Tourists Welcome was an installation and performance work that investigated the airport as a reception space; a communication interface between visitor/user and site.

In July 2007, Cibic brought Tourists Welcome to the freshly reconstructed terminal in Brnik Airport, at a time when the new space was a virgin territory for potential commercial advertising, corporate or national branding. Cibic incorporated a series of neon signs into the terminal’s streamlined waiting spaces, showing a selection of popular historical and contemporary tourism slogans previously used by various states, countries and territories. These open-ended positive affirmations speak of potential collective ambition. The terminal, poised on the verge of its progress into “supermodernity”, where late capitalism defines public space around information, spectacle and exchange, is revealed as an aspirational environment.

On 11th and 12th of July 2007, as part of the Tourists Welcome project, the State Police Orchestra of the Republic of Slovenia performed live in the new terminal building. The orchestra used the same performance protocols that they use when playing for visiting foreign dignitaries, standing in formation and coordinating their movements under the instruction of a conductor. Instead of the usual repertoire of national songs, the orchestra played Giorgio Moroder’s I Feel Love, disco music that was originally written for Donna Summer in 1977. Cibic commissioned a new seven-minute orchestral arrangement of the song, specially for this performance. The choice of I Feel Love directly referenced the recently chosen Slovene national, economic and tourist slogan “I Feel (S)love(nia)”. The Police orchestra played the song for two hours while, during the equally long seven-minute pauses between playing, the group stood stock still, in place, ready to start with the ritual again. The performance had two sets of audiences; those specifically invited to attend the event itself entering the service entrance of the terminal building; and the actual airport passengers who, after coming through customs and border security, were encircled by the authority of the uniformed orchestra group.

Integral to the success of a bourgeoning tourist industry is that national pride and hospitality are coherently expressed throughout the physical and virtual interfaces between visitor and nation state. The airport as a physical gateway between a state and the rest of the world is no exception. What complicates this condition is its double role as welcoming portal and boundary protector as the airport and the activities played out in it can repel or entice. What is central to the visitors’ experience is that they must submit to the existing governance.

Michelle Deignan