Before I visited the USA Pavilion, I wasn’t aware of the controversies and criticisms surrounding it. I found out later that it is 100% sponsored by more than 60 American as well as Chinese businesses and corporations ($0 from the US tax-paying public), and flak was rife for the pavilion’s failure to leave a Titanic impression considering the hefty US$61 million price tag. As much as the biz-wiz paid for the pavilion, it seemed they are also the reason it sank. The inside of the pavilion felt like one big advertisement box.
The pavilion’s design was supposed to be a metaphoric representation of an eagle with its wings widespread but architects and critiques preferred the description – car dealership. I agree, the grey elephant looks like something I can find at Leng Kee.
I queued for about 2 hours to see 3 show clips and a lot of brand logos… that’s how the Americans became the no.1 economy perhaps? A culture and tradition focused on and encouraging consumerism? Well, at least that’s the message I got. Not that that approach is right or wrong. Just that it makes for one rather boring pavilion. From the country who gave us Avatar. Blame it on Hollywood for setting the bar of expectation.
The 3 short films consisted of a welcome clip where everyday American folks tried to speak Mandarin, a filmlet titled the Spirit of America, and a show about working together for a more beautiful urban living environment.
The shows cost US$23 million to produce, which was more than the cost of production for the Oscar-winning movie, The Hurt Locker. Producers of the 3 clips are probably hurt, and stuffed up in a locker by now since investors decried the value of the shows.
While I find the USA Pavilion dull, I must say that no one beats the American in crafting it’s message. Perhaps it’s the big brother to the world mentality that the States is used to that its shows harbour broader concepts such as teamwork and partnership.
It’s not so much what USA can do, but what we can do together. As one world. Sounds like a big PR campaign. But one that rings true and masterfully delivered through President Obama, Hillary Clinton and the use of children.
Here’s a short excerpt on the main show which was projected onto a series of 5 unconventional screens.
It just occurred to me that this post about the United States’ pavilion is posted on September 11. May the grim anniversary reminds us all that harmony and tolerance is not a God-given, but man-driven. Maintaining peace is a lot of hard work!