Las Vegas: Transnational?

In Antonio Gomez’s photo series “Las Vegas Boulevard Project,” he takes pictures of different landmarks along Las Vegas Boulevard and overlays them, often creating surprising or contradictory images. When speaking about his work, Gomez says, “Las Vegas is a place where you can travel to different countries just by crossing the street. You can be in New York on one side of the street and be in a European castle on the other. In creating these simulacra, Las Vegas became a wonderful one-of-a-kind city found nowhere else in the world.” This feature of a city, which he also notes is something that can be thought of in a less positive way, in that the city is simply an imitation, or illusion, presents an interesting kind of transnationalism.

In our discussion the “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo, we talked about the media’s role in our perception of places, for example, America for Darling is all fancy cars and TVs and wealth. Las Vegas is an interesting example of this aspect of transnationalism because not only is it a place that really has no unique landmarks of its own; it also takes only the best-known landmarks of each city that it imitates. While you can find the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, and a pyramid all in the span of a few blocks, even these already artificial imitations of these landmarks are further limited by the fact that they are such cliched representations of each place. While the Eiffel Tower is certainly iconic of Paris, it is hard to imagine a Parisian arguing that they feel at home in Las Vegas because there is a replica of the Eiffel Tower on Las Vegas Boulevard. In a similar way that the “NGO people’s” photos of Darling and her friends reinforce stereotypes that all of Africa is nothing but starving children who need humanitarian aid, these singular, iconic representations of entire cities or countries intend to make Las Vegas cosmopolitan, but really just reduce these places to a singular stereotype or icon. Gomez’s photos juxtapose these symbols in such way that the viewer questions these assumptions and stereotypes, and recognizes the illusory aspects of them.

Full gallery here:

National Geographic Article here:

Yevanit Reschechtko

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