Back-to-School Clothes

A new year, a new look for the blog. I’ve been meaning to dither with the CSS here for awhile now, but it wasn’t until I got inspired by some new graphics that I took the plunge. The header image is one of many that I took on my last visit home, at a place called the Boneyard at the Neon Museum. It’s a bit off the beaten path for most Las Vegas visitors (meaning that there’s no gambling or strippers within a half mile radius of the place), but it is one of the most concerted public, non-profit efforts to preserve iconic pieces of the unique architectural history of the city.

I couldn’t help but think about the work the Neon Museum is doing as I read Derek Kompare’s In Media Res piece last week, which focuses on Vegas as a peculiar and specific urban space in CSI.  I have to confess that I’ve seen little of the show (I’m done with the procedural drama, I think.  It’s just a form that bores me.).  I know someone who works as a forensic investigator for the LVPD, however, so I’ve looked on from afar at the continuing success of CSI.  As an increasingly popular evocation of the city, however, the representation of Vegas on the show obviously resonates both with academics (see the comments to Kompare’s piece) as well as students (in Tim Anderson’s response, he notes a string of class projects inspired by the show).  That same resonance recalls the ambivalent track record of the city’s architecture.   Most critics consider the place a paragon of bad taste and philistinism.  Brown and Venturi momentarily transformed that critique into evidence that Las Vegas is in fact the apex of postmodernity; of course, that in and of itself became less celebrated as we understood more about the consequences of global capital and simulacra.

For my money, then, the Neon Museum is doing yeoman’s work: they’re preserving a specific Las Vegan aesthetic, but grounding it in the economic, political, and cultural history of the city itself.  If the ethos of the city seems to be that it “destroy, reinvent, and destroy again” as Kompare writes, it’s good to know that there is a fledgling opposing force at work—one that is focused on preserving, maintaining, and recording the semiotic and material traces of the city as it used to be.

Viva Las Vegas, indeed.

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