Globalisation has transformed culture into a permeable substance, absorbing or being absorbed by neighbouring nations. Ideas, fashion and cuisine travel fluently across physical and digital distances – sometimes melting into an existing identity, and other times being adopted as an exotic annex. In EUSA, a series from Canadian photographer Naomi Harris (1973), we see the cross-pollination between continents in European themed places in America, and American themed places in Europe. Founded in an effort of fun and affection, the culture-inspired theme parks and towns ultimately reveal kitsch portrayals of foreign communities: what was once characteristic has become a caricature.
“These locations are a perception of fantasy,” Harris explains, “a sense of what the other wishes the reality would be.” Traveling to more than 10 locations, from a Wild West themed park in Sweden to a Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa, to various Oktoberfest events in the US, Harris shows the diversity of cliché in our cultural playgrounds. As communities pay homage to a heritage that is not their own, exaggerated reconstructions bear little resemblance to reality, though they are not without a friendly spirit. In donning traditional garb and downing traditional grub, visitors do more than consume; they aim to adopt membership of another culture, however temporary.