The Dreamlife of Junkspace: Utopia, Globalization, and the Religious Imagination
The most famous elevator ride in the history of critical theory took place in downtown Los Angeles, when Fredric Jameson was dropped into the lobby of the Bonaventure Hotel. He writes of his inability to form a cognitive map of the journey he has made, the impossibility of gaining a sense of perspective in the hyperspace of the Bonaventure’s vast interior. The elevator descends into a subterranean world unto itself, complete with a lake, restaurants, bars, and shops, all of them surrounded by four symmetrical vertical towers that contain the actual hotel rooms. The space exerts a vengeance upon the casual pedestrian, Jameson writes, for it is impossible to find one’s way around, to the point that old-fashioned arrows and signs needed to be installed to help potential customers locate the retail areas. The Bonaventure was built in 1977, and its visual and spatial strategies have become ubiquitous and almost unremarkable, such that Jameson’s sense of disorientation during his visit in the 1980’s now seems a little quaint. Every time a traveler enters an airport or a consumer strolls through a mega-mall, every time vacationers enter a casino or professionals hustle through the warrens of a convention center, similar effects take place. Dislocation becomes palpable, visceral, and it becomes nearly impossible to map where one’s body actually is with any accuracy. It’s true, one can learn to orient oneself within a specific hotel, mall, or airport, using whatever visual cues have been provided. But spend enough time in those spaces and a bit of vertigo sets in.
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Also Published In
- Union Seminary Quarterly Review
- Union Theological Seminary