Migratourispace – Migrating Spaces and Tourism

Stefanie Bürkle

“Let’s just say I am a certain kind of tourist. A tourist that’s on a […] permanent vacation.”

Allie Parker in the film Permanent Vacation

A young man wanders aimlessly through the dilapidated streets of New York’s Lower East Side at the end of the 1970s, roaming through properties and remembering spaces as if they were people he meets. In the image spaces of his first film, Jim Jarmusch constructs the feeling of being a stranger. An antithesis to the glossy tourist images in which the “real”, the other, pulsating life of the city takes place. Allie is a wanderer in this never-ending, permanent holiday, like all travellers who feel foreign in the abandoned spaces of the industrial age and the peripheries of (post-)modernity.

Even dropping out of everyday urban life to distant destinations — in Allie’s case, a trip to Paris to which he sets off at the end of the film — implies the high probability that the longed-for exotic paradise, too, is nothing but normality.

“It’s like a permanent holiday,” Willi says laconically about his twilight years he spends overlooking the sea in South Korea, where he and his Korean wife have built a detached house with a red tiled roof and white plastered façade in Dogil Maeul (German Village). They had met in Germany, where she had migrated from Korea in the 1970s to work as one of many young nurses. She had always dreamed of returning to her native country; Willi followed his wife and was prepared to grow old as a German pensioner in a foreign country. However, now both feel alienated from their old and their new homeland.

The word home does not exist in all languages, but in Vietnamese there are even several variants. When Vietnamese in Berlin are homesick or Berliners long for a trip to Asia, and shopping, eating out, a visit to the nail salon or the hairdresser are also on the agenda, they go to the Dong Xuan Center in Berlin’s Lichtenberg district. “The Dong Xuan Center somehow brings a piece of Vietnam to Berlin[…]. You just feel like you’re back home. That’s why I often come here with my family and friends. Because you can buy things here, like food, that you can’t get in a normal shopping centre.” (Lion Nguyen, 16)

These biographical statements already reveal the manifold aspects of the overlap of migration and tourism.

The art and research project MigraTouriSpace focuses on the spatial evidence and visual demonstrability of the spaces created by the overlaps and interfaces of migrating spaces and tourism. Both the construction of identity through architecture and the search for a homeland and exoticism play a role in the two selected case studies, Dogil Maeul in South Korea and the Dong Xuan Center in Berlin-Lichtenberg. Both places and their developments are described in detail in Chapter X.

The starting point of the artistic research approach for the Dogil Maeul case study within the MigraTouriSpace project is the hypothesis that migration biographies determine the design of the house built in the native country. At the same time, the connection between identity and architecture (cf. Schoper 2010) reflects the relationship between the remigrant as builder-owner and the building through the images and spatial models on which the remigrants’ partly vernacular architectures are based (cf. Chapter Bauhaus 2.0, pp. x–x and fig. Berliner Schloss).

MigraTouriSpace thus follows on from its direct predecessor project Migrating Spaces (2013–2016). In the course of this art and research project, concepts of space and built spaces of remigrants in Turkey were analysed under the assumption that concepts of space from Turkey and Germany mutually influence each other and that concepts of image and space complement, overlap or contradict each other. [fig. Typology model house]

Dogil Maeul appears to be made up of German single-family houses from towns in Central Germany. Historical models and house designs hardly play a role in this. What is translated and taken along are ideas and concepts from the viewer’s own experience: the presence of the experienced working life in Germany (Bürkle 2018b:191). These are “diasporic homescapes” (Yildirim Tschoepe 2016: 418–425), because here they are linked to the migration and remigration biographies of Korean nurses and their husbands, who are often German. Added to this is the role of the village as a tourist attraction in Namhae County, which has meanwhile led to the establishment of tourist infrastructure such as restaurants for day trippers, souvenir shops and bus car parks on the periphery of the village.

The second case study documents the emergence of a Vietnamese superstore on an industrial wasteland in Berlin-Lichtenberg. On the one hand, it describes and analyses Vietnamese commerce and life in Berlin, and on the other hand, the associated attraction for various types of tourism. The Dong Xuan Center in Berlin exemplifies the interconnection of the local with the non-local, the inscription into and influence on the urban space. Furthermore, tourism is a driving force for spatial change.

