random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

Filming the Modern Unconscious at CAA 2015

I’m very happy to be presenting at CAA 2015 in the panel “Anemic Cinema: Dada/Surrealism and Film in the Americas” chaired by Samantha Kavky and Jonathan P. Eburne. My paper is titled “Filming the Modern Unconscious: La Ciudad Frente Al Río, Buenos Aires 1949.” Here’s a short abstract:

La Ciudad Frente al Río (The City in Front of the River) was a ten-minute film produced in Buenos Aires in 1949 to instruct Porteños on the ills of their city: under attack from pollution, traffic, and excess building. Through the hand of the modern architect, the film promised, the city could be transformed from irrational chaos into pastoral dream. Produced under the regime of populist president Juan Perón, the film was part of a broader strategy to gain public support for a modern plan. Director Enrico Gras mobilized Surrealist tactics and the language of popular psychoanalysis to shock, captivate, and seduce the public, turning avant-garde resources into Peronist political propaganda. I argue that by rendering visible the nightmares and dreams of modernity, La Ciudad Frente al Río reveals modern architecture’s unconscious: its nostalgic yearning for a dream-like, unreachable past.


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