Postmodernism and the Bonaventure Hotel

September 10, 2008

[Updated 10 September 2008]

I’ve just stayed for two nights in the Westin-branded Bonaventure hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I was keen to stay there and explore the hotel because it’s something of an icon in architecture and also a building that evokes strong reactions in people.

Some of the hotel’s history is recorded at Wikipedia. The Bonaventure is a bit of a star in the city of stars. It has appeared in loads of movies and TV series since construction was finished in 1976.

I was fascinated by this hotel because it features in the work of Marxist cultural theorist Fredric Jameson and has been something of a touchstone for postmodern cultural theorists ever since, such as Jason Berger, who re-examined some of Jameson’s argument that the cultural logic of postmodernism reinforces the hold of capitalism on the popular consciousness:

Using a reinterpretation of Jameson’s own work, I will argue that his analysis of the hyperspace within the Bonaventure Hotel in his original 1988 essay provides evidence that postmodernism does create a resistance to late capitalism through spatial “deterritorialization.”[Berger 2004]

I’ve never really agreed with this idea. To me postmodernism is a capitulation to capitalist relations of production and a celebration of crass, kitsche consumerism as the new revolution.

So is the Bonaventure a celebration of capitalism, or does the building condemn consumerism?

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