Desert As Dividing Space: Walt Disney to Bill Gates

This will be a joint event between the HFS and 9338 Campau. After the presentation we will discuss if there is interest in a reading/discussion/project group around Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project.

“Desert As Dividing Space: Walt Disney to Bill Gates”
Steve's Arcades PictureAn artist project by Rose DeSloover

WHEN: 7pm, Sunday Feb 1 2015  WHERE: 9338 Joseph Campau

In reality, there is not one moment that does not bring with it its own revolutionary possibility—- it only wants to be defined as a specific one, namely as the chance for a totally new revolution in view of a totally new task. W. Benjamin


My introduction to Walter Benjamin came in 2001 through an NEH summer seminar at University of California, Irvine with Alexander Gelley, Professor of Comparative Literature. It was the title of the seminar that caught my attention, Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, Commodity Fetishism, and the Aesthetics of the City, At the time I knew nothing about Walter Benjamin the philosopher. The six-week seminar with twenty scholars from all over country and from multiple disciplines started me in a direction that brings me to this spot today.

The seminar required each participant to deliver a “work-in-progress” relating to the work of Benjamin. I chose to present initial research into the L. Dream House, Museum, Spa and initial research into the gated communities of the Coachella Valley in southern California.

In 2010, as a part of a subsequent academic seminar Walls, Borders and Boundaries at Marygrove College, I expanded the Coachella Valley presentation into Desert As Dividing Space: Walt Disney to Bill Gates.

It is this presentation that I want to share as an introduction to Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. In The Marvels of Walter Benjamin, the author J. M. Coetzee ends with this statement, The Arcades book, whatever our verdict on it — ruin, failure, impossible project—suggests a new way of writing about civilization, using its rubbish as material rather than its artwork: history from below rather than from above.

We are in the position of looking at the 20th century as Walter Benjamin looked at the 19th century. He used the “debris of mass culture” to read history. I am suggesting that one of the architectural patterns of the 20th century to be examined, under the influence of Walter Benjamin, are the gated communities of the California desert from their beginnings in the 1930’s to 1998.

Rose E. DeSloover