Author Archives: Arianna Drumond

Contextualizing Authenticity in Tourism: An Examination of Postmodern Tourism Theory

By: Arianna Drumond


Tourism is, in many ways, an art form. With the advent of the leisure class in the mid-twentieth century, and increased mobility observed as a result of the processes of globalization, the tourism industry has leapt to meet the needs of a demanding public. Of the many tourism sub-categories, “authenticity aimed tourism” is among the most contentious. As affluent travelers become increasingly acquainted with cultures dissimilar to their own, the desire to see and experience something that is “authentic” and “genuine” has prompted the development of sites, museums, tours, and even hotels that simulate a foreign reality. While tourists crave a unique and true experience, it is critical to note that any recreation of an event or other scenario is of course a simulacrum, a mere representation where the original attributes of a people or place have been supplanted by false a simulation of themselves.

The Postmodern Tourist

In order to sufficiently explore authenticity and its many related terms, it is first necessary to examine the modern and postmodern tourist. When, in the 1970s tourism studies emerged as an academic field, many key researchers and theorists regarded it as a phenomenon resultant of modernism, and used modernist discourse to interpret visitor motivation. Two competing theories quickly dominated the field. In one camp, those who regarded tourism as nothing more than a superficial enterprise experienced by the moderately wealthy. The opposition argued a very different viewpoint. Dean MacCannell, a major influence in the field, viewed the experience as “a meaningful modern ritual which involves a quest for the authentic.”[i]

In recent decades, modernist theory has been replaced with postmodern thought. The postmodernity of tourism can be best observed in the many travel opportunities available; tourists can now experience “heritage tourism,” “ecotourism,” “adventure tourism,” “nostalgia-based tourism,” and any number of other specialty and focused travel packages. According to researcher Natan Uriely, the discourse surrounding postmodern tourism suggests two frameworks of thought. The first focuses on “simulational tourism,” the second on “other tourism.”[ii] Studies of “simulational tourism” focus largely on the “hyperreal,” and a traveler’s quest for simulated versions of reality. “Other tourism” deals principally with the idea that tourists are mainly seeking an opportunity to travel through the “natural” environment where they might encounter true authenticity.[iii] Though still polarized, postmodern tourism theories are united by an unwillingness to assume that all tourists are alike, now visitor motivation is considered to be multidimensional.

The Bedouin tours in Israel serve as an excellent example of a postmodern travel experience. Bedouin tours, which are offered by a number of agencies, work on the premise of ecotourism, cultural preservation, and authenticity. Through one agency, Kfar Hanokdim, travelers have the opportunity to sleep in a number of Bedouin inspired tents, cabins, or lodges. There are two “packages,” each offering donkey or camel tours and traditional meals. All visitors receive “Bedouin hospitality,” a package that includes a traditional greeting by a village host, a viewing of a coffee grinding ceremony, and lectures and stories of life in a Bedouin community. Kfar Hanokdim also offers Bar Mitzvahs and village rental for the hosting of private events.[iv]

A second company, Bedouin Experience, has chosen to emphasize the fragile relationship between the Bedouin culture and the Western world. They regard “…indigenous tourist venues as having important potential in strengthening the local Bedouin economy, as well as bringing people from different cultures to know and respect each other.”[v] Furthermore, they hope to educate visitors on the important role the desert plays in Bedouin culture, thereby promoting its preservation.

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All images courtesy of: Kfar Hanokdim

Bedouin tourism experiences perfectly align with postmodern tourism theory. Travelers are afforded the opportunity to experience a culture unique to their own. It is certainly an example of a simulated event and inline with the hyperreal as defined by “simulational tourism” theory. Visitors also have the opportunity to experience “other tourism” here as they are able to revel in the harsh desert environment of the Negev region of Israel. The desire of the traveler to be placed in such a harsh environment is especially ironic as they lack the skillsets necessary to survive here without the assistance of the Bedouin community that is hosting them and the travel agency that has arranged their tour.


Authenticity, when applied to tourism, is a fairly controversial term. Dean MacCannell first introduced the concept in his seminal text “The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class,” as a way of exploring tourist motivations and experiences.[vi] In recent years, MacCannell’s use of the word has been challenged. Researcher Ning Wang argues that the ambiguity of the expression stems from its over-application.[vii] Wang is particularly critical of MacCannell’s use of “experience authenticity” and “staged authenticity.”[viii] In regards to “staged tourism,” MacCannell states: “It is always possible that what is taken to be entry into a back region is really entry into a front region that has been totally set up in advance for touristic visitation.”[ix] A tourist’s experiences can never be authentic even if they perceive them to be. Wang counters this argument by observing that authenticity is often a term ascribed by the educated elite, outsiders—in many ways similar to tourists—looking in.[x] It would seem that Wang and MacCannell are essentially on opposite sides of the same coin. Authenticity is in fact subjective. To the tourist, a staged event may seem perfectly genuine, though to the organizers and performers, the event is indeed staged.

