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Tag Archives: peter eisenman

Against spectacle

“The spectacle is the sun that never sets on the empire of modern passivity.”
Guy Debord

Peter Eisenman stated in a “manifesto”  :  ”

Today, across cultural practices, the distracted viewing of the surface has replaced the reading of depth. This is abetted by media, which stages the appearance of reality as a spectacle. The spectacular is linked to the contemporary inundation of information, which proselytises the new and demands the continual production of new imagery for consumption. The images sought by media are circulated instantaneously, virtually and seamlessly. Media’s search for fantastic imagery, as well as the precedent set for architecture by the “Bilbao effect”, perpetuates an increasing need for the spectacular in the form of ever more precious forms of novelty. These shapes – mutations of their own mediation – are the spectacles of today. Seductive renderings of impossible buildings are their own graphic reality, fuelled by a voracious need for publicity. These images are the narcissistic death rattle of a discipline lost in the tidal wave of image-dependent media. In staging the appearance of reality as spectacle, media induces passivity. The more passive the audience, the more necessary spectacular imagery becomes. It is a vicious cycle in which architecture today is more than ever implicated. In such a context, today’s subject, now rendered passive, is truly in danger of losing the capacity for close reading.

Where is architecture’s critical resistance to this process of loss? The crisis of the spectacular demands a call for a new subjectivity, for a subject removed from the passivity induced by the image and engaged by form in close reading.”

(designism) – this is interesting, but I wonder if Eisenman’s work falls under the same category of being ‘spectacular’. What is the essential difference between his Columbia Convention Center and the Guggenheim Bilbao?

I am surprised and not surprised to see Eisenman quoting Guy Debord, a very influential thinker who applies Marxist theory to contemporary culture. Not surprised because what Debord is saying is correct, and Eisenman is very smart. Surprised because no doubt Debord would indict Eisenman as a promulgator of the spectacle himself.



The Columbus Convention Center by Peter Eisenman

Sadly, I am inclined to agree.   (nice model behind Peter in this photo)