Issue 1

The building as image as stage - after Le Rêve, Las Vegas
Sofie Holten


1. The building as image
The surface of my façade repels your gaze; I cannot be penetrated or figured out by a glance. I have not clad myself in white columns, fake marble or enormous copies of Greek statues to attract the attention of the onlooker driving by. There is no one clear message being blasted out by the help of blinking neon signs. My façade is instead a mirror in which the rest of the city is reflected. Just because my facade is not immediately decipherable it doesn't mean that I am not telling a story. I employ my grandiosity and monumentality as a gigantic screen that the city projects itself upon, I steal the image of the city and make it my own, drape myself in it. And thereby I become the icon of pleasure that I am, just as Las Vegas itself. My megalomania consists in this; I obtain and consume my surroundings. I obliterate billboards; my size overshadows such iconography. I myself am the sign.

At the cost of 2.7 billion dollars I was the largest privately funded construction project in the nation when built. I am not here to be seen though. I am here to see you. I see you and I know what you want before you know it yourself. But you have to enter to find out. The shiny surface that I am wearing doesn't reveal my inner core of pleasure. "There is no franchise in a casual observer, there is a franchise in a guest" as Mr. Steve Wynn says, the Las Vegas entrepreneur to whom I also owe my name. My surface is both mask and decoration – it is a successful disguise; while my façade dress the material underneath it seems itself to be immaterial; a moving floating image on a hard unchangeable shell. And therein lies my spectacle; appearance as disappearance.

2. The image as stage
Le Rêve was originally my working name before it was changed to Wynn Las Vegas. It means "The Dream" in French, and is the name of the centerpiece painting that Mr. Wynn owns, Le Rêve by Pablo Picasso. A photograph is circulated of one of my highly cherished interiors, the stage set of the show also called (yes, you guessed it) Le Rêve. It finds its audience in hotel reviews and theater ads. Let me describe this photograph to you:

Your first impressions are the lush vivid colors, purple, yellow, blue... From where you stand you have the perfect overview of the indoor amphitheatre with its spectator tribunes and a gigantic circular piece of fabric creating a soft velvety roof. You let your fingers run over the tops of the red plush seats on your way down the isle toward the center of the image; the stage where acrobats are going to perform daring and arousing choreographies in a matter of moments from now. You hear the muffled roar of the audience waiting to enter. The stage is shrouded in a sky of mist emanating from a source defying revelation. You stand motionless and waits for the spectacle to begin, your senses wide open, pleased and tantalized.

My inside is very different from my secretive exterior. It's about diving in, not holding back. It's about sensation rather than symbolism. I am an act that requires an actor that moves through my rooms as if on a stage. I prescribe a behavior where the bodies of my guests are engaged with the building elements, as the actors in a scenographic space. The triumph of experience includes the lingering memory of a lap dancer's perfume as well as any steel or glass artifact, the coolness of which is momentarily felt while passing through the hotel boutique.

3. The building as image as stage
One of the viewers looking at this photograph can't get it of her mind.

Her eyes' ways into this photograph is the only way she knows the place, the Las Vegas theater, and she decides to learn more about its attractions and the lure she feels while watching it. She decides to transport the image of the scenery into actual space. She uses the photograph as the master plan of the construction site and constructs a new place through the distance of the image. Working on this for days and weeks she feels the theater slowly materialize through the grip of her hands and touch of her fingers. In the process she looses the overview and becomes concerned with even the tiniest corners and details. She get's to know the clay and learns about walls, roofs, arches, how much weight the structure can take. The spectator tribunes become heavier and heavier, she is no longer able to move them around. They are now again bound to a specific place, no longer just a general idea and as an image able to transport themselves immaterially through space and time.

When she has finished building she recognizes the flatness of the photograph and the slightly elevated viewpoint from which the photograph is looking down on the stage in the center when standing directly in front of it. But when she starts moving around the experience of the theater changes dramatically, new rooms reveal themselves when seen from the side or even from the back. Each spectator tribune has become a hollow structure, a building in itself. At the same time it is a part of the interior of the theater and a new exterior. The surface of the spectator tribunes becomes a new façade, and the gesture of the hands and tools an image.

The building is an image is a stage.


The building as image as stage - after Le Rêve, Las Vegas
Red clay, wood, polystyren, fabric, digital projection on screen