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The spectacle of urban consumption

The spectacle of urban consumption: the role of urban art in the reconfiguration of the public sphere

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-32
Number of pages28
JournalCM: Communication Management Quarterly
StatePublished - 2010


The paper examines the spectacle of contemporary forms of advertising and product placements techniques in the context of urban environments (including the phenomenon of the so called ‘brand city’).This is an ‘over-exposed city’, to use Virilio’s terminology, a city penetrated by media and advertising, a topical manifestation of what Guy Debord called the ‘Society of the Spectacle’. The paper juxtaposes to the above well rehearsed critical scenarios an examination of several urban art projects that attempt to design an image of the city as a locus of convergence, creativity and citizenship. There is a powerful visual language at work in the contemporary city, one that operates beyond the phantasmagoria of consumption. Inspired by the Situationists’ intent to stimulate permanent social dynamics in the city through playful interventions based on integration between art and technology, such projects show the ability of individuals and social groups to appropriate and co-create urban space. It remains to be seen, though whether such playful interventions bring about new viable conceptions of the public sphere or, conversely, whether their impact is similar, in its ineffectuality, to that of the Situationist precursors.


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