Welcome, Hoşgeldiniz, Bienvenido, أهلا وسهلا, Welkom, 欢迎, Wilkommen, Bienvenue in reisbureau Departures!

The exhibition Departures, cast in the form of a travel agency, invited visitors last summer to explore their position as tourists. This travel agency did not focus on the destination. Although this exhibition positioned itself within a globalised form of tourism, a specific geographical context emerged, namely the point of departure. In this audio tour, programme maker Annosh Urbanke invites you once more to take a tour with one of the travel guides. This is your departure point to many destinations: some you may know; others will be completely new. At Departures, we are leaving old forms of tourism behind – will you join us?


Do you remember the days of travel agencies, where you could get colourful brochures with the most amazing photos of turquoise waters, swaying palm trees, pyramids rising to the sky, and gazing parrots? You only had to designate your destination, and the travel agent would arrange it for you. Later, you didn’t even have to bother with this because you could book your journey yourself online with the push of a button. Fortunately, those days are long gone!

In the late 20th and early 21st century, lifestyle architects and experience experts conceived of destinations. All the tourist’s wishes were made possible. And if it wasn’t there already, it was made. It was a prosperous industry where the customer was king, as long as you had the money. Marketers would deploy influencers, and mass tourism changed cities so that they sometimes started to look like amusement parks. The world had never seen so much Disney!

People took the beaten paths along hotels and hostels, moving from one tourist attraction to another. The tourist had no sense of responsibility – it was a holiday, after all. Were they concerned about their destination’s local norms and values? What did they pack in their luggage? Merely items for comfort, or also a little knowledge? Did these outsiders realise the effect their presence had on the inhabitants, the culture, and the flora and fauna?

At one point on the island of Koh Tachai, Thailand, the natural environment was completely ‘spent’. Tourists were refused ashore – the island’s nature had to recover completely. Thailand’s environment minister even ordered that the garbage left behind by tourists in Khao Yai National Park be mailed to the polluters’ homes. We would have loved to see their faces when they got home!

The tourist’s ability to move around and go wherever they pleased gave them an uncomfortable position of economic power. One that was primarily reserved for residents of Western Europe with financial means and visas.

The pandemic of the 2020s brought air traffic to a standstill, and the aeroplanes have remained grounded ever since. A new era was dawning on Earth, with the atmosphere discolouring in some parts of the world. Western Europe has been in a permanent state of alternating lunar and solar eclipse for many years now. Once it was no longer possible to fly, we had to rethink tourism. The travel agency developed into a think tank. We began to realise that the responsibility for our travel behaviour was not only down to the travel agency but also the tourist.


Welcome to Departures, the travel agency for alternative travel. Instead of selling journeys, we provide environmentally sensitive travel advice. This tour takes you to destinations that each have their own geography. They are created by travellers, researchers, future thinkers, and dreamers who share the results of their travels with you. Departures takes you with them and challenges you to observe yourself as a tourist, to discover sensory ways of navigating, to marvel, and to leave your desires and preconceptions at home.

Let’s go!


We begin our journey at the periphery of pleasure with Marina Planas. The video in the window recalls the time of partying tourists who spent their holidays drinking copious amounts of alcohol. An outcome of this excess was young people documenting themselves jumping from very high balconies into hotel swimming pools and sharing the results on Youtube. In Mallorca, they coined the term ‘balconing’ for this activity. Though a proof of courage, too often, balconing led to severe injury and sometimes death. This video reveals tourism’s toxicity for tourists and the local tourist industry workers. At the travel agency, we try to understand what it was like for local workers, such as receptionists and cleaners, to ‘manage’ such situations daily.

The space tourists occupied had an enormous impact on how areas transformed. Land was bought by multinationals such as Marriot International, Accor Hotels, and Booking.com. Marriott International established itself with a staggering seven million hotels worldwide. Power and money proliferated, control collapsed, and tourist colonised zones emerged. In Peripheries of Pleasure, Marina Planas probes the use and abuse of areas that became tourist destinations. This tourism swallowed up entire regions. It demanded the inhabitants endure the unrest tourists caused and determined the streetscape and employment. In fact, no one escaped its clutches – including the family of Marina Planas, who, from the 1950s to 1970s, made postcards for the Balearic Islands’ tourist industry.

Now walk towards the seating area. On the right is a screen. This video collage by Sofía Gallisá Muriente is called B-roll and features images from promotional videos produced by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and the Department of Economic Development and Commerce of Puerto Rico.

Can you hear the sounds of drone footage? It is reminiscent of surveillance aircraft flying overhead, which was heard during the US’s militarisation and surveillance of Puerto Rico. The helicopters that also brought millionaires to the island produced the same throbbing noise.

