Friday, January 19, 2007

Mountainair as Figurative Gated Community and SoCal Exurb
Urban theorist Mike Davis comments on the rise of, “gated communities of a kind, the citadel within the larger fortress,” that we see emerging across the world. In Planet of Slums, Davis contrasts and then correlates the theme park citadel to “the growth of the peripheral slums -- the middle class forsaking its traditional culture, along with the central city, to retreat into off-worlds with themed…lifestyles.” Although those closer to the actual physical city are more security conscious and indeed fortresses, others resemble re-creations of typical suburbs as immortalized in TV reruns. Still other exurbs are organized as other fantasies. 

Mountainair, already existing but inviting fantasy reorganization, beckons newcomers to “step back into yesteryear” without relinquishing today’s amenities or supply trips to Trader Joe’s. Settlers’ “expectations of authenticity” rarely connect to a clear reference point in reality. Indeed, whatever residual reality or “sense of place” a settlement destination possesses is more likely to conflict with newcomers’ fantasies than feed them. That reality and fantasy may go under the same name is irrelevant. 

The natives, their dwellings, and their institutions are not theme-park tidy, neither orderly nor manageable. They do not share their colonizers’ fantasies: nor do they imagine the present place or remember its past the same way as developers cum theme park builders attempt to represent it. No doubt generations of colonial wallahs experienced the same disconnect between themselves and the natives.

Deer Canyon is a Southwest Ranch theme park, with colorful hard-scrabble rancher accoutrements - windmills, sections of rail fence, corrals, rustic sheds - carefully retained as icons. Despite careful and remarkably authentic accessorizing, it lacks the gritty untidiness and hard life of the real thing. Only mall and food court are missing. Should some enterprising developer one day build an urban themed mall nearby, the fantasy would be complete, folding back on itself like a Borgesian mirrored labyrinth. An imagined fantasy engenders yet another fantasy, a sanitized version of the reality its consumers are in flight from.

Davis, Mike. Interview by Tom Engelhardt. “The Imperial City and the City of Slums.” in Radical Urbanism.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...