Between Beirut and Bethlehem
(Confessions of a Tourorist)

a video essay by Andrew Wilford

This video essay was produced as a document of performance research activities that were undertaken between October 2014 and December 2015 in Lebanon, Tenerife and various cities in the USA.

From volcano climbing to taking a car ride with a stranger; from ‘reclaiming the sea’ to following the insistence of a path; from snowstorm evacuations to thinking about what the walls say in Portland, Beirut and Santa Cruz, this short video essay remediates a research journey through the twinned lens of terror and tourism. In revisiting Phipp’s [1999] concept of ‘tourorism’ via post-9/11 narratives of terror, prescient concerns arising from Phipp’s essay are translated into contemporary sites, situations and pre-occupations for the self-declared ‘tourorist’ video-maker.

Straddled somewhere between arthouse and holiday movie, the footage and findings from various research engagements are fused with narrative text as the video-essay presents an aperture on international travel and contemporary terror.


In his prescient essay on Tourists, Terrorists, Death & Value, Peter Phipps (1999) identifies that:
Just as the supposed terrorist comes armed with extremist ideological commitments and powerful connections, so do tourists; just as the ultra-nationalist/religious fanatic detests tourists, so do tourists; just as the terrorist craves anonymity in the crowd, so do tourists... The differences between terrorists and tourists, war and peace, may be less than imagined.
Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon. 9th October 2014.
My journey from Beirut, Lebanon to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and back again was always constituted by two lines of flight, one actual and a virtual that whilst improbable, impossible or imagined accompanied nonetheless.

Corniche, Beirut, Lebanon. 10th October 2014.
Exploring ‘tourorism’ through what Peter Phipps first proposed as a complex dialectic, my own synthetic hybrid embodied play of terrorist and tourist discourses sought to distance itself from the drives of either polarity, whilst all the time asking what of this place makes me want to behave like a tourorist and what of the tourorist has brought me to this place?

October 12th 2014. At the airport border control in leaving Lebanon, the officer hesitates before approving my departure. Hand hovering holding exit stamping my passport, he establishes eye contact and asks ‘How did you spend your time in Beirut?’

Portland, Oregon, USA. 6th November 2015.
The modes of transforming materials from a live presentation into an integral mediated form still existed as an expansive gulf within the project and this became of increasing concern as the journey progressed.

Confounded by touroristic interests in places where cameras were not permitted, hotel lobbies, casinos, shopping malls, airports and the like, it was in reflection the time immersed in liminal affect that afforded opportunity to shift the focus.

(Playa de las Américas, Tenerife. 28th July 2015)

Driving into North Beirut. December 5th 2015.
The walls in Dallas tell you to deal with it like something there never was
The walls in Portland command you to keep the city weird
The walls in New York instruct you to Read Deleuze
The walls in Beirut are more immediately philosophical, declaring the need to Reclaim The Sea and asking, If You Broke Down Here In The Middle Of The Night Who Would You Trust To Give You A Ride Back Home.
Rusty has tagged most of the walls in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Padwick Bridge, Selsey-Chichester Canal, West Sussex, UK. 22nd Nov 2015.
If the truth of failing the screen test had severely challenged my intentions to present to the camera then this terror instilled new ways of seeing a possible future for the project. The need to bridge the gap that existed as such as expanse when stood by the banks of the Willamette in Portland, Oregon did not seem quite so daunting in searching for an alternative route.

Philadelphia Airport, Pennsylvania, USA. 26th Nov 2014.
With a snowstorm warning laying to waste any opportunity of filming there, I evacuate Bethlehem, Pennsylvania long before dawn on the day before Thanksgiving 2014.

Arriving by Bieber bus into Philadelphia, the city is waking up after a night of protest and civil unrest triggered by the Grand Jury’s acquittal of a police officer responsible for the shooting of a young African-American male in Ferguson, St Louis. Across the US authorities are now asserting control on one of the year’s busiest day for travel.

Tinged with frozen pretension, candy-sized droplets of rain douse the flames, dampen the spirit and the holiday is heralded by newspaper headlines assuring that ‘Chaos Cannot Be Repeated’.

Plaza de Toros, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. 27th July 2015.
Arranging to meet at Plaza de Toros in Tenerife for the outset of our short venture together in July 2015, Trevor’s first act was to throw a hot cup of coffee over himself. If not entirely geographically equidistant between Beirut and Bethlehem, Tenerife at least provided some perspective and our climbing El Teide later that week emerged as definitive mid-point to not only the journey but also the sublime lessons that it would bring.

