Leaving Las Vegas1
(London, England, UK)
When the question of Baudrillard's Postmodernism comes up we
should turn to urbanism and architecture for an answer – not to the amorphous
American-academic construction of theory (Baudrillard wrote extensively about
architecture in Utopie)2.
In the mid-80s Hal Foster made a distinction between neoconservative postmodernism
(centred on a revivalist and/or eclectic architecture – the key text being Charles
Jencks' The Language of Postmodern Architecture) and poststructuralist
postmodernism. The later group was represented by Lyotard and others who
produced work which was not necessarily affirmative and non propagandist (the key
text being Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition).
Regardless of whether this dichotomy really holds, it points to the
fundamental gulf that lies between Robert Venturi's Learning from Las Vegas
and Baudrillard's America. Venturi saw in the chaos of signs,
advertising and historical pile-ups of this city an authentic popular form,
something worth affirming and imitating elsewhere. Baudrillard might have been
fascinated, interested in, and obsessed with the cityscapes of late capitalism,
but he never blandly affirmed them. Like J. G. Ballard, Baudrillard was involved
in an autopsy – not a diagnosis.
© Owen Hatherley and