Travelers Tourists Migrants and the post-Deng Era Theme Park Nightmare

If insistent over-presentation is used to create “lostness”, or underscore the sense of going round in endless circles. this is nowhere more so than in the case of the Lilliput Eiffel Tower (1/3 scale, 108 meters – we are insistently told) which is dangled outside the passenger window of the Park monorail at almost every possible occasion. And which of course provides a minimall-like platform where a miniature cafeteria life plus viewing paraphernalia (too small to see very much) is concentrated.

The dislocative nausea of the ersatz “Tower” results not only from its ludicrous miniaturizing. It is already implicit in the OVER scaled original (324 m with broadcast tower), itself insidious as a thief (of identity) and as a substitution of design skill for culture. (Parisian critics opposed the tower as a betrayer or snub of the historical Paris or even France from start to finish, and were literally within reach of tearing it down by 1908 when its utility as a radiowave signalling center won a permanent reprieve). First, it (the Paris original) was built as a hypnotizing tourist dis/attraction of a short longevity: the 1889 Paris Expo which it was created to “emblemize” was of course the Bicentennial, so it ought by rights to have commented on the architecture or monument designs unique to the city; but Eiffel chose to emblemize the radical advance in fin-de-siecle engineering technology and, of course, Scale. As an edifice its closest kin is the (semi) prefab iron trestle railway bridge or viaduct, notably the Garabit (compl. 1884).

How then to accept a theme park “about” global travel – streetmarked around an edifice designed to establish primacy at the Expo-scale – when the marker itself is a pygmy? And not just in global comparison: Harbin’s Dragon Tower (compl. 2000) and/or more relevant, Japan’s Tokyo Tower (1958-60: for the Olympics) followed the competitive rules of tourism by the book by erecting exactly 1889-like freestanding lattice towers of exactly original height (+/- 330m). No matter who engages it, the (Shenzhen) Eiffel Tower pleads dislocation, leaves its observer sure that the trek to globalization supposedly sculpted or embedded in “our” Eiffel Tower is an unfinished, perhaps never seriously offered possibility. In the animations alone does one get to “see” the Real Thing (at “real” relative scale, in an appropriately grans vista). But in that case the onlooker is a conjured-up airline stewardess borne off to the Seine on the “wings” of a grounded and out-of-service transoceanic jetliner.

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