Who Is Kevin West?
Kevin West, America's #1 Tour Guide, is a performance and series of videos that explores authenticity and complacency as the character leads people or just himself around locations, broadcasting his thoughts into a speaker connected to a repurposed Xbox headset. The character displays ethnocentrism and American exceptionalism. The performance of the tour is in conversation with psychogeography first started by the Situationists. The tours meander and seem to have no direct path even though the artist may know where he is going, the character is often confused, going in circles and backtracking frequently. There is a pathetic nature to Kevin, as he is unaware of his own limited knowledge base and resources. His struggle to unravel what he is looking at is where his failure is the most apparent. He often observes things at a surface level, especially when looking at historic places or artworks. There is truthfulness in the performance, unless the people watching or following Kevin are art or history experts, his observations are not much different than their own observations. The reveal of this truth happens when observers realize that they may know more than the tour guide they are following. The performance explores the way that we interact with places and things for the first time. He has visited London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Warsaw, Vienna, Venice, Athens OH, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The performance does raise questions of authoritative roles. Kevin performs as a tour guide without expertise. On the other hand, one thing I have noticed is that Kevin West does notice and is aware of things that his viewers do not usually notice or take for granted. In some ways he is exciting to the audience because they can have that agency to own their own child-like wonder in exploring the world.
The videos of Kevin are purposefully immersive and meta-bad. They are the antithesis of travel shows seen on A&E, PBS, History and Travel Channel. The length of the videos is mostly unedited and there are no flashy landscape shots. The monotone voice of Kevin with a cringe-worthy and metallic, amplifying the speaker that is worn and broadcasts his voice. Unlike travel videos, these videos bring attention to the actual experience of touring a city. It is not an advertisement for the city, but a truthful experience of traveling. The videos are also pathetic. I have embraced their lesser quality and generally boring content and found ways to make them more interesting. I think by doing this, I intend to make people stop and watch them for longer than they would normally watch a boring travel video. At the same time, the internet-meme style inserts are intended to draw attention to the fact that the viewer is watching a video. This is the Brechtian technique of reminding the audience they are watching. I hope that the breaks will bring attention to the satirical intent.