In his 1988 documentary “Cannibal Tours,” director Dennis O’Rourke accompanied a group of affluent Western European and American travelers up the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea as they embarked on a grand tour of the river and the many villages en route.[xi] Visitors frequently paused to photograph indigenous residents of each community. In order to provide the tourists with as “authentic” an experience as possible, villagers often posed and behaved in the ways expected of them by their Western observers. This was of course all done with the expectation that payment be made to the individuals being photographed. As a result, the indigenous population of Papua New Guinea became aware of themselves as “Other.” It is that very self-awareness that has resulted in the loss of the true and authentic “Other” and resulted in a mere facsimile. It is here that the simulacrum is especially evident. The original “Other” no longer exists; instead, a version that is all too aware of Western expectations has replaced it to the dissatisfaction of both the tourist and the “Other” themselves. This situation creates an unfortunate feedback-loop where the desire for the authentic begets the simulacrum resulting in a search for the authentic. In his discussion of “Cannibal Tours,” MacCannell describes a scenario where tourists in the American Southwest are greatly disappointed in the “modern” appearance of the Native Americans in the region:

“The commercialization of the touristic encounter extends to the point of commodification not merely of the handicrafts and the photographic image, but to the person of the exprimitive. Southwest American Indians complain that tourists have attempted to pat up their hair and arrange their clothing before photographing them, and that they receive unwanted offers from tourists to buy the jewelry or the clothing they are actually wearing..”[xii]

Here it is clear that perceived notions of authenticity are in great conflict with a modern reality. Visitors are much more interested in seeing their perceived understandings of a culture played out so that they may return home with photographs and souvenirs “authentic” to the “Other.”

Authenticity and Dark Tourism

Authenticity takes on a particularly unusual quality when dark tourism becomes a factor. According for the Institute for Dark Tourism research, dark tourism is:

“…An academic field of study is where death education and tourism studies collide and, as such, can shine critical light on the social reality of death. Dark tourism can also reveal tensions in cultural memory, interpretation and authenticity, and political and moral dilemmas in remembering our ‘heritage that hurts’”[xiii]

In this study of the authentic, dark tourism is significant in its relationship to postmodern tourism theory, the hyperreal, and simulacra. Researchers John Lennon and Malcolm Foley are credited with the first usage of the phrase in academic writing and also for linking it to postmodernism.[xiv] The authors argue that in order for a site to be considered truly “dark,” it must insight a reaction to modernity and therefore must relate to an event or catastrophe that has occurred within recent memory.[xv]

The recent development of tours through Chernobyl’s radioactive district and the neighboring town of Pripyat, Ukraine serve as an excellent example of dark tourism and can be examined through the postmodern lens.

On April 26, 1986 Reactor #4 at the Chernobyl power plant malfunctioned causing a plume of radiation equal in magnitude to 400 times that of the Hiroshima bombings during World War II, devastated Chernobyl and forced the evacuation of the nearly 50,000 residents of nearby Pripyat. In 2010, certain areas along the perimeter of the blast zone were deemed safe for tourism.[xvi] Visitors are instructed to attach disometers to their clothing in order to monitor radiation levels as they walk through the site. They are also warned not to:

“…touch any structures or vegetation, don’t sit on the ground or even put your camera                     tripod there, don’t take any item out of the zone, don’t eat outdoors. Guides make sure                   the visitors understand that various spots in the zone are more contaminated than                           others and insist no one wander off the designated paths.”[xvii]

Tourists are guided safely around the reactors and are then taken to Pripyat, the town built for the plant workers and their families. While there, visitors are invited to walk through, touch, and otherwise observe the shell of a once thriving community. Local schools, the never-used Ferris wheel in the town amusement park, and the Olympic sized swimming pool are among the most popular sites; each one a reminder of the people who were forced to flee their homes and possessions in haste.

chernobyl-plant4 r042s019 zone_0043_pripyat

Understanding visitor motivation when examining dark tourism sites is critical and the Chernobyl tours serve as an excellent case study. Again postmodern theory comes into play. Visitors seek out a “real” experience when touring Chernobyl, but their understanding of the explosion and its ramifications come only from their exposure to media surrounding the event. Foley and Lennon would argue that these tourists are not seeking any sort of intellectual enlightenment here, but simply wish to experience the spectacle.[xviii] Tourists are desperately attempting to use their perceived understanding to create form and derive sense from an event that is inherently chaotic. This is in fact a hallmark of dark tourism, and in many ways of postmodernism. Where death and chaos reign supreme, people attempt to categorize and systematize the events in order to reflect upon them and study them.

