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Design for the Dream World

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Next Sunday, Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman) will host the Academy Awards. Most will wonder, anxiously, if he will go berserk and plant his alloy adamantium claws into Ralph Fiennes. This is where the attention should be, on the presenters and celebrity antics. We will see the whole garish charade on our televisions sets, a proud moment of escapism into the fantasy world of Hollywood. But if you look closer on your screen, you will see that the garish charade itself has been updated to an old Hollywood meets HD technology style. Is any of this important to our lives?

Not really. At best, the changes will affect the interaction and presentation of our cultural heroes to a mass audience. And they will give us a new dreamlike environment to escape to, from the grim realities of recession 2009.

This year’s Oscars look more like a dream than ever before: the cold, blue, sparkling, geometric stage design by architect David Rockwell is actually a more austere, possibly recession inspired price-cut from the ornate, gaudy gold forms and gigantic Oscar replicas of recent shows. Rockwell studied the Oscar ceremonies that came before the recent booming times; the 1969 Awards featured a runway extending far into the crowd. Using this precedent, Rockwell built a circular platform protruding into the audience, the seats wrapping around in a semi-circular shape that recalls an ancient Greek theatre. I can already picture Jack Nicholson eyeing the current “it-girl” from the opposite side of the curve. The circle really is the perfect form for inspiring social interaction. Overall, the producers are attempting to create a more communal atmosphere. Maybe this is another romantic allusion to the past, to an era of community and connection to other people.

The selection of Jackman, an actor (instead of comedian), and Rockwell (an architect, instead of set designer, though he did design the set of Team America: World Police!) show that the “Academy,” whoever they are, are presenting a new image to the world. Even though this awards show is immune from criticism (it is just silly set design) some of the same design processes bleed into the real world. Just look at the work of the Rockwell Group: they have always blurred the line between architecture and fantasy. To Rockwell, every building is the set of Team America, a place where puppets interact.

Whether fake or not, Rockwell mixes styles from the past (such as the stage-protrusion into the audience) and infuses them with modern technology. At the Oscars, LED lighting will be used on silver-rope-curtains and fabric. Somehow nineteen LED screens will “fly dimensionally in space.” This is, surely, what my dream house will be like! It is also an optimistic view of tomorrow’s technologies.

With the banks failing and dow slipping, Hollywood seems to be doing just fine. Paul Blart: Mall Cop made over $110 Million (so far!). Multiplexes around the country are still the most popular hangouts on a Friday or Saturday Night. The world is a cruel, uncertain place and the movies and the Academy Awards are a pleasant escape. A place where austerity should be questioned and where dreams come alive!

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Written by Wegener

February 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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