El Teide National Park, Tenerife. 31st July 2015.
As Trevor, observing ancient traditions, poured offerings of cheap lager to the volcano whilst trying to forget things that he couldn’t help but remember, that initial accident upon our meeting became indelibly interconnected within my memory of the expedition. But the possible significance in this pattern of Trevor’s actions was lost to fixation on the path.

Finding some respite standing above the clouds and enjoying a brief coffee at the climber’s refuge, we were still some distance from the summit and up against the clock if we were to savor the experience before a horde of official tourists ascended.

Having convinced myself that the path was the thing, perhaps the only thing that kept me walking and breathing, suddenly bursting through the breaking sunlight, sulphur-infused air and effects of altitude sickness, the volcano offers me a vision.

Corniche, Beirut. 11th October 2014.
In Philadelphia the boots are on the ground and I am invited to cross the line:
What is the purpose of your visit?
Where is this conference to be held?
What is the theme of this conference?
Who is the sponsor of this conference?
What is your role at this conference?
What is the subject of your presentation?
In what ways are you addressing the conference theme?
Are you traveling anywhere else during your stay?
What is the purpose of your visit to these places?
Where do you intend to stay in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Bethlehem?
What is your longest duration of stay in the USA?
When are you intending to leave my homeland?
Are your tickets in order to leave the USA on this day?
Where are you departing from on this day?
What was the purpose of your visit to Beirut last month?
Are you a terrorist or a tourist?

El Socorro, Los Realejos, Tenerife. 29th July 2015.
Like the Angel of History he is blown towards a future of foreign-contracted cardboard and concrete skyscrapers that are springing up in front of the sea. Turning briefly as if to survey a pile-up of the past, his scrutiny is returned, but unable to differentiate spectator, actor and participant in the crowd, he listens intently to an antagonist’s protestations.

Byblos/Jbeil, Lebanon. 4th December 2015.
Within 24 hours of arriving in Beirut, I had accepted a car ride from a stranger. This is the fifth act that I have mentally dismissed as an inappropriate detail to include in my answer in seeking to depart Lebanon. Finding resolve in politeness I maintain eye contact with the guard ‘My time here was spent in awe of the history, heritage, culture and fine cuisine. I enjoyed time in exhibitions, performances and relishing everything that the city has to offer. Everybody is so friendly and accommodating here, I look forward to returning soon.

(Studio 6, University Of Chichester, West Sussex. 14th July 2015.)

El Teide National Park, Tenerife. 31st July 2015.
It is perhaps self-evident that standing 3,723m above sea level in Tenerife offered a new panoramic perspective on the space between Beirut and Bethlehem. Extending far into the horizon it is possible to see; that it is not the same child-refugee shoe-shine gang standing on Hamra Street, there is a different encampment of the homeless huddled just out of shot by the banks of the Willamette, the alternative bus-ticket service still operates from the casino in Bethlehem’s former steelworks and on the Corniche, builders plucked from the crowd to play the roles of builders stand momentarily frozen before cardboard and concrete skyscrapers now sprawling between a future and the sea.

With Thanks To:

Ella Parry-Davies, Eliesh S.D. & Dima Mabsout (Beirut: Bodies In Public), Cara Davies, Ashleigh Griffiths & Mads Floor Andersen (Tracing The Pathway), Bill Aitchison & Anaga Experience (Expanded Tourism: Tenerife), Mark Newnham, James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua Smith & John Woodburn (The Sleeping Trees), Dr. Jonathan Skinner and Paul Antick (University Of Roehampton), Emma Chong & J.P. Jordan (Touchstone Theatre). Matt Beattie, Sylke Freeke, Mike Bignell & Natalie Rowland, The University Of Chichester Theatre Department.

Funded by The University Of Chichester.

Work Cited

Phipps, P. (1999) "Tourists, Terrorists, Death and Value," in Kaur, R. & Hutnyk, J. [eds](1999) Travel Worlds: Journeys In Contemporary Cultural Politics. London & New York. Zed Books. pp. 74-93.

Andrew Wilford is a co-convener of Terror & The Tour. Andrew was awarded a PhD in 2014 for his thesis entitled Time & Terror-Acting. Andrew has been a member of American Society Of Theatre Research Traumatic Structures Working Group since 2012. His projects with this group have included research on Dealey Plaza culminating in Dallas during commemorations for the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Andrew is a co-convener of Performing Place with Dr. Vicky Hunter (Dance, University Of Chichester) and a regular collaborator with Dr. Gabriella Calchi-Novati (ISAP, Zurich). Andrew is a Senior Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Chichester.

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