Reality Tourism and the Hyperreal

In his definitive text  “Simulacra and Simulation,” Jean Baudrillard discusses the concept of the hyperreal. Hyperreality is defined as a seamless blending of the real and unreal. The result is the inability to distinguish between the two.[xix] When considering the hyperreal in tourism studies, authenticity must again be considered. Umberto Eco builds on Baudrillard’s analysis. He argues that hyperreality is also defined by yearning for reality. It is this need to experience what is real, that often results in the simulation of reality. The simulacrum is consumed, but nothing is authentic.[xx]

South Africa’s Emoya Luxury Hotel and Spa offers tourists an opportunity to experience the shantytowns of Bloemfontein. Experience is referred to as “poverty tourism.” Travelers pay roughly $82 a night to sleep in a shake made of corrugated iron sheets. Visitors however, are not expected to live in the conditions of a South African shantytown. All of the rooms have heated floors, running water and wifi connections.[xxi] There is also a spa on the premises, and the opportunity to participate in gamedrives and walking trails were some forty species of Africa’s most exotic animals could be viewed within the confines of the company’s private game reserve. Emoya also offers a wedding package, and suggests that its shantytown is the perfect for team building activities.[xxii]

The Emoya Luxury Hotel and Spa is a perfect example of the hyperreal. Tourists, who a desire to experience the shantytowns of South Africa are given the opportunity to do so with as little inconvenience as possible. In fact, there is nothing at all authentic about the environment Emoya has created. Eco’s belief that the hyperreal extends from a desire to experience reality, but simply create a simulacrum is proven here.

The Prison Hotel in Liepaja, Latvia is an exceedingly puzzling example of postmodern tourism and the hyperreal. Here, visitors experience—in a manner that is very watered-down—the brutal treatment of prisoners by the KGB. The experience is considered to be a form of “reality tourism.” The Prison was originally used to house criminals who, as punishment, frequently experienced psychological torture at the hands of their KGB guards.

Upon their arrival, visitors are forced to squat with their hands behind their head while guards explain the hotel rules. Guests are then subjected to a medical exam, photographed and quizzed on Latvian history. Failure to satisfy the guards can result in solitary confinement. Everything is timed, guests are told when to sleep, when to use the restroom, and when to eat.[xxiii]

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 9.30.28 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 9.30.47 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 9.31.22 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 9.31.35 PM

All Images Courtesy of: Thiery Tinacci: “In a KGB Prisoner’s Skin.”

Liepaja’s Prison Hotel is a curious example of the hyperreal. As in South Africa’s shantytown experience, visitors cannot, under any circumstance truly experience what it is to be a prisoner in a KGB run prison in a rural town in Latvia. The quest for the authentic is one that cannot be fulfilled. However determined visitors are to experience a slice of life through the perspective of an “Other,” the simple fact is that, they too are “Other” and the two worlds can only collide to create a world that is derived from hyperreality.


As in the case with each of the tourism examples discussed, postmodern discourse aptly applies to the experience created both by the tourist, and those who create the experience for the visitor. In each case, both frameworks of postmodern tourism theory can be applied. Visitors clearly seek out “simulational tourism” experiences. There is an eagerness, and in some ways a desperation, to examine life through the lens of the “Other.” As in the case with dark tourism, the desire for this experience is based on a need to make sense of the chaos of death, a topic that is frequently removed from the discourse of the average Westerner. The quest for “Other tourism” is also apparent. As in the case with the Emoya Luxury Hotel & Spa experience and the Bedouin village accommodation, visitors can experience a landscape unlike their own and admire and revel in the “Otherness” of the physical world. In the end of course, it is only the end, only a simulacrum can be achieved. The authentic remain out of reach.

[i]  Natan Uriely. “Theories of Modern and Postmodern Tourism,” Annals of Tourism Research 24(1997): 983.

[ii] Uriely, “Theories,” 983.

[iii] Uriely, “Theories,” 983.

[iv] Kfar Hanokdim, accessed December 14, 2013. Web.

[v]  Bedouin Experience, accessed December 14, 2013. Web.

[vi] Dean MacCannell. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (California: University of California Press, 1976).

