Friday, February 24, 2012

A Much Shorter Post Than My Last

Reading Trachtenberg on 1893 Chicago World's Fair got me thinking about "Expo 2010 Shanghai China", a revamped world's fair of sorts:'s%20fair&st=cse
This Times summary says it outright: the Expo sought "to showcase a polished, vibrant Shanghai that it envisions as a financial capital for the region, even the world." Further, the Expo's motto ("Better Cities, Better Life"), was evocative of Trachtenberg's analysis of the Chicago Fair as "a model and a lesson [...] of what the future might look like [and] how it might be brought about". The similarities don't end there. The face-saving coats of paint and layers of mortar ( remind me hastily-applied staff facades of White City; the comparative dysfunction of the city beyond the gates (as evidenced by the removal of the unsightly beggar in the above article, and the growing unrest of the middle class [not to mention the forced eviction of many of the lower class] in this one: remind us that the bright image of a prosperous future presented by these kinds of fairs, now as in 1893, does not apply to marginalized groups. Like the 1983 Fair, the Expo consists mostly of buildings designed to be taken down once the event is over. 
Something about the World's Fair concept skeeves me out. Maybe it's that whole fly-by-night glistening facade of perfection thing, or just the fact that urban centers clamor for the money and prominence that accompanies being named, essentially, the seat of progress for all intents and purposes. And then, there's this:
"For a World's Fair to work in the 21st Century, it has to be about problem solving." Sure, but the way the 'problems' and 'solutions' are framed by any given host city is invariably a work of "education and propaganda". I feel like the US, given its long history of hosting World's Fairs that pushed imperialist agendas (and a vocal, socially conscious middle class [especially in San Francisco] that would definitely not stand for mass eviction or unnecessary construction and expenditures), would do better to leave this kind of Expo concept buried in the ground. 

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