As a side note: in 2020, the FBI arrested and indicted Gabriel Hernández – the tax attorney featured in the video advertising Puerto Rico’s investment opportunities – for wire fraud.
dsc09618-hilde-speet-lr-2-2Sofía Gallisá Muriente, B-roll, 2017. Photo: Hilde Speet


You may have seen the stack of posters. Please take one. They feature images that Irene de Andrés combined from two completely different realities. The ships used by the US during its militarisation were sold to the developing tourist industry. Here, the Caribbean waters are revealed as a battleground of militarisation and mass tourism.

ls_210907_departures_dsc8434-2Irene de Andrés, Cruise-r, 2015. Photo: Lotte Stekelenburg

What does travelling signify in terms of experiencing a place? Do people allow themselves to be carried on the wave of the experience economy? Or do they stand still to smell, feel and listen? In our travel agency, we regularly ask ourselves the question: when will you really arrive? To answer this, we explore the possibilities of environment-sensitive navigation.


ls_210907_departures_dsc8485-2Visitors were encouraged to touch, smell and taste things from this box and in the installation. Doina Kraal, Touche-à-Tout, 2014-2017. Photo: Lotte Stekelenburg

Turning back towards the entrance, on the left is a wooden construction consisting of a range of modules. The Touche-à-Tout, made of aromatic wood, stimulates different senses and invites you to discover it for yourself: you can taste flavours, smell scents, touch objects, and hear and make sounds. This travelling installation is a contemporary take on the old-fashioned raree-show, a type of portable museum. Touche-à-Tout shows traces of a journey from Asia to Oceania, North America to South America, and Africa back to Amsterdam. New elements were added at each place visited. These elements came about in collaborations, through encounters with local residents, through the application of crafts, and with a sensitivity to materiality and consideration of every location. Discover it for yourself!

Please note, in the travel guides corner, you can leaf through the book accompanying Touche-à-Tout: an account of the journey, the research, and numerous other ramifications that lead to interactive discoveries, for example, using QR codes.


Now walk to the other side of the travel agency. On the left by the window is an instrument and several 3D-printed plaster sculptures. They are the results of a journey that Waèl el Allouche made along various places in Algeria from where his ancestors fled during the colonisations and made their way to northern Tunisia. He sought places in these regions that contributed to the West’s scientific knowledge. The self-designed device is a light metre.

The coloured plaster casts form three-dimensional graphs representing the light measured as data at Tunisia’s Al-Zaytuna mosque. The bowls show where the light was measured. Inspired by the ‘The Grand Tour’, journeys that took place in the 17th, 18thand 19thcenturies, Waèl embarked on a ‘Grand Return’, a journey along places of shared knowledge and perspectives that have nevertheless remained largely underexposed. He sees light as a form of information that was present before the colonisations. By recording this, it became possible to return to the knowledge of the past.

schermafbeelding-2022-02-04-om-13-55-41-2Waèl el Allouche, Ways of knowing, materialising the gaze, 2018-2021. Photo: Lotte Stekelenburg
He sees light as a form of information that was present before the colonisations.

From the light, we now venture into the space behind and into darkness. I have never been truer strange(r) wooing unbound surrender takes you on an expedition to an environment that can be both a landscape and a mask. It is a landscape you long for as a tourist, and at the same time, it is an object that confronts you with your self-image when travelling. As a tourist, you tend to trust what guidebooks tell you – but does this information match the local context? Let yourself be surprised and take the time to absorb the landscape as the different sides of this spatial experience unfold before you.

dsc09576-hilde-speet-lr-2Alexandra Martens Serrano, I have never been truer strange(r) wooing unbound surrender, 2021. Photo: Lotte Stekelenburg

Now step back into the light. We take you to Norway. The weather is disappointing, but the view is amazing! shows tourists standing at the edges of the famous Trolltunga rock formation, Preikestolen cliff, and Geiranger fjord.


Well-known vantage points like these were often overrun with tourists rushing towards the same, frequently explored destination. Whoever got close enough to the edge could make a photo of themselves without others in the picture. Tourists longed to be depicted as lone explorers having a unique experience.


Open gallery
De Ansichten Club, The weather is disappointing, but the view is amazing!, 2021. Photo: Lotte Stekelenburg

De Ansichten Club (lit. The Postcard Club) looks at the cliché of the scenic viewpoint. When you are there, you feel ‘on top of the world’, as if the world is in the palm of your hand. It is a promise inspired by colonial voyages of discovery and as imagined in Romanticism, a period of charting the so-called unknown world and conquering its pristine natural wonder. Did these times of exploration again inspire the 21st-century ‘traveller’? Reaching a scenic viewpoint, allowed the tourist to take in the vista and be overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery. The top-down perspective from which the tourist literally looked down onto the landscape also implied dominance over the land.


New sights, new smells, good food, new political sounds and all the other things that can be discovered all make up a landscape. Letting go of expectations allows new destinations to surprise and confront. From now on, let’s navigate in a manner that reminds us of where we come from, makes us aware of what we bring with us, and helps us to discover our own senses. If you are still looking for a travel destination, let us take you to different destinations in the alternative travel guides reading corner.

ls_210907_departures_dsc8418-2-2Photo: Lotte Stekelenburg

Written by: Annosh Urbanke
Text editing: Nathalie Hartjes, Xiang Yu Yeung, Nadine Rooij
Design: Studio Janne Beldman
Voices: Mart Koenen, Valienska Magfira
Recording: Bergur Anderson
Audio editing: Nick Thomas


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