[vii] Ning Wang, “Rethinking Authenticity in the Tourism Experience,” Annals of Tourism Research 26(1999) 350.

[viii] Wang, “Rethinking,” 353.

[ix] Wang, “Rethinking,” 353.

[x] Wang, “Rethinking,” 355.

[xi] Dean MacCannell, “Cannibal Tours,” Society for Visual Anthropology Review 6(1990) 14, DOI: 10.1525/var.1990.6.2.14

[xii] MacCannell, “Cannibal Tours,” 15.

[xiii] Institute for Dark Tourism Research.” Accessed December 14, 2013. Web.

[xiv] Stephanie Yuill, “Dark Tourism: Understanding Visitor Motivation at Sites of Death and Disaster” (MA diss., Texas A&M University, 2003) 10.

[xv] Yuill, “Dark Tourism,” 18.

[xvi] Andrew Osborn, “Chernobyl’s ‘Illegal Tours Stop,” The Telegraph, Sept. 20, 2011, accessed December 14, 2013, Web.

[xvii]  Jim Heintz, “Chernobyl Tours Offered 25 Years After Blast,” NBCNews, April 11, 2011, accessed December 14, 2013, Web.

[xviii] Yuill, “Dark Tourism,” 10.

[xix] Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1981).

[xx] Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, Trans. William Weaver (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1986).

[xxi] Emoya Luxury Hotel and Spa

[xxii] Emoya Luxury Hotel & Spa, accessed December 14, 2013. Web.

[xxiii] Tim Bryan, “Handcuffs Are Included in the Room Rate, Sir,” The Guardian, June 26, 2006, accessed December 14, 2013,Web.




Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1981.

Eco, Umberto. Travels in Hyperreality. Translated by William Weaver. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1986.

MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. California: University of California Press, 1976.


Dean MacCannell, “Cannibal Tours,” Society for Visual Anthropology Review 6(1990): 14-24 Accessed December 14, 2013. DOI: 10.1525/var.1990.6.2.14.

Uriely, Natan. “Theories of Modern and Postmodern Tourism,” Annals of Tourism Research 24(1997): 982-985.

Wang,Ning. “Rethinking Authenticity in the Tourism Experience,” Annals of Tourism Research 26(1999): 349-370.


Yuill, Stephanie Marie. “Dark Tourism: Understanding Visitor Motivation at Sites of Death and Disaster.” MA diss., Texas A&M University, 2003.

Web Articles

Bryan, Tim. “Handcuffs Are Included in the Room Rate, Sir.” The Guardian, June 26, 2006. Accessed December 14, 2013,Web.

Jim Heintz. “Chernobyl Tours Offered 25 Years After Blast,” NBCNews, April 11, 2011, Accessed December 14, 2013, Web.

Osborn, Andrew. “Chernobyl’s ‘Illegal Tours Stop,” The Telegraph, Sept. 20, 2011. Accessed December 14, 2013, Web.


Bedouin Experience. “Bedouin Experience.” Accessed December 14, 2013. Web.

Emoya Luxury Hotel & Spa. “Emoya Luxury Hotel & Spa.” Accessed December 14, 2013. Web.

Kfar Hanokdim. “Kfar Hanokdim”. Accessed December 14, 2013. Web.

University of Central Lancashire. “Institute for Dark Tourism Research.” Accessed Nov. 4, 2013. Web.


Black Owl. “The Abandoned City of Pripyat/Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.” Accessed December 14, 2013. Web

Kfar Hanokdim. “Gallery”. Accessed December 14, 2013. Web.

Leave Me Here: Bones of Wanderlust, Web.

Thiery Tinacci. “In a KGB Prisoners Skin,” Web.

Witness This, Web.


O’Rourke, Dennis. Cannibal Tours. Film, 1:08:07 (excerpt 1:43). 1988. Web.

Emoya Luxury Hotel & Spa. “Emoya Luxury Hotel & Spa.” Accessed December 14, 2013. Web.


Darth Vader

By: Arianna Drumond

In art and literature, technological advancement and the exploration of the human condition are often inexorably linked. Society is at once astounded by and terrified of its own advancement. As we simultaneously revel in our achievements and fear its impact on our humanity, we employ a variety of metaphors to explore the relationship between man and technology. Chief among them is the cyborg. While there are many iterations of the cyborg, the fact that it is always a hybrid figure, both organic and machine, is its defining characteristic. Among the most striking cyborgs in cinematic history is Darth Vader of the Star Wars franchise.