The locations of the case studies differ from their surroundings by a shift in cultural relations. Both in Korea and in Berlin, social conflicts are emerging in the two locations, originally created through migration and for migrants, which are linked to the success of their tourism and commercial development. The German Village in Korea and the Vietnamese wholesale centre in East Berlin have long since become engines of an urban development that they no longer control.

In the case studies, the MigraTouriSpace project examines spaces that arise from the overlapping and mutual superimposition of the phenomena of migration and tourism. The art project analyses the resulting spatial relations between migration and tourism and seeks visual-pictorial verifiability of the re-figuration of spaces. To this end, the development of spatial logics and behavioural practices, which interpret these areas and communicate between them, is related to the artistic engagement with the re-figuration of the constantly changing social order of space, which in turn changes it, through processes of “spacing” (Löw 2013: 96) in migrating spaces and tourism.

Social science concepts of space understand social space in the sense of social networks of relationships within societies. Increasingly, however, it is being realised that social space is decisively defined by the built environment. The Collaborative Research Centre for the Re-figuration of Spaces is therefore investigating phenomena such as knowledge of space, communication, circulation and order in terms of their polycontextuality and constitution of space in 15 subprojects. The art and research project MigraTouriSpace conducts an artistic examination of these phenomena in terms of migrating spaces and tourism. Since built space is in many cases the main condition of social space, it is impossible to speak about social space in isolation from its actual spatial conditions and qualities (cf. Bürkle 2013: 40). If the focus is on the spatial concepts of migrants or remigrants, concepts of space from the home country and the host country, for example, are also incorporated. “The jarring of meanings and values generated in the process of cultural interpretation is an effect of the perplexity of living in the liminal spaces of national society” (Bhabha 2000: 241). Cultural differences constitute through the location of the different, via processes of substitution, de-placement or projection. Experiences in different social and spatial worlds are subject to continuous change (cf. Bürkle 2016a: 33).

Migration of spaces and things

Drawing on labour migration since the 1960s — which involved intergovernmental treaties regulating the northern European recruitment of guest workers from southern Europe and Turkey, whose labour was used to build up industry, but whose return was always assumed — migration of space means that spaces, images, cultural practices and lifestyles also migrate along with people (cf. ibid.: 20). These are often automatically reproduced in the “new home country”, where they manifest themselves as offers of exotic ways of life. They have a direct effect on the existing space and change the urban environment. Migration as a “metropolitan resource” (Yildiz/Mattausch 2009) shapes our urban spaces both culturally and spatially. Various migrated spaces in the form of shop design, grocery shops, snack bars and market stalls have changed and shaped the respective urban space. Through reproduction, they conserve personal spatial experiences in form and aesthetics that can rarely be found anymore in the respective home country (cf. Bürkle 2009a). Migration of space thus implies a translocal or even transnational movement between the home country and the country of immigration; and in the case of remigration also vice versa, between the country of immigration and the new old homeland, the native country. The inter- and transcultural everyday realities of migrants and the question of identity through architecture are closely related. These transnational relationships change the appearance and structure of urban spaces (cf. Bürkle 2016: 20). Individual and collective affiliations are reflected in the specific human-thing relationships and their developments (cf. Fierz 2016). Modernistic building elements that are based on the International Style — which can meanwhile be seen in the construction of private homes and, in particular, prefabricated houses in Germany — find their way into the planning of the dream house, as do furniture, objects and souvenirs brought back from Germany, whose agency is based on the thesis that the world of humans and the world of things cannot be separated from each other, that they have always been mingled and that their separation is a consequence of modernistic thinking (cf. Latour 1993 [1991]).

Migration and tourism

While the two movements in Europe in the 1960s were still separate, with northern European workers seeking recreation in the south and southern Europeans seeking work in northern Europe, in the globalised world there are increasingly complex movements, fluctuations and convergences of migration and tourism that manifest spatially. After the so-called mass tourism of the 1970s, which, for example on the Spanish Costa Brava, led to urban developments that are today perceived as deterrent, theme parks gained a new significance in tourism in the 1980s: fantasy worlds or fairy tale parks like the first Disney World in Orlando were counter-designs to everyday life. In the 1990s, however, more and more tourist themed worlds emerged that were copies of the real world and staged it in a form that was optimised in terms of aesthetics, space and safety. Theme concepts became city concepts. What was supposed to be a relaxing escape from the real world now promises a real improvement in the world as part of a “disneyfication” (Roost 2000). With gated communities such as Celebration City, but also the redevelopment of Time Square and 42nd Street in New York or Las Vegas, ideal and family-friendly urban theme parks were created in the 1990s where people can safely live, enjoy holidays and consume.

