Something I really miss about living in the Midwest is the abundance of tacky roadside tourist attractions. Growing up in Colorado Springs, I distinctly remember my family’s visit to nearby Cave of the Winds. I remember my dad taking us on an 8-hour road trip to see the Carlsbad Caverns. More recently, I remember visiting Meramec Caverns and Fantastic Caverns in Missouri, and marveling not particularly at the magnificence of the incredible geological sites, but at the way these places have been commercialized, modified to be marketable to tourists. This is what drew me to Austin Irving’s Show Caves, which explores “the anthropocentric tendencies of modern tourism seen in domestic and international show caves.” I strongly relate to much of what Irving writes in her statement, and the questions she asks about whether places like show caves disturb or preserve parts of our natural world.

From the artist’s statement: Show caves are natural caves managed by government or commercial organizations that have been modified to accommodate tourism. The objective of this body of work is to highlight the tension that exists between the staggering natural beauty of caves and the renovations people make in order to transform these spaces into spectacular tourist attractions. These caverns have been curated to cater to both the physical needs of sightseers as well as to our collective expectation of the fantasy of a cave. Elaborate lighting, elevators, poured cement trails, even bathrooms and souvenir stands have been added so that ancient geological wonders can be accessible and marketable to a money-giving public. Are these additions acts of vandalism disrupting a delicate eco-system for the sake of commercial profit? Or do these human interventions draw attention to the preservation of caves and make hard-to-access natural wonders readily available for appreciation?

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Found via: Aint Bad