Egotopia: Narcissism and the New American Landscape

By John Miller | Go to book overview

6 BILLBOARDS Dominant Visual Modality of the New American Landscape

As we have seen, educators, critics, and artists have failed to imbue Americans with a common sense of aesthetics, succeeding only in privatizing, mystifying, and abstracting the aesthetic impulse. As a society, we have been both unable and unwilling to respond to the obtuse and belabored instruction in the arts of our aesthetic betters. Historically, we have turned our collective backs in disinterest and distrust.

At the same time, Americans have been aesthetically engaged more adroitly by the mass media and national retailers. Through emotionally charged advertising and retail design, the manufacturers and distributors of consumer products have created a de facto aesthetic standard. To an increasingly comprehensive degree, it defines the look and feel of the New American Landscape.

There are numerous candidates among American business whose contribution to our wretched aesthetic condition is deserving of scrutiny. However, none has gone further in its ability to undermine traditional notions of aesthetics and to bend and shape our de facto national aesthetic to its purposes than the outdoor advertising industry, as it likes to be called.

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