From the zoological garden, via the nature reserve and the theme-town, to the TV reality-show—sequences from the evolution of ‘parklife’. Disney and Waco, Sloterdijk and Deleuze, Spielberg and Smithson, as prisms for the fate of postmodern space.
Contemporary space is rapidly growing less homogeneous. Fenced-in spaces, such as American ‘gated communities’, proliferate. The tendency towards enclosure is reflected in the symptomatic fiction of Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show: the protagonist lives in the little town of Seahaven which is, in fact, a huge, domed TV studio—a simulation of life. The Seahaven scenes were filmed in a real Florida resort, Seaside, a neo-Victorian fantasy for the wealthy. Built between 1984 and 1991, Seaside also inspired Disney’s new urban development project, Celebration—a settlement completely controlled by the Walt Disney Corporation, where anything that might be a blemish on ‘small-town America’ is banned. Celebration, like Seaside, defines the good life in terms of a secession from the rest of society—the big bad world has to be kept at bay. A theme-park town such as this shows that real and fictional fenced-in spaces cannot be neatly kept apart: Celebration is a phantasmagorical reality. If The Truman Show is ‘just’ fiction, and gated communities ‘just’ social and political reality, they all function nonetheless within the symbolic register of contemporary culture.
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By the same author:
The Juridical Economy
Art as the uncanny double of law in the work of Kant, Schiller and Hegel, and its confrontations today with the law in avant-garde practice, as the juridical category of the person either expands beyond even the corporation, dismissed as ‘artificial’ by Hegel, to new fictive forms, or contracts to captive sub-human shapes.
The Coming Exception
The artwork has long been understood as a political-economic anomaly, while art practice is sometimes seen as a stand-in for liberated human activity. With value itself seemingly in a state of crisis, might the artwork prefigure a world beyond it? From Ruskin and Whistler to Harun Farocki, Sven Lütticken charts the trajectory of an exception.
The shift of artistic and activist practice towards the performance of personae. Sven Lütticken tracks the fraying limits of subjecthood through post-war action painting, Marcel Mariën’s surrealist-Blanquist parti imaginaire, the 1960s Dutch neo-avant-garde, the Invisible Committee, Rojava and artistic experiments with the political party-form.
Mutations of an untimely concept, in a period when capitalism has arrogated to itself the power of radical transformation. From Debord and Marcuse to the contemporary art world, by way of punk rock and hip hop.
Performance Art After TV
Relations between TV and performance art since the 1960s as a tangled skein of complicity and contestation. Sven Lütticken traces shifts in modes of acting, working and self-presentation, within a televisual world itself now being absorbed by cybernetic and digital systems.
Dialectic of Dionysus
Sven Lütticken on Asger Jorn, Fraternité Avant Tout. The Danish artist and Situationist wrestles with Engels and Nietzsche.
Once deemed extinct, the play instinct now pervades the worlds of work and leisure. Can it be turned to radical ends? Sven Lütticken seeks clues in Schiller and Debord, Neuschwanstein and computer games.
Attending to Abstract Things
From the philosophe De Brosses in the eighteenth century to the abstract expressionist Barnett Newman and the conceptualist Sol LeWitt in the twentieth—via Hegel, Creuzer and Marx—the fates of the fetish and the commodity, in critical thought and art.
Do increasingly dark ecological portents indicate a deeper transformation of nature itself? Sven Lütticken elaborates a historicized conception of nature, seeking precedents and contrasts in 19th- and 20th-century philosophies and fictions. Dinosaurs and overmen, Geist and entropic decline in Verne, Nietzsche, Schelling and Smithson.
Idolatry and its Discontents
Amid rhetorical dust-storms over purported Islamist threats to Western values, Sven Lütticken finds antecedents for contemporary struggles over the image in Judaic and Protestant bans on idolatry. Multiple meanings of the veil and varying forms of iconoclasm, under the aegis of the spectacle.