Taken from Paris to Bakersfield: A good look around
Copyright Robert Hotten 1999
I once took a trip to Paris, undeniably the cultural zenith of Western Art, and experienced the timeless feeling in the air. Wonderful winter air, landscapes, and cafes. Paris, the 19th Century bourgeous dream. Bilbao too, containing "the greatest building of our time", the Guggenhiem.
Later that summer (Southern Hemisphere) in Bakersfield, through Sydney, Manly, The Blue Mountains, Singapore, Paris, Versailles, Irun/San Sebastion, Bilbo/Bilbao, Barcelona, London, Brentwood, Malibu, Gaviota, Bishop, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, on a road trip, I listened to the abject music of failure in the abandoned former centre of that cold California town. The hotel has been torn down, the lot fenced to prevent the homeless from moving in. The big letter sign across the highway now connects the former hotel with a renovated rest home occupancy. Down the way several small African-American girls played jump rope behind the standard chain-link fence, with guard dogs, to keep the homeless out. A dusty nadir point of the West, with an ecstatic form of disappearance, and a human touch.
The American desert is, as Baudrillard commented, "close to the timelessness of film". It is freedom that comes from the ease of lots of space and mobility. America is hypereal, formless, and unstable. It is frontier action that can occur in any theatre and a landscape that neglects objects. The open fields are ready for specific activities. America strives towards a continuity between form and matter and produces post-urban pods of city state influence.
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Robert D. Hotten, MLA Architect