A New Stage: Norman Klein on the Future of Scripted Spaces


Cultural critic, historian and novelist Norman Klein talks to Untitled about the interplay of power and illusion in contemporary America.

Norman Klein is a cultural critic, urban and media historian and novelist. Klein’s work centers on the relationship between collective memory and power, from special effects to cinema to digital theory, usually set in urban spaces; and often on the thin line between fact and fiction; about erasure, forgetting, scripted spaces and the social imaginary. In his 2004 critical history, The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects, Klein surveys the relationship between illusion, power, narrative structures and scripted spaces “from baroque Rome to baroque Vegas, with a stop at Disneyland along the way.”

Klein’s recent lecture at PNCA, presented by Contemporary Animated Arts and PNCA+FIVE Idea Studios, provided a “whistle-stop tour” of scripted spaces in Europe and the United States: Baroque churches, 19th century panoramas, the fantastic exhibition palaces of early World’s Fairs and Coney Island amusement parks. Klein talks to Untitled about the conditions of capitalism and consumer culture that have prompted the interplay of power and illusion in contemporary America in spaces such as malls, video games, and most recently, on Wall Street, as well as the creative potential for artists and architects to co-opt these scripted spaces.

A New Stage: Norman Klein on the Future of Scripted Spaces from PNCA on Vimeo.


Norman Klein is a historian in the fields of architecture, media and culture and Professor of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts. Klein’s books include The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects (2004), The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory (1997), Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon (1993), and the data/cinematic novel, Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920–86 (2003). Klein recently published a fictionalized memoir on forgetting and the hollowing out of America, entitled Freud in Coney Island and Other Tales (2006). Klein’s essays appear in anthologies, museum catalogs, newspapers, scholarly journals and on the web.

Klein will be a faculty member in the 2011 Boundary Crossings, a summer institute in Contemporary Animated Arts at Pacific Northwest College of Art that embraces the hybrid-moving image by combining critical thought, fine art practice and digital technologies.

PNCA+FIVE (Ford Institute for Visual Education) Idea Studios is a series of conversations, symposiums, performances and lectures on the inner workings of creative practice. The series features internationally acclaimed practitioners from a range of cultures in an effort to highlight the importance of creativity in fostering innovation and civic imagination.

by Katherine Bovee
Interview by Katherine Bovee Cinematograpy and Editing by Brennan Broome '11

— Posted on 11/22 at 09:13 AM

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