“The prisoners in the cave see shadows cast upon the wall from a fire behind them; their reality is misconstrued because they believe the representation of the object (the shadow) is its true form. The allegory of Plato’s Cave symbolizes the false reality constructed by consumerist ideology; the public acquires knowledge about material forms through perceptional experience versus actual experience.”
Faul, Mo. “DF 2 Week 11 Response.” Unpublished essay, University of Michigan. 16 Mar. 2014.
The spectacle is a concept that has a long and prolific history not just within the domain of architecture, but also in politics, philosophy, and art as well. The quote above touches on the elemental signifier of the spectacle as discussed in this course. In today’s society, the spectacle has come to have negative connotations when discussed in a consumerist sensibility. Analyzing texts and lectures will show that even though the spectacle can represent the illusion of capitalism, it can also present new techniques in architectural theory. The individual of the metropolis is the one who is most affected by the impact of the spectacle. In his essay, The Wallpaper Person, Neil Leach examines how the individual reacts and adapts to this concept. Unlike the blasé individual of Georg Simmel, who becomes disinterested as a way of defense against the city, the wallpaper person (as Leach defines him) psychologically adapts to the city by becoming self-absorbed and narcissistic. The individual “depends on a measure of delusion” in order to live a contemporary life (pg. 235). The production of a fantasy is promoted by capitalism, where role models are reduced to fictive characters, and architecture becomes the “ephemeral setting in which one might lead out one’s fantasy existence” (pg. 235). The individual is led to believe this magical potential through advertisement on the TV or in magazines; the false representation of a product is what defines the spectacle in society. Because the credit card makes it seem efficient to purchase goods the consumer believes that attaining his dreams is that much easier. In this essay, it is clear that the spectacle was sparked by advanced capitalism and it is fuelled by credit culture and advertisement. The urban individual accepts the spectacle whether he is aware of its influence or not.
According to Guy Debord, illusion is held to the highest degree in this capitalist society. The dream is a necessity of life, and technology provides the goods of the dream. Similarly to the shadows in the allegory of Plato’s Cave being misconstrued as an object’s true from, society proclaims that the representation of the image, the advertisement, is the truth; the spectacle is the main production of today’s world. Once again the spectacle is a consequence of overstimulation by technology and consumerism. How does this effect architecture? Leach proposes dream buildings, Debord discusses pseudo-countryside, but neither seems to fit into the present world in such a way that makes sense. Capitalism is aware of the spectacle and takes advantage of the false reality that it creates in order to make money off of society’s dreams of having the best product. The task of the architect is to not just be conscious