On Tuesday the class discussed spectacles of the spectacular west. The class talked about destruction in relation to the atomic bomb, art and entertainment, and Las Vegas. We discussed how destruction has become a spectacle and a form of entertainment as seen in art by such artists as Gustav Metzger and shows like The Twilight Zone. The topic of destruction was also discussed in terms of atomic bombs and their testing sites in the Southwest, which became spectacles due to their exciting and mysterious qualities. Las Vegas also applies to this topic due to destruction being part of the culture of the city as well as a means of spectacle and entertainment. We examined these topics in depth by supplementing our discussion with Julia Hell and George Steinmetz’s “Ruinopolis: Post-Imperial Theory and Learning from Las Vegas,” Kerry Brougher’s “Atomic Theater,” Peter Goin’s “The Nuclear Past in the Landscape Present,” and Geoff Dyer’s “Richard Misrach,” as well as the questions that our classmates asked in their reading responses.
Sedan Nuclear Test, Nevada Test Site, 1962, photo from Wikipedia
When it came to discussing the creation that comes from destruction and subtractive tendencies in relation to landscape, the class had split opinions on whether or not the test sites around the west were a strange kind of governmental land-art. One side of the discussion mentioned that the government did not create this landscape for the purpose of art. The other side said that although the intention was not there at the beginning, artists often came along to the land afterwards and imposed a story and divinity for the land therefore giving a bit of artistic credit to the government.
Richard Misrach, Aerial Target ("Dart"), Wendover Air Base, Utah, 1990, from Desert Cantos, photo from Fraenkel Gallery
Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, photo from Yelp
Holly Osbourne, Alix Peters, Jake Bobeck, and Kaiti Sullivan