Going beyond the intertwining of everyday life and fantasy, copy and original, virtual and real space, the increasing complexity in migration and tourism is also evident in that both phenomena exhibit more and more spatial overlaps (cf. Bukow 2010). The growing importance of technical means of transport increases the mobility of people and things; this applies to migration as much as to tourism. Certain places such as Venice become common figures of longing for tourists and migrants (cf. Scheppe 2009).

The fact that spatial changes through interrelations of migration and tourism are not completed processes, i.e., that they are not closed systems, but rather ideally formed logics that shape knowledge and guide actions (cf. Löw/Steets/Stoetzer 2008: 63) is also apparent in the current coronavirus crisis, which gives rise to new intersections of migration and tourism, for example on the Canary Islands through the accommodation of refugees in vacant hotels (cf. Dugge 2020). When tourist infrastructures that have become deserted due to the global Covid-19 pandemic are used as refugee accommodation, this is a radical repurposing that also provokes new local conflicts. The reinterpretation of space also means a reversal of the concept of migration and tourism, which becomes a ” continuum of mobility ” (Bukow 2010: 53), at the respective ends of which are the internal and external causalities (flight, recreation, diversion, etc.) that trigger this movement, because while tourists stay away because they obey the global travel warnings and restrictions and no longer leave their home countries, people continue to flee from the global South to the North.

From travel to tourism

An educational journey was both a privilege and a duty for the nobility already at the end of the 16th century (cf. Bacon 1625) and was part of the education of noble sons as a Grand Tour until the 18th century. Besides this, only a few scientists and adventurers travelled to unexplored regions and passed on their experiences to the society of the time in the form of travel and expedition reports. In addition to social recognition in the salons and newspapers, there was also criticism that was expressed in the ironic literary genre of the “chamber journey” (cf. de Maistre 1976 [1794]; Stiegler 2010).

The Grand Tour became a social distinction for the bourgeoisie striving after the aristocracy and resulted in tourism, a modern invention of the 19th century. In the 20th century, the idea of holidays and recreation became a reality for more and more people. Finally, in the 1970s, mass tourism allowed even poorer classes to take affordable package tours. According to Bordieu, things are “qualified by their distinctive rarity”; and once “they are multiplied and made available to groups lower down”, they are no longer what they are on condition of their rarity (cf. Bourdieu 1987 [1979]: 270). Moreover, there “has been a massive shift from a more or less single tourist gaze in the nineteenth century to the proliferation of countless discourses, forms and embodiments of tourist gazes now” (Urry 2001: XX).

The tourist dimensions of corporeal travel comprise the largest movement of people across national borders to date. “As place after place is reconfigured as a recipient of such flows” of tourists (ibid.: 2), there is an omnivorous production and consumption of places around the globe (cf. Urry 1995). In the 20th century, our society has developed into a “tourist society” (d’Eramo 2018: 16) — from a kind of gradual catch-up to the mass tourism of the 1970s already mentioned at the beginning and from the inflationary low-budget flight and bargain hunter tourism of the 2000s to the sudden standstill due to the outbreak of the global corona pandemic in March 2020.

Migration and tourism as economic factors

Tourism is an important growth engine that contributes to economic growth and employment, both globally and locally. However, a significant part of the economic performance is also generated by financial support, goods and investments (remittances) by migrants from abroad.

Remittances of Korean and Vietnamese labour migrants from Germany not only supported their families in their respective home countries but also promoted the economic development of South Korea and Vietnam. In Vietnam, migration candidates were subjected to strict selection so that only the best students were sent to study, only the best people to learn and work in East German companies. The admission of contract workers was officially understood in the GDR as a kind of “development aid” for the socialist sister country in the form of training. The GDR and Vietnam also earned money directly from the workers. The companies transferred 12 per cent of the gross income of the Vietnamese workers directly to the Vietnamese state treasury as “aid for the country’s reconstruction”. The contract workers themselves were not allowed to transfer money to Vietnam; rather they were supposed to spend their wages in the GDR and were only allowed to send goods home.
In the case of South Korea, the approximately 80,000 miners and 10,000 trained nurses sent to Germany between 1963 and 1977 were, according to the 1963 recruitment agreement, a kind of quid pro quo for Germany’s development aid amounting to DM 75 million until 1961 (Hyun 2018). In this case, too, it was assumed that the private flow of money from the migrant workers would soon help the country, which was economically depressed after the war with North Korea, to recover and then be able to repay its loans.