The 1977, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope introduced disgraced Jedi Darth Vader. Over the course of six films and thirty years, series creator George Lucas explored the events that led to the death of the man Anakin Skywalker, and the birth of the cyborg Darth Vader. It is through the Star Wars prequel series episodes I, II, and III, that Lucas explores this particular character’s history. Though a brilliant and gifted Jedi, Skywalker was easily corrupted and, after a series of tragedies, fled the cool discipline of the Jedi for the power and action of the Sith. After an altercation with Obi-Wan Kenobi left him limbless and near death, Skywalker was rescued and resurrected by the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Skywalker would never be whole, he was given cybernetic limbs and a life-sustaining suite, and the final stages in his transformation from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader would now be complete.


Darth Vader embodies all of our anxieties about technology and even about our humanity. Though once a brilliant and gifted man, grief and greed overpowered Anakin Skywalker and led him to abandon his morality. In this particular case, the idea of a cyborg, of something posthuman, is a metaphor for lost identity.


Works Cited

Hayles, Katherine. How we became posthuman. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Print.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Darth Vader.” Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 26  November 2013.

Wookieepedia Contributors. “Cybor.” Wookiepedia: The Star Wars Wiki. Web. 26  November 2013.


Gogol Bordello: Not a Crime

By: Arianna Drumond

In 1999 Manhattan based band Gogol Bordello – named for Ukranian author Nikolai Gogol–released their own unique brank of punk music: Gypsy Punk. The band makes use of the modern punk genre, cabaret, and traditional gypsy composition to tell the history of the Eastern European immigrant population in the United States. In order to create their truly hybrid sound, the band incorporates the requisite punk and psychedelic guitar riffs and pounding drums with the accordion, violin, and even the saxophone.


Their song “Not a Crime” off the album Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike is an excellent example of the ways in which the band pulls from the musical encyclopedia to create a truly dynamic and hybrid sound. With punk riffs, the accordion, and violin paired with both English and Russian lyrics, Gogol Bordello manages to pair two completely unrelated genres seamlessly.


Works Cited

Wikipedia Contributors. “Gogol Bordello.” Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. November 11, 2013. Web.


Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”

By: Arianna Drumond




Pink Floyd’s 1973 concept album “The Dark Side of the Moon,” explored the band’s major emotional upset following the departure of their lead singer and founding member Syd Barrett. Though Barrett left the band in 1968 due to his “deteriorating mental state,” the effects of his condition were profoundly felt and left the four remaining members eager to explore mental illness, anger, greed, and corruption as the themes for the album (Wikipedia). Though the band had discussed many of these ideas in past works, their approach for “Dark Side of the Moon” was radically different. Various members of the band’s road crew, friends from other bands such as Paul McCartney—then of Wings, and other acquaintances were asked any of a series of questions written on cue cards. Each question related to a particular theme that would be represented in the album, and the answers that were considered the most honest and spontaneous would be included in one of the songs (Brain Damage).

The band produced “The Dark Side of the Moon” at the famous Abby Road Studios in London using the newest and most expensive 16-track recording equipment available. In order to achieve some of the album’s signature songs, the band creatively employed sound effects, voice effects, and a variety of editing techniques. The sound of cash registers and coins heard at the beginning of the track “Money” was created by splicing together small sections of recorded tape, which were then hand fed into a tape machine. Though tedious, the process allowed for the creation of a complex effect loop that could be used in various ways throughout the album. In fact, the sound effect process was so complex and cutting edge, that the band along with their sound engineers worked tirelessly to generate new sounds and effects as well as new production techniques in order to create the desired tone and quality for each song (Wikipedia).

While “The Dark Side of the Moon” certainly follows within the psychedelic rock genre that made Pink Floyd so popular, the album is considered to be so significant and unique largely due to the methods used to write and record it. While Pink Floyd was of course influenced by the work of many of the contemporaries, many of the individual lyrics for their songs were generated with the help of friends and other musicians. In order to explore the themes of the album to their fullest potential, Pink Floyd worked to creatively employ technology, and effects to take an in depth look at emotion.



Wikipedia Contributors. “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. November 11, 2013. Web.

Johns, Matt. “Brain Damage- Pink Floyd News Resource.” Brain Damage. November 11, 2013. Web.

Photography: A Look at the Celebrity Portrait

By: Arianna Drumond


According to Pierre Bourdieu, “many of the attitudes provoked by photography are explained by the fact that it is located half-way between vulgar and noble practices.” This argument holds especially true where the celebrity portrait is concerned. As both the technology and attitudes surrounding the photographic process evolved, so to did the ways in which portraits were constructed. However, the use of photography to capture the essence of cultural icons has been a constant.

