Las Vegas - Where does reality reside?

by Pedro Meyer

1998 © Pedro Meyer

Why am I so fascinated by this city? Probably because it is the only place where I can make a photograph in which the outcome is an unaltered image which looks like a text book rendition of a layered digital fabrication created on a computer. A picture that is, to use a term very much appreciated by documentary photographers: a strictly "straight image." However this photograph is a deception in that it appears to be like a composite of several ones. Essentially it looks "fake." However, what do you call an image in which the subject matter to begin with is what is fake? So we go back to those basic dilemmas about photography, wherein does the deception lie? In the original or the reproduction? Or is it maybe our interpretation of it all?

It was 25 years ago that a little known professor, Robert Venturi, dared in to Las Vegas with two dozen of his students from Yale, and stayed at the Stardust. The result of that trip would become his influential 1972 book, Learning from Las Vegas, which would introduce the world of high culture to the notion of what in time, became known as Post-Modernist architecture.

Today every big-city downtown has new skyscrapers that attempt to look like old skyscrapers. Almost every suburb has a shopping center decorated with phony arches, fake pediments, and imitation columns. Venturis' manifesto stating that Las Vegas could become a beacon for the architecture of the future, in particular in the United States, transformed such esthetic thinking through out the world. Today we can see such buildings from Mexico City to London aside from major metropolitan cities all over the US landscape.

...............................................................................1998 © Pedro Meyer

Being built now In Las Vegas, is a reproduction (scale 1:1) of the Piazza di San Marco in Venice, with all the surrounding world famous architectural landmarks. Consider the famous Campanile tower: While it's a handsome construction, and the subject of high praise by many critics, including John Ruskin in his exalted book The Stones of Venice, the one now standing in Venice isn't even the real tower. The original one collapsed in 1902, and a new tower was built in 1912. A reproduction. Not the authentic article. You get the picture?

1998 © Pedro Meyer

As we enter the digital age, Las Vegas will not only extend it's influence the way it did for architecture; our notions of what passes as "reality" itself will also increasingly become the subject of many agonizing thoughts.

1998© Pedro Meyer

Bugs Bunny presides from a Roman chariot over a collective of cartoon characters dressed themselves as Romans at the entrance to the Warner Bros. studio store. One is able to observe as the famous bunny stands there, off to the left on a niche, dressed like any Roman of substance, is the Road Runner character all geared up and presenting us with his shield as any good soldier standing in such a niche would do. Such stores are for children (I would assume) yet they are located amidst hundreds of slot machines leading towards their very entrance.