The fact that current remittances from migrants to their home countries are higher than the share of development aid payments in gross domestic product (GDP) is illustrated by the example of Vietnam: in 2007, Vietnamese in exile remitted 5.5 billion US dollars, while development aid amounted to 5.4 billion US dollars in the same year (cf. GTAI).

A global comparison of receipts from migrants’ remittances with revenues from tourism shows that the cash flow generated by migrants to their native countries exceeds revenues from tourism. The global average for remittances as a share of the GDP totalled 4.65 per cent in 2019 (cf. global economy), while tourism contributed only 3.3 per cent directly to the GDP in the same year (cf. Lock 2020).

Art and research

Migration and tourism are two fields of research that are largely treated separately despite comparable objects and concepts. In social research, migration and tourism have so far been distinguished primarily on the basis of the types of movement (cf. Lenz 2010; Holert/Terkessidis 2006). The mental images of spaces that give rise to mobility can also be seen as a driver of re-figuration processes (cf. Holert/Terkessidis 2006). The spaces newly constituted in the interplay of movements and their transitions and overlaps have hardly been researched scientifically so far.

Within contemporary art, both fields play a major role (cf. Dogramaci 2013) and overlap thematically with the scientific analysis of the subject areas. In particular, Ramona Lenz, who deals with migration and tourism using the example of Cyprus in her dissertation, presents the role that artistic works already play in this thematic field in a chapter of this work (cf. Lenz 2010: 79–88).

According to his own account, Michael Zinganel works as an architectural theorist, artist and curator in Graz and Vienna on exhibitions and projects about planning mythologies and everyday architecture. In his work Saisonstadt, he describes the situation of foreign seasonal workers in a Tyrolean ski resort (cf. ibid.: 81).
Photographer Martin Parr has dealt extensively with the phenomenon of tourism, showing the (in)human and embarrassing sides of British and international mass tourism in numerous exhibitions. Particularly noteworthy are the “Boring Postcards” (Parr 1999), a collection of old-fashioned postcards of banal places, with which he undermines the principle of the worth-seeing.

Interdisciplinary art and research projects succeed in opening up new perspectives on “typical German” by taking a “foreign” look at the personal and the familiar. The photo series Eiscafé Venezia (cf. Bürkle 2003) focuses on ice cream parlours that were opened in the 1960s by the families of Italian guest workers from the Veneto region and are in many cases still run by them today. Inscriptions of migration into spaces exist in everyday urban life in every German city and, as is the case with the Venezia ice cream parlours, have as an upgrade of the urban quality of life a considerable influence on the perception of urban space and the experience of an entire generation. They not only represented a tourist foretaste of German longing for trips to Italy but were also the first signs of a Mediterraneanisation of German city centres.

The interdependence of migration and tourism is also evident here through the circulation of pictures, spaces and mental images. [fig. Eiscafé Venezia + Postkarte Grüße aus Venezia 1999–2003]

Loi Chao tu Friedrichshain was an artistic documentation of the transformation of Berlin’s Friedrichshain district through the sudden emergence of Vietnamese shops and snack bars. [fig. Loi chao tu Friedrichshain, 2002] The travel guide in the form of a postcard series alludes to a tourist habit, but instead of Berlin sights it offers insights into the diversity and exoticism that make up the “trendy district” alongside restaurants and boutiques due to the Vietnamese presence in everyday life. The foreign, as the postcard series shows, lies in the everyday images of the exotic, in the unfamiliar angle on what is always the same (Bürkle 2007: 73). By displaying these postcards in Vietnamese shops, but also in student bars and tourist restaurants in the district — and sending them from here to Vietnam, Germany and Europe —, the function of the postcard as a tourist’s analogue evidence of “having-been-here” was fulfilled several times over: once as a reference to a different, a Vietnamese Berlin, sent by tourists to friends worldwide; and as evidence of the Vietnamese Friedrichshainers’ own economic existence when they sent a card with a view of their shop to their families to give them a glimpse of a little piece of Germany. Through the circulation of the picture postcards, the photographs reintegrated themselves into the global cycle of the migration of images (cf. Mitchell 2008).

