The Performance of Authenticity

Pont van Gogh, Arles, France

The Pont Langlois is a painting of a draw bridge made by van Gogh in 1888. In the 1930s the actual bridge was replaced, and the replacement was subsequently destroyed during the war. Originally there were several bridges that crossed the canal at various points, but only the Fos Bridge survived the second war. While the intension was to move this last remaining bridge to the location of the destroyed Langlois Bridge, the location was determined to be unsuitable, so the Fos Bridge was reconstructed at a new location, where it resides today, and renamed the Pont van Gogh. There is nothing authentic about this site; a different bridge in a different location. The best that can be argued is that it is reminiscent of what once was. Branding it van Gogh, however, elevates its importance as a tourist site.

Le Café Van Gogh

Café, le soir is a painting of a café made by van Gogh in 1888. To this day, the café retains many of its 1888 characteristics, although it has been re-branded Le Café van Gogh. This effort to retain authenticity serves tourist expectations and desires to see the real thing that was represented in a painting. Being authentic attracts tourists. It made me think how horrible it would be to have ones own place represented in a van Gogh and subsequently forced to retain the period look and feel. Being authentic is a lock that prevents change.


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