Corporate Stage, from Woodstock
to Ravestock and Reichstock
I would like to begin and end this discussion with two examples of events that were not sponsored and that were represented in the media as expressions of resistance to or subversion of commodified culture: Woodstock and Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Wrapped Reichstag.1 We might consider the temporal and spatial distance between Woodstock and the Wrapped Reichstag not simply as beginning or ending points but, rather, as markers that can assist us in an analysis of the event within postindustrial societies and postmodern culture. Both Woodstock and the Wrapped Reichstag became reference points and signifiers of culture and politics, albeit in different cultural and historical contexts.
In his definition of architecture “as the combination of spaces, events, and movements without any hierarchy or precedence among these concepts,” Bernard Tschumi traces the “insertion” of the event, as a notion central to the social practice of architecture, to the sociopolitical demonstrations and actions of the late 1960s, particularly “les événements” (e.g., street barricades) in Paris, which represented both social events and social movements (Tschumi 1994, 255). Tschumi refines this notion by adapting Michel Foucault's concept of event as “the moment of erosion, collapse, questioning, or problematization of the very assumptions of the setting within which a drama may take place—occasioning the chance or possibility of another, different setting.”2 For Tschumi, Foucault's event is ultimately a “turning point—not an origin or an end.” Moreover, Tschumi proposes integrating shock as a critical aspect of the event, which “in order to be effective in our mediated culture, in our culture of images, must go beyond Walter Benjamin's definition and combine the idea of function or action with that of image” (257).
Certainly, Woodstock and the Wrapped Reichstag involved various forms of “erosion,” “questioning,” or “problematization” of their respective sites. In the case of Woodstock, the sense of community that emerged spontaneously as a result of both the unexpected magnitude of the event and the physical conditions (rain, mud, and insufficient sanitation and food) was related to its “failure” to function as a planned, commercial event. Indeed, by most accounts the event itself was a disaster (Espen 1994, 73). Yet the sense of “being there,” of “surviving the event,” of sensory “shock,”