To analyse the cases, the MigraTouriSpace project uses a number of artistic methods that have already been developed and successfully applied in previous art and research projects and which establish a relation to scientific research. They form the basis for the photographs, video work and concept of a spatial installation in the exhibition.

Artistic methods of visual field research, artistic stocktaking, topological matrix and videography are applied here, integrating visual scientific methods (cf. Rose 2016a: 63). In the course of the two case studies, a total of 50 probing, semi-structured (narrative) interviews were conducted and recorded with various groups of people actively involved in or affected by the spatial re-figuration processes: retailers, restaurateurs, customers, visitors, tourists, planners, developers, local politicians and builder-owners.

Visual field research takes on a special role in the project, since this is where the descriptions of space from a visual cultural perspective and socio-spatial analyses converge at the centre of an artistic understanding of spaces as place and space (cf. Tuan 1977: 389).

The photographs and videos created and selected in the project are not an empirical database but subjective photographic images whose symbolic condensations overlay materiality and, as visual arguments, offer interpretative patterns for political, historical and normative meanings that must be sociologically retro-linked to the materiality of the constitution of space (cf. Löw 2009: 354). The chapter “On the Origin of Artistic Methods from the Perspective of the Arts” (p. Xx) provides a theoretical overview of this. In the chapter “Artistic Methods” (p. Xx) concrete examples are used to illustrate the application within the art and research projects MigraTouriSpace and Migrating Spaces.


The rapid acceleration of our time, the disenchantment of the world through its conquest, exploration, description and, last but not least, the current climate and corona crisis redefine our being-in-the-world. “Globalisation has thus ushered in some momentous reconfigurations of the tourist gaze, both for the ever-mobile bodies intermittently pausing, and for the immobilised bodies that meet in some of these ‘strange encounters’ of the new world order.” (Urry 2001)

The Indian couple we meet in St Mark’s Square have travelled to Italy to see the Venice they already “know” from a trip to Macao. So, the new is always also the familiar, after all, the familiar images travel ahead of the spaces and replace the ideas.
Similar to Allie, the protagonist in Jim Jarmusch’s film Permanent Vacation, we get to know spaces on our permanent journey whose novelty quickly turns into familiarity. There is nothing really foreign to us because there is nothing really distinctive either. Like Allie, we are on a permanent journey, we are on a search for the individual, for what is truly distinctive.

But Allie is not a traveller who arrives someplace or even stays there, he is not a tourist who revels in the strangeness of a new place. The places he visits are — at least according to his feeling — all alike (Behrens 2020).

Tourist sites proliferate around the world as tourism has become massively mediatised, while everyday places of activity, like many thematic environments, are being “touristised”. Mobility is increasingly central to the identity of many young people, to those who are part of the diaspora, and to many relatively affluent pensioners who can afford to live out and about. This “‘tourism reflexivity’ leads almost every site — however ‘boring’ — to be able to develop some niche location within the swirling contours of the emergent global order (cf. Urry 2001).

My heartfelt thanks go to all the interviewees during our journeys in Korea and Berlin for their participation and support in this project. The stories of their migration and lives are manifested in their homes and businesses. This book is about them and the Korean tourists in Dogil Maeul, Korea, and about the customers, visitors and tourists at the Dong Xuan Center who shared their experiences with us.

The direct contribution of the travel and tourism industry accounted for 3.3 percent of the total global GDP in 2019, showing a small rise over the previous year. Comparatively, the total contribution of the travel and tourism industry in 2019 accounted for 10.4 percent of the total GDP worldwide.

Direct: The direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP reflects the ‘internal’ spending on travel and tourism (total spending within a particular country on travel and tourism by residents and non-residents for business and leisure purposes), as well as government ‘individual’ spending – spending by GDP is the total value of all goods and services produced in a country in a year. It is considered an important indicator of the economic strength of a country and a positive change is an indicator of economic growth.

1 Permanent Vacation, USA 1980. Director and screenplay: Jim Jarmusch.
2 Endstation der Sehnsüchte – ein deutsches Dorf in Südkorea (Destination of longings — a German village in South Korea), Germany 2008/09. Director and script concept: Sung-Hyung Cho.
3 Names were changed, quote from the video MigraTouriSpace, 2020

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