You should want this on your coffee table
On June 5, 2018, Rachel Riot and I embarked on a journey with the goal of photographing the carpets of every casino on the Las Vegas strip. We trekked the 8.6 mile round trip, bouncing from freezing air conditioned casinos to the 100º+ heat on the strip, stopping only occasionally to rehydrate with White Castle burgers and vodka tonics. Normally I avoid projects this demanding, but this was different. What lie ahead was the opportunity to catalog an array of poor design choices unlike any other. Like John Steinbeck in “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”, we hardly understood the gravity of what we were about to see. By the end of the evening as we sat waiting for the roller coaster at New York New York, our revelations had only begun to sink in.
Most people spend there time in Las Vegas looking at the lights and attractions, distracted by the bells and whistles of slot machines, the barking of croupiers, and the incessant soundtrack of Rihanna’s “We Found Love”. It’s a dizzying cacophony that engages hyper-arousal, or the “fight or flight” response, as it is more commonly known. In that frenzied state, most spectators miss a truly horrifying piece of the Las Vegas experience: Looking down.
There on the floor of every casino lay hundreds of thousands of yards of some of the most aesthetically offensive, and at times vