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"Las Vegas" Tag

Bruce Nauman, but not on citizenship.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

As a final post on flaneurship and neon lights in the city landscape, I chose to write about  Bruce Nauman. This might seem confusing, because his works are usually displayed in a gallery or a museum, quite isolated from the busy city environment that was my starting point for the first post.

Nauman made some installations with neon light, some containing text, others consist of images only. I chose these three examples from the mid-eighties (One Hundred Live and Die, 1984, Seven Figures, 1984, Mean Clown Welcome, 1985) for the more or less brutal messages they communicate.  I still don’t know what the medium neon in itself expresses. This needs a more elaborate research. I’ll try to give a short comparison between Nauman’s work and the neons in Vegas. Comparing these two types of neon signs arise questions about this romanticist (yet uncanny) idea of a flaneur who gets sucked into a dreamworld of lights in the city. The common divider between these works of Nauman and for instance the neon signs in Las Vegas is immediacy. Both types of signs are attacking the viewer, but the effects are parallel reversed to one another. Nauman plays with a system of repulsion, while in a competitive commercial context (such as Las Vegas), neon signs would rather be used to evoke attraction. Still, I think both have to do with desire. -naum-8

keyword: neon

Neon in Vegas vs Flaneurs in Paris

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In my previous post I talked about “City Signs and Lights”, about the design of a modern city landscape, attracting customers. City signs are in an ongoing competition for attention. In this post I want to focus on the interaction between the consumer (the flaneur) and the environment. I would like to shift between two cases: the architecture of The Strip in Las Vegas and the passages in Paris, in the first half of the 20th century.

The passage is a covered shopping gallery. The culture philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote about early consumer culture in Paris in his text “Passagen” (1930). He describes the citizen as a flaneur, not as someone who is exposing him/herself, but someone who is exposed to the attractive lights in the shopping gallery. The flaneur is a person who walks through the city without a specific goal. He/She gets into an ecstacy, going from one attraction to the other. The city unrolls as a landscape to the eye of the flaneur, but at the same time, locks him in. Benjamin calls this new city environment a “Fantasmagory”, the city becomes a dreamworld where different rules apply than in reality.

” If there is one place where colours are allowed to clash, it would be the Passage; a red-green comb is hardly noticed here ”

(W. Benjamin, Passagen, 1930)

I believe that Las Vegas is a great example of a modern day Fantasmagory. The city is almost entirely made out of neon signs. After the second world war, Las Vegas was growing extraordinarily fast. The consequence was a speed-up of competition along the Strip (the central road through Vegas). The actual buildings are all more or less the same: low, but a large ground level surface. This has to do with the climate and economical reasons. The outside of the building needs to stand out, both during the day and night. The result is a total mash-up of different styles, quotes, hightened symbolism, eclecticism, all in neon lights.

In the end, the building itself becomes a sign.

Vegas references:

W. Benjamin, Passagen, 1930

R. Venturi, Learning from Las vegas, 1970

Cocteau Twins, Heaven or Las Vegas, 1990


cat. no. 700.6-benj2

keyword: neon

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