The "Urban Photogénie" of Architainment

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism – Volume 69, Issue 1
Winter 2011

Re-published in:
The Aesthetics of Architecture: Philosophical Investigations into the Art of Building
Edited by Roger Paden and David Goldblatt
Wiley-Blackwell, 2011

The Urban Photogénie


“The ‘urban photogénie,’ as described by photography critic Jean-François Chevrier, is ‘the photogenic quality or essence of the urban . . . developed in contemporary photographic works.’ This article posits a direct relationship between an emerging ‘urban photogénie’ typified by the work of artists like Thomas Demand, Andreas Gefeller, and Peter Granser and the vernacular architecture of architainment. A term coined by American cultural critic Norman Klein, architainment describes the diffusion of themed environments like Coney Island or Disneyland into the space of everyday life. By integrating an advanced model of planning, mass entertainment, and disciplinary/economic control, architainment creates ‘scenarized space:’ ‘Any street or interior where the spectator can imagine himself as a central character in an imaginary story.’ The work of the photographers named above showcases such theatrical spaces. They make use of post-photographic techniques in which digital manipulation and constructed models replace traditional practices of light exposure and chemical development. By transforming fantasy landscapes into images and images into landscapes, these photographers expose the strange intertwining of surveillance, entertainment, and artificiality that make up the architectural veneers of an idealized world.”

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