The Accelerated Sublime: Landscape, Tourism, and Identity

The Accelerated Sublime: Landscape, Tourism, and Identity

The Accelerated Sublime: Landscape, Tourism, and Identity

The Accelerated Sublime: Landscape, Tourism, and Identity


Over the past two hundred years, transportation technology has enabled tourists to visit nearly any place on the entire globe. Nations compete for tourists by holding out promises of previously unattainable excitement. As a result, locations and landscapes once considered sublime are becoming increasingly commodified into both "products" and elements of national identity constructs. This study combines historical narrative with an examination of this consumption of landscape and the technologies that both shape and reflect it.


In the 1990s we researched mechanisms for expressing local identity in New Zealand towns and rural areas. At that time, local entrepreneurs and town promoters scrambled to find ways of conveying to passing travelers something about their locality's importance.

Local claims to fame might be a flourishing local land-based industry (carrots! kiwifruit!); superb local recreational resources (trout fishing! bungy jumping!); a theme from history (whaling! gold mining!); or reference to local glorious landscape (mountains! lakes!).

We visited every town in the country, took over 5,000 slides, and spoke to numerous people about what they were doing to [put their town on the map.] The work resulted in a book, a television documentary, a touring photographic show, and even a set of national postage stamps featuring some of the roadside attractions we had photographed.

From this work on locality, Claudia Bell extended the exploration to expressions of national identity. This resulted in another book, which included discussion of the cultural construction of nature, the meanings imposed on it, and its appropriation into both local and national identity discourse.

At the same time, John Lyall continued his photographic, installation, and performance art career. In the first he photographed his own interventions in nature, exploring notions of ferality in the New Zealand native terrain. In the second, nineteenth-century paintings of beautiful landscapes were reconstructed as installations using up to 10 tons of demolition materials in 2,000 cubic yards of gallery space to create deconstructions of versions of landscape. Underlying notions included attention to the [selling] of place to early settlers and the first . . .

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