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Las Vegas/Santa Barbara

kritische berichte - Zeitschrift für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften
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  • Logic
  • Political Science


KB1-08~1\\KB1-08.JOB 26 kr it is ch e b er ic h te 1. 20 0 8 1 Santa Barbara 27 Richard Wittman Las Vegas/Santa Barbara I had been thinking about Las Vegas and its famous signs for a while when, this past summer, two friends asked me and my girlfriend to travel there with them. They were planning to get married by an Elvis impersonator at one of the city’s wedding chapels, and wanted us as their witnesses. I had been thinking about the signs of Las Vegas because of the book I had just finished writing: a book about eighteenth-century French architecture cul- ture, of all things. The book examined architecture’s place within the constella- tion of changes that transformed the public sphere in eighteenth-century France, including the growing reach of government bureaucracies, the expansion of inte- grated commodities markets, and especially the accelerated development of print culture and reading publics. In studying how these changes helped gener- ate a new, spatially abstracted understanding of publicity, the relationship of architecture to different forms of public text had emerged as a major theme. I had discovered that, as the public sphere came to be identified with the circula- tion of printed textual matter more than with embodied experiences in real space, architectural writers and social commentators had become anxious about what suddenly seemed the incomprehensibility of the architectural environ- ment. Critics began wondering why architects continued to insist on the arcane language of classicism, which so few people understood; theorists became ob- sessed with the importance of rendering architectural «character» more legibly; some architects began reluctantly publishing third-person reviews of their own work, in the effort to give them a kind of publicity and clarity that the buildings themselves no longer seemed capable of attaining; other architects tried to de- velop a new formal language that, through severity or bold contrasts or immense scale, would giv

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