Free Aspirin & Tender Sympathy

The Plaza, at the Western Terminus of Fremont Street, in the early 90’s

An old photograph of Las Vegas is somehow not a representation of Las Vegas; is somehow coextensive, perfect for the job of disclosing whatever it- Las Vegas- is. Scanned and posted onto Vintage Las Vegas [dot] Tumblr [dot] com, the suggestion -or reminder of the fact that- of an actual photograph’s materiality is inescapable: one can almost feel it on the tips of one’s fingers. The fact that it is (was?) a photograph creates a second surface that emerges and effaces here and there, reminding you (whether you realize it or not) what it is.

The end of the Dunes. Las Vegas, 1993. Photo: William Mercer McLeod.

Old photographs of Las Vegas are texture comprised of texture like fabric. Something synthetic, smelling of stale cigarette smoke, made to be a backdrop in a photograph, a snapshot, the location of a flash glare, a pale angel that photobombs everyone’s memories. Like fabric because the smallest elements, the lights, are so close together, comprise so much of the surface and therefore the object. The surface is the object but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing on the other side, the inside, but that’s the problem: Las Vegas is an hermeneutic that claims to be impenetrable: what happens there stays there. The problem is that it is a claim that can’t negate, but only supports, its own tentative truth (as a claim): one can never really know what’s in there. And what’s more: the surface is enough. A spectacle, what matters is what it does and/ or does not disclose, what it can disclose, what is able to be disclosed about what is on the other side, about the nature of the other side, about the process of traversing the space the surface-spectacle divides, whether or not divide is a suitable verb for what it is doing, something about a double-sided mirror, etc.

Free Aspirin & Tender Sympathy. Las Vegas Strip c.1970s.

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