Fortification and Philip K. Dick: Southern California’s Boundaries

My paper involves film, literature, and architecture as expressions of the vernacular landscape across time. Philip K. Dick’s dystopian visions, although often set in distant futures, reveal a great deal about the role space plays in late capitalist society (particularly in Southern California). Although the main emphasis of my paper is on Total Recall(1991), my paper will also briefly mention some other Dick-inspired films such as Blade Runner (1982), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), and the soon to be released Scanner Darkly (2006). What is interesting to me is that these films draw on local source material, and the architectural styles used in filmmaking reflect local architectures and uses of space. The security of brutalist buildings found in the films have parallels with the anti-drug and immigration policies of the United States at the time Dick wrote the original stories. Even more important, these themes still resonate today.

Presentation for the International Visual Sociology Association @ Universita degli Studi di Urbino “Carlo Bo” (July 4, 2006)

Fortification and Visual Culture in Southern California

  • Presentation for Crossing the Boundaries XIV @ SUNY Binghamton (April 22, 2006)
My paper specifically focuses on the relationship between literature, film, and architecture since the 1970s as being constitutive of the experience of Southern California. Specifically, it is about the ways in which visual representation and the built environment have been centered around the notions of fortification and boundary. Southern California has long been thought of as a frontier, and arguably it did not close at the close of the 19th century. As a result the built environment and visual culture as continuously organized space similar to frontier outposts – from the U.S. Mexico Border to LAX.