Monday, November 16, 2009

Capitalism (the fountain)

Capitalism (the fountain)


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A few photos of the Capitalism fountain at the Lloyd Center mall, near the corner of NE 9th & Multnomah, just outside the Nordstrom store. The Smithsonian's art inventory page for it is here, and the artist who created it has a website here, although it doesn't seem to mention this fountain anywhere.

Capitalism (the fountain)

The fountain / sculpture was installed in 1991 when the mall was completely renovated, but in spirit it couldn't be more 80's, all postmodern and money-mad and pompous and giddy all at once. It's a real period piece, in its own way similar to the groovy 70's abstract whatzits scattered around the downtown transit mall. If you stare at it too long, music starts to run through your head: "Li-ving-in-a-ma-te-ri-al-world, Li-ving-in-a-ma-te-ri-al-world", and so on. Or maybe that was just my iPod. Sometimes it can be hard to tell.

I'm finding it hard to do my usual schtick and play amateur art critic about the fountain, since it's such an utterly 80's artifact. It would be like debating whether Nagel prints are good or bad art. The fountain just isn't amenable to this sort of question.

Capitalism (the fountain)

The Lloyd Center mall first opened in 1960 as an open-air shopping center (which has always puzzled me, since I've never heard that the climate was better here back then). It's hard to tell by looking at it now, due to all the renovations and updates over the years, but Lloyd Center was one of the nation's very first modern shopping malls, and when it opened it was the world's largest. Yes, the world's biggest mall, right here in little old Stumptown. In September 1960, the mall's ice rink hosted a campaign stop by then-VP Richard Nixon, who supposedly proclaimed the mall "America's answer to communism". Golly. I suppose that would be the flip side of how Moscow's vast GUM department store was supposed to be communism's answer to the West's decadent, bourgeois consumerism.

Although these excerpted remarks from Nixon's speech don't seem to include that claim, so it may or may not be precisely accurate. Either way, it makes for an interesting bit of local trivia.

And as an extra fun twist, many of the hits that come up when you search for "lloyd center" and "capitalism" are mentions of the recent Michael Moore film, which screened at one of the Lloyd Center theaters earlier this year.

Capitalism (the fountain)

Capitalism (the fountain)

Capitalism (the fountain)

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