running time: 58 minutes | 2013
"For all the cultures that settled throughout history on the northern Adriatic coast, it willbe possible to ascribe at least one monument of architectonic heritage or some otherartifact witnessing its presence.”
- Anton Gnirs, 1911
The Austrian archaeologist, Anton Gnirs, made this statement about the cluster of islands that line the Croatian coast in 1911, when the Austro-Hungarian still ruled Croatia. Gnirs’s insistence on the region’s historical importance hoped to inspire the preservation of some 5000 years worth of cultural heritage. Constructed in 1963, 52 years after Gnirs’s statement, the beach resort Guest House Helios is an artifact of its time, a witness of Yugoslavian Communism. Bearing the same name as its subject, Guest House Helios, this film follows the day-to-day operations of the hotel during one of its final seasons before its scheduled closure and demolition in 2014. Long after the breakup of Yugoslavia, this film documents how the guests and workers of this hotel engage within a structure of hospitality built upon the principles of Yugoslavian Socialism - only now within the conditions of present day capitalism. Located off the Istria peninsula on the island of Lošinj, over the past century this region of Croatia has remained a travel destination under each major form of modern government, from the Austrian Monarchy’s imperialism, to Italian fascism, Yugoslavian socialism, and now neoliberal capitalism. Each of these forms of governmentality imprinted its interpretation of heath, leisure and tourism, in the architectural forms of the successive hotels that remain and operate on the island. Today resort hotels are sites that invite visitors to leave their jobs and daily routines behind on the premise that in the act of leisure, people can be their true selves. Providing this service is an economic livelihood for the island’s residents, offering up local cultural ‘authenticity’ for leisured consumption. Consequently, as the pressures of neoliberal capitalism force market expansion, the requirement for continuous growth simultaneously threatens to erode this cultural ‘authenticity’ that defines the region, and which tourism relies upon. This cataloging of the seemingly mundane gestures of a hotel’s daily routine, places the notion of objective ethnographic representation within the tension between self-representation and a representation that is imposed by another. Within this tension lies the potential to illustrate the contradiction that tourism offers to cultural identity, as it relies on cultural particularities while simultaneously threatening to flatten them.