In a nod to our friends at A Motley Vision, and in advance of this weekend’s Conference, I offer the following, as is, with no commentary, except to say it’s often refreshing to see the familiar through strange eyes.
Salt Lake City
Pompous Mormon symmetry. Everywhere marble: flawless, funereal (the Capitol, the organ in the Visitor Centre). Yet a Los-Angelic modernity, too — all the requisite gadgetry for a minimalist, extraterrestrial comfort. The Christ-topped dome (all the Christs here are copied from Thorwaldsen’s and look like Bjorn Borg) straight out of Close Encounters: religion as special effects. In fact the whole city has the transparency and supernatural, otherworldly cleanness of a thing from outer space. A symmetrical, luminous, overpowering abstraction. At every intersection in the Tabernacle area — all marble and roses, and evangelical marketing — an electronic cuckoo-clock sings out: such Puritan obsessiveness is astonishing in this heat, in the heart of the desert, alongside this leaden lake, its waters also hyperreal from sheer density of salt. And, beyond the lake, the Great Salt Lake Desert, where they had to invent the speed of prototype cars to cope with the absolute horizontality. . . . But the city itself is like a jewel, with its purity of air and its plunging urban vistas more breathtaking than even those of Los Angeles. What stunning brilliance, what modern veracity these Mormons show, these rich bankers, musicians, international genealogists, polygamists (the Empire State in New York has something of this same funereal Puritanism raised to the nth power). It is the capitalist, transsexual pride of a people of mutants that gives the city its magic, equal and opposite to that of Las Vegas, that great whore on the other side of the desert. [French sociologist Jean Baudrillard, from America (trans. Chris Turner; New York: Verso, 1988), orig. pub. Amérique (Paris: B. Grasset, 1986)]