The Messages of Tourist Art
African art is an object of exchange and communication and, as such, is an important vehicle for examining cultural change. Although popular graphic arts do not involve the same order of didactic and dramatic display as do theater and oratory (cf. Peacock, 1968:217–218), they do contain a performative element. Each object is like an utterance—a communication between producers and consumers both within and across cultures. If this communicative process is regarded as a whole, it has much information to impart about social theories of development and change. This message is closely tied to an analysis of how tourist art has evolved. The fact that artists intend their work for a particular consumer audience does not mean that it will ultimately reach that audience. The willingness of the audience to accept visual signs does not assure that consumers and art brokers will understand what the artist hopes to convey (cf. Goffman, 1959:51). The tourist art system thrives on juxtaposition, tautology, and contradiction. Although it contains both visual imagery and conceptual representations, these elements alone do not account for the exchange value of objects within the system.
KeywordsConsumer Response Artistic Style Symbolic Exchange Image Creator Objective Series
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