Friday, 15 May 2015

Day 2 – Wednesday 15th April

When you drive out to the edge of the city, and the road literally runs out. The houses grow in size and vary in style, thanks to the freedom of planning here, but then they too eventually disappear. The landscape reaches the edge of the desert, gone are the palm trees, and only mountains remain. Las Vegas looks alone in the landscape. The hotels reminded me of trees in a forest, each sprouting up towards the sun, to shadow the others and be the tallest building for miles around. It’s survival of the fittest in architectural form.
(The view of Las Vegas from the edge of the city)
I can’t help but feel as if Las Vegas is a city of simulation, a spectacle. Many of the hotels are themed on places around the world, only smaller and tackier, and certainly not as good as the real thing. None-the-less, we all stop to take pictures and marvel in the wonder of a scaled down Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty. A. Fuat Firat’s idea of a ‘thematization’[1] is certainly prevalent in the casino’s in Vegas, and this sense of hyper-reality creates a themed world, much like Disneyland, and sometimes it’s hard to shake the comparison between the two. Both play on what we already know, and both still draw us in because, deep down, we don’t really care that we’re not really in Paris, it’s all just a bit of fun. In fact, maybe it’s easier to enjoy because it’s so detached from history and culture. It’s fun to enjoy New York New York without thinking too much of 9/11. It’s easier to enjoy Caesar’s Place without being reminded of the horrors of gladiator rings. At the end of the day, Las Vegas is here to entertain, not to serve as a monument to bloodshed of days gone by.
(An example of the 'thematization' of Las Vegas - The Venetian - A hotel with an Italian theme. Remarkably, the replica Rialto Bridge is to scale with the real thing, however this one comes complete with travellators!)
Upon walking down Las Vegas Boulevard, I begin to realise this is a city of oppositions. It prides itself as being a rich and luxurious place, yet the streets are lined with beggars. The shops all sell a lifestyle I certainly cannot afford, whilst outside the pavements are full of people begging for change. This harsh reality of poverty is one Vegas is desperately trying to hide, but you can’t not notice it. There is no safety net for the people who cannot afford to live here, and the volume of people in this situation is shocking. It's no wonder that often these 'beggars' get moved along by hotel security, as they highlight all the problems associated with this way of life in Vegas.


[1] A. Fuat Firat, “Las Vegas and the Postmodern” from The Meanings and Messages of Las Vegas: The Present of our Future, 2001

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