Paul’s Motor Inn
In 2005 I checked into a roadside motel called Paul’s Motor Inn under an assumed name and identity. The purpose of my stay was to create content for the hotel review website, Trip Advisor. During my 2 day stay, I had a videographer and photographer document my performance as a business traveler so that images, video, and text that I wrote could be uploaded to Trip Advisor as a pseudo review of the hotel, and the experience of staying there.
The performance at Paul’s Motor Inn was meant to enact the micro-narratives one often encounters when reading reviews, or looking at images of restaurants and hotels created by the guests that visited them in the past. Most of the content created during my stay used people I encountered at the hotel, and the stories they told me as source material. Audio in the videos often used sounds that were picked up by the camera mic in loops as a soundtrack.
“Standing on the balcony outside my room, the city and its lights twinkle through the haze of a late spring. It’s still cold. Voices are heard but none are distinguishable, all I can hear is the sound of a hundred TV’s, “You listen to me…” Matched with the strobe of the gray flickering light finding its way through the cracks in the thick draperies, “…and you listen good. You get the writing idea out of your head.” – excerpt from one of the many reviews uploaded to Trip Advisor of Paul’s Motor Inn
Paul’s Motor Inn as a travel review for Trip Advisor didn’t last long on the pages of their website. The work violated Trip Advisor’s terms and conditions because it was deemed to be a fictional stay, and was promptly removed. The work exposed the blurred lines between what is real and what is story — in the context of the thousands of reviews that are written every day by the Trip Advisor community. How many of those actually happened in the way their short narratives describe?