As a model of city life, the shopping center mirrors an experimental arrangement, a living environment inside a chimerical plan, an anthropological park (or fish tanks in a fish tank?). Like most architecture, we perceive the shopping center with lessened opacity and instinctively perform our everyday moves within this semi translucent encrustation. Its quasi-invisibility is due to our desires, our looking for a latte and a muffin on a Saturday afternoon at the bottom of the tank – to entertain the analogy. We’re looking forward to new handrails.
In the late 1950s Dutch artist Constant Niewenhuis thought the future of the architectural mega-structure to be a brighter one. Flaneuring the boulevards of Paris, he developed the situationist ideas of psychogeography and the drifter into a new breed and landscape: Homo Ludens, the playing man, inhabiting the endless corridors of a global construction he named New Babylon. This nomadic human being, freed from labor by automation was supposed to engage in the activity of endless creative play. Unfortunately however, nothing could be known of the ludic pleasures and the types of creativity that would emerge in such a structure, or if they’d serve vegetarian sausage.
Food in Jacques Tati’s “Playtime” closely resembles what is deemed acceptable in 2013: packets in spectral colors, whose content is hard to make out through the layers of gauzy cellophane wrapping with clouds of French dressing dispersed along the insides. In his film, Tati’s character Monsieur Hulot circumnavigates the maze of a crystalline-corporate-glass-and-steel-faced-future-Paris with equal measures of intention and awe. Everyone here joins him like a dance partner, more or less gracefully averting the obstacles of a confounding, modern city. At any moment in the film, the frame is full of several vignettes showing these chance encounters and their performers lively strung together into the film’s staccato rhythm. If people in this 70’s vision are mocked for having the dream of living large by means of a consequential modernism, today our options have at least tripled; Live large, medium, small.
— from press release for Galleria (Greene Exhibitions, Apr-May 2013)