Landscapes of Capital
Multinational corporations are the most powerful institutions of our time. Their power is symbolised by their products and services, all of which depend in some way on the expropriation of nature.
Today, many of capital's key decisions incubate in the conference rooms of Las Vegas hotels - the world’s foremost destination for corporate conventions, trade shows and motivational events. While the casino-city is an obvious index of capitalism’s excess, much less familiar are the vast, air-conditioned meeting spaces, some larger than football fields, in which the world’s most powerful actors shape our futures.
Through their doors lies Death Valley, Las Vegas’ inverse image; a paragon of silence and natural beauty. Beneath its surface are the elements and minerals upon which industrial capitalism has been built: from silicon and oil to uranium and tungsten. Landscapes in ruin show the ravages of capitalism, but the great nineteenth-century American landscape painters expressed the nation’s spirit of expansionism and Manifest Destiny through visions of pristine natural design. Unlike European Romanticism, which idealised a natural world threatened with industrial destruction, US painting appreciated the landscape's potential for economic development, the imperatives of property and capital, as much as for its beauty.
"Death Valley and Las Vegas are inseparable. There is a mysterious affinity between the sterility of wide open spaces and that of gambling... For the one is the hidden face of the other and they mirror each other across the desert, the one as acme of secrecy and silence, the other as acme of prostitution and theatricality".