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Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture

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In small-town Missouri, for amusement, on Sundays, we shop. So several weeks ago, needing nothing but having heard rumors of the arrival of a new line from the East, I aimed my RX-7 at the town's only Target. There, to my delight, household accoutrements from the onetime "Cubist kitchen king" abound. Tastefully packaged in blue and white cartons, all items are titled and come complete with a square photo of the designer, his signature, his bar code, and the following credo: "The Michael Graves product line is an inspired balance of form and function. At once it is sensible and sublime, practical and whimsical, utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. Michael Graves creates useful objects, which not only carry their own weight, but simultaneously lift our spirits." How very hardworking and communal, I thought; and in need of spirit-lifting of the sensibly sublime sort, I began to buy. Wine glasses, measuring cups, tongs, table clock, pizza cutter, scrub brush: all eventually assembled themselves that afternoon on my dining room table.


This chapter is from Commodification and Spectacle in Recent Design, edited by William Saunders (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005): 100–112. Posted with permission.

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Harvard Design Magazine



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