Forward thinking fashion photographer Edward Steichen produced iconic celebrity portraits throughout the first half of the twentieth century.  His partnership with Vanity Fair afforded him the opportunity to explore his art with a new modern perspective. His 1924 portrait of actress Gloria Swanson is particularly representative of photography as an art. There is both a softness and intensity to Swanson. She is a dramatic figure whose striking features are hardly obscured by the lace, but rather accentuated by the pattern.


As our societal notions of celebrity changed over the course of the last two centuries, so to have the methods used to capture their likenesses. The advent of the paparazzi in the mid twentieth century coupled with changes to photographic technology ushered in a new method for creating a celebrity portrait. Ron Galella, perhaps the most notorious paparazzo, is known for tirelessly stalking his subjects and for taking dozens for photographs in quick succession in order to capture dramatic and striking images. His iconic photo “Windblown Jackie,” a portrait of Jacquelyn Kennedy walking in New York City.



Work Cited

Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Social Definition of Photography.” Photography: A middle-brow Art. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1996.

Cartier-Bresson, Henri. “Statement of photography” The Decisive Moment Theory. Córdoba, Spain, 1933.

“Ron Galella.” Wikipedia, 2013. Web. 5 Nov 2013.

Street Art: Eduardo KOBRA

By: Arianna Drumond

 Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra (or simply KOBRA) exemplifies the role of the artist as interpreter and provocateur. Known for his work both in São Paulo and across the United States, KOBRA has created a portfolio of murals that explore city history, man’s relationship with the environment, and the great thinkers of modern society.


Regardless of the topic, KOBRA’s work is recognizable for its photorealistic quality and psychedelic color palate. The goal is to create a 3D effect that allows viewers to feel as if they are stepping through the mural and into another time.  According to Irvine “…most street artists seriously working in the genre begin with a deep identification and empathy with the city: they are compelled to state something in and with the city, whether as forms of protest, critique, irony, humor, beauty, subversion, clever prank or all of the above (Irvine, The Work on the Street).” KOBRA clearly expresses his affinity, particularly for Sao Paulo, in his paintings and murals.

KOBRA is best known for his nostalgic renditions of eras past. His work is developed from historical research with the intent of demonstrating the past life of a given neighborhood within a city.

“My work nowadays is based on the use of old images of the cities I am painting. I visit museums, check the books and from there I come up with some images from the 20s or the 30s that show the architecture of the city. The idea of the murals is to recreate a city that no longer exists, do [sic] people who didn’t live in that time can see it and those who did live back then can have a moment of memory or nostalgia (Kenoyer, Hi Fructose).”

The artist’s goals are more complex than simple nostalgia. He seeks to encourage people to connect with their environment, both built and natural, to explore their impact on the world around them, and to be mindful of the relationship between past and present. Like the work of Keith Haring, the brilliant colors and patterns, and seemingly light topics, are simply the first layers in a much greater examination of modern culture and the built environment.

In addition to his city murals, KOBRA developed GreenPincel, a project dedicated to exposing the negative impact the industrial world has had on the environment. The paintings and murals are designed to explore issues of deforestation, pollution, and the mistreatment of animals.


Click HERE for GreenPincel.

Click HERE for other works.


Irvine, Martin. “Street Art and the Digital City.” Communication, Culture, and Technology Department, Georgetown U, Oct. 2013. Web. 28 October 2013.

Kenoyer, Jane. “Brazilian Mural Artist Eduardo Kobra.” Hi Fructose: New Contemporary Art Magazine. July 10, 2012. Web.


By: Arianna Drumond 

Andy Warhol is undoubtedly the preeminent artist of the Pop Culture era. His subjects range from the seemingly mundane kitsch of middle class Americana, to the over-the-top glamour of Hollywood celebrity.  Regardless of the subject, Warhol held the unique ability to deconstruct the essence of a subject only to then reconstruct it as a symbol of romantic and idolized thought.


Through his exploration of Hollywood stars and their status as tragic figures in American culture, Warhol explored the impacts of a consumer culture. The 1962 “Marylin Dyptich” completed shortly after the actress’ death, looks at the relationship between the life and death of a Hollywood idol. Warhol used a single publicity photo to create fifty silkscreened images, which were then compiled into a single work. As stated by Richard Dormant in “What is Andy Warhol,” Warhol “wasn’t painting a woman of flesh, blood, and psychological complexity but a publicity photograph of a commodity created in a Hollywood studio.” The “Marylin Dyptich” expresses a sort of empathy for the celebrity destroyed by the spotlight. The repetition of the portrait and the increasingly faded quality of the black and white images are metaphors both for consumerism and death.


Out of his fascination with simulacra, and the idea that the representational figure of a subject can have just as much meaning as the subject itself, Warhol explored a series of political icons as well. His 1976 work “Hammer and Sickle” was based on graffiti images found throughout Italy. The subject had also become a popular piece of paraphernalia within the Punk movement and was heavily mass-produced at the time. Warhol creates a menacing image, a deep red shadow surrounding the hammer and sickle—symbols of the Soviet Union. While Warhol acknowledged the political symbolism, he regarded the items as Pop. They have been deconstructed as political tools, and redesigned to make a statement on their new significance in pop culture.

hammer and sickle


Dorment, Richard. “What is Andy Warhol?,” The New York Review of Books,October22, 2009. Accessed October 21, 2013.

Foster, Hal. “Death in America,” October 75 (1996). The MIT Press.

Hammer & Sickle: Interpreting Symbols and Meaning. “The Warhol: Resources and Lessons.” Accessed October 21, 2013.

Marylin Diptych. “Tate.” Accessed October 21, 2013.




Sir Peter Blake: A Look at Hybridization and Pop Art

By: Arianna Drumond

The works of British Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake serve as an excellent example of the hybridization of genres indicative of the emerging themes within art in 1960s. A contemporary of Pop Artists Warhol and Lichtenstein, Blake’s work explored the relationship between mass culture, consumerism, and traditional artistic genres such as portrait and sculpture. Blake sought to combine his appreciation for the seminal works in art history with modern consumer and popular culture. As a result, many of his pieces refer back to Renaissance works in their form, while thematically reflecting modern popular culture.

In his highly recognizable 1961 oil painting “Self-Portrait with Badges,” Blake inserts himself into American pop culture through his denim attire, Chuck Taylors, and Elvis magazine. The badges point to cultural icons and showcase the artist’s own personal pop culture obsessions. Blake deeply admired the work of Thomas Gainsborough, famous for his 1770 painting “The Blue Boy.” Blake directly references this work in “Self-Portrait with Badges (Peter Blake: Self-Portrait with Badges).”  Both figures stand in contrapposto, with their left hands in the jacket pocket. The faces of both figures share a similar expression, and the backgrounds of both paintings are similarly dark and ill defined.

Self-Portrait with Badges 1961 by Peter Blake born 1932   Blue Boy

Blake’s “Self-Portrait with Badges,” exemplifies the notion that Pop Artists do not intend to dispose of traditional means of artistic expression, but wish to incorporate those themes and styles into new works, which reflect more on modern themes.

Blake is perhaps best known for his cover the Beetles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). The work is an iconic piece of Pop Art. Blake, who collaborated with his wife Jann Haworth on the project, combines likenesses of pop culture icons such as Fred Astaire and Bob Dylan, alongside historical, religious, and political figures. Writer William S. Burroughs, political philosopher Karl Marx, and Hindu guru Sri Yukteswar Giri among others appear on the album cover. Blake’s collage perfectly demonstrates the Pop Art tradition of using iconic figures to explore the mass consumer market. In early versions of the cover design, Mohandas Gandhi was positioned within the third row, but was removed before the final printing for fear that the album would not be sold in India with the controversial figure on the cover (Neatorama). The relationship between art and consumerism is clear here.

Sgt. P

As Lawrence Alloway stated, “an analogue of Pop Art’s translatability is the saturation of popular culture with current heroes of consumption (Alloway, 1969).” Both “Self-Portrait with Badges,” and the cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band prove this to be true. It the combination of pop and consumer cultures that make Blake’s work relatable and relevant within popular culture.



Alloway, “Popular Culture and Pop Art,” Studio International, July-August 1969: 17-21.

Irvine, Pop and Appropriation Art and the Encyclopedia (presentation)

Tate. “Peter Blake: Self-Portrait with Badges.” Accessed, October 14, 2013.

Neatorama. “The Cover Art of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”!lxm1h




Nam June Paik, and the Hyper-real

By: Arianna Drumond


In his seminal work “Simulacra and Simulation,” Jean Baudrillard explores the idea that the representation, or simulacra, of reality serves to produce a hyper-reality. From the representation, the concept of “real” is challenged and the simulacrum becomes more real than the original. This concept can be related to the works of artist Nam June Paik, who is best known for his extensive use of media based technology in his work, and for his now famous phrase “electronic super highway.”

The majority of Paik’s pieces are commentaries on our media dependent society. His most recognizable work “Buddha TV” is an expression of the hyper-real. In this piece, a Buddha is placed in front of a portable television. The Buddha is recorded and the footage shown on the television in real time. The result is a feedback loop. The video camera and the Buddha statue are representations of mass culture and traditional cultural ideals. Their new relationship to one another suggests that the ideological boundaries once separating them no longer exist. The objects become simulacrum; they are, according to Jean Baudrillard, a “reflection of a profound reality.”

The loop created by “Buddha TV” is an example of the hyper-real. It is unclear here which symbol is the driving force between their relationship, is it tradition or mass media? The question then becomes, “which is the original? Which is real?” Paik’s piece serves to illustrate that reality is flexible and that the hierarchy between “real” and “representation” can be dissolved.




Baudrillard, Jean. “The Precession of Simulacra” Simulacra and Simulation.Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Michigan: Michigan UP, 1981. 1-27.

Irvine, Martin. “Mediation and Representation: Plato to Baudrillard and Digital Media.”Communication, Culture, and Technology Department, Georgetown U, Sept. 2013. Web. 7 October 2013.



Mash-up Culture: A Look at Girl Talk

By: Arianna Drumond


In 2002, Pittsburg native Gregg Gillis, better known by his musical persona Girl Talk, released his first album, “Secret Diary,” under the controversial Illegal Art label. Over the last decade, Gillis has released five albums, each of which has received a great deal of attention not only for their infectious dance beats, but also for Gillis’ unabashed sampling of the original works of popular musicians.

Gillis has reached celebrity status within the remix community for his artful combining of songs from various artists and genres. The first song off his 2010 release “All Day” showcases no fewer than 24 unique clips from 22 artists. While some might consider Gillis to be nothing more than a skillful DJ, the artist insists that his work is unique and deserves to be treated with the same deference as the work of any other mainstream pop musician. “I want to be a musician and not just a party D.J.”  “And like any musician I want to put out a classic album (New York Times, 2008).”

Oh No

The controversy surrounding Girl Talk hits at the very foundation of Gillis’ work. In order for the sampling to be cleared under copyright law, Gillis would have to get permission from both the publisher and owner of each individual sound recording. Due to the fact that Gillis makes use of several dozen samples per song, a single five-minute track produced under the Girl Talk moniker could cost tens of millions of dollars, a cost that would certainly prohibit the creation of multiple works (Copyright and Mashups). Instead of navigating the complicated channels of copyright law, Gillis continues to toe legal line. Since he takes such small portions of a song and rearranges each clip so that it is almost unrecognizable, Gillis argues that his work falls within the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law.  In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Gillis stated:

 “I basically believe in that idea [of Fair Use], that if you create something out of pre-existing media, that’s transformative, that’s not negatively impacting the potential sales of the artist you’re sampling, if it’s not hurting them in some way, then you should be allowed to make your art and put it out there. I think, even in the years of doing this, the conversation has shifted a good bit (Forbes).”

Even though Gillis’ employment of the fair use doctrine is questionable, it is significant to point out that Girl Talk has not, as of yet, been sued for copyright infringement. In his blog “Pittsburg Trademark Lawyer,” attorney Daniel Friedson suggests that a legal battle between Gillis and any of the major record labels and their artists would do more damage than good. Artists and academics supportive of the mash-up culture argue that copyright law is already too prohibitive, that artists should have more room to borrow and manipulate existing works. Opponents, namely record industry executives, of course wish to protect their musicians, and their investments. The issue is made even more complicated by the fact that Gillis has released all of his albums free for download on the Illegal Art website, or has asked that fans pay whatever they are able. Since Gillis isn’t profiting from the sale of his albums, the legal issues surrounding his discography are fuzzier.

Regardless of the legal issues, Gillis says that he will continue to make his mash-ups and will continue to consider them as art in their own right. He argues that he is not only creating something new, but is taking great pop music and reinterpreting it, a process that in a way, honors the original artists and their work.


“Copyright and Mashups: Girl Talk.” Copyright and Mashups:  Girl Talk. Accessed September 29, 2013.

Pittsburgh Trademark Lawyer Contributors. “Girl Talk and Copyright Law: Is ‘Illegal Art’ Really Illegal?” Pittsburgh Trademark Lawyer. Accessed September 29, 2013.

“Girl Talk’s Gregg Gillis On Copyright, Curation and Making Mashups Rhyme.” Forbes. Accessed September 29, 2013.

Levine, Robert. “Steal This Hook? D.J. Skirts Copyright Law.” The New York Times, August 7, 2008, sec. Arts / Music.