Helpful inauthenticity

click on images for full-size:

Web description of the Montecasino casino in Johannesburg, South Africa

Why a casino that looks like a Tuscan village is one of South Africa's most democratic public spaces. . . . It is a scene as absurd as Waugh's tribeswoman at the tea party, but with this difference: neither white nor black South Africans have anything to do with Tuscany. None of them are the ones holding the tea party-they are all the tribeswomen on the lawn. The history of South African architecture is replete with transplanted European styles: the nineteenthcentury British Imperial eclecticism of Sir Herbert Baker, the 1930s fascist brutal ism of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, Johannesburg's 1950s International Style skyscrapers. But these architectures took themselves seriously; they tried earnestly to impose European norms on South African spaces. Montecasino imposes nothing on anyone. It is completely, exuberantly fake. And, as in Las Vegas, it is this fakeness that ensures its egalitarian popularity. Blacks and whites feel at home in this reassuringly bogus Tuscany. The price of democracy, it would seem, is inauthenticity. Steinglass 2002