Thank you so much for helping me with my first draft of my thesis. Just when I thought I couldn’t write another word, you were right there, giving me notes and thoughts from along the way. I just don’t know if I could have done it without you. That being said, I need to apologize for neglecting you for the past few weeks. Here’s a little snippet from the paper, hopefully this will make up for lost time.
In the Design Issues article, “A Passion for the Real”, Jan van Toorn urges communications designers to use their specialized skills to disseminate the messages of corporate culture. He implores us to understand more about the deeper implications of our work because we cannot afford to remain on the surface of matters, blissfully unaware of the symbolic and hidden meaning of the work we create for corporate or political means. Designers should also not underestimate our power to create mythological narratives that could potentially become cultural reality.
Philosopher Jean Baudrillard suggests that the hyperrealism of places such as Disneyland, colonial Williamsburg and New Urbanist communities are reality in America. He believes that “simulation is the creation of the real through mythological models” and that because these places are created from an ideal model expressed through the media, these examples are actually more real than the reality of America. Especially as we become more dependent on digitally mediated experiences, place making is in the power of the designer, artist, filmmaker and photographer. Because these media have such a strong effect on our experience of place, the boundary between simulation and reality is breaking down.
These mythological models can build place by themselves. The wildly popular show “Sex and the City” built upon truths of New York City, but created an entirely fictional one at the same time. And one that was so believable that people from all over the world would travel to become a part of. Once they arrive in the city, buy the Jimmy Choos and the Manolos and max out their credit cards with trendy meals and cosmopolitans, they realize that the Sex and the City myth is not reality. The stories people tell about a place become more important than the facts, B.D. Wortham-Galvin observes in her essay “Mythologies and Placemaking”, because the place gets separated from its context and a new context is put in. She states, “Mythology can become a powerful design tool if deployed judiciously.”
Julius Shulman gave L.A. its history, its best self, and then exported its mythology to the world.
Mary Melton, Los Angeles Magazine
p.s. Be back soon!