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Spectacle

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Edited By Jennifer Creech and Thomas O. Haakenson

How does the visual nature of spectacle inform the citizenry, destabilize the political, challenge aesthetic convention and celebrate cultural creativity? What are the limits – aesthetic, political, social, cultural, economic – of spectacle? How do we explain the inherently exclusionary, revolutionary, dehumanizing and utopian elements of spectacle?
In this book, authors from the fields of cultural studies, cinema studies, history and art history examine the concept of spectacle in the German context across various media forms, historical periods and institutional divides. Drawing on theoretical models of spectacle by Guy Debord, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Jonathan Crary and Michel Foucault, the contributors to this volume suggest that a decidedly German concept of spectacle can be gleaned from critical interventions into exhibitions, architectural milestones, audiovisual materials and cinematic and photographic images emerging out of German culture from the Baroque to the contemporary.
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Spectacular Architecture: Transparency in Postwar West German Parliaments

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The spectacle cannot be understood as an abuse of the world of vision, as a product of the techniques of mass dissemination of images. It is, rather, a Weltanschauung, which has become actual, materially translated. It is a world vision which has become objectified.

— GUY DEBORD1

No modern state has embraced the ethos of what Guy Debord famously dubbed the Society of the Spectacle as enthusiastically or completely as West Germany after the Second World War, where political spectacle presented in transparent, glass architecture became the ideal. Transparent architecture did two things: it made the workings of government visible while becoming a symbol of political spectacle. Or, to use Debord’s formulation, transparent architecture became the image of spectacle. In buildings designed and constructed for the federal government, political theater was architecturally revealed, framed and celebrated by combining material with spatial transparency. Architects coupled transparent exterior and interior walls with open spaces across the plan and sectional dimensions, thereby making buildings that permit visual access to political events from outside the building and through its adjacent spaces. Equally important, anything viewed through a transparent surface such as glass, appears to be projected onto the surface. Thus a space seen through glass flattens as if it is a two-dimensional image rather than three-dimensional location. ← 217 | 218 → Such images are valued because people believe that what they see they can control. Transparent government architecture therefore creates the illusion of political participation for the people although in truth,...

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