of our critical and historiographical tools.

    — Steve Anderson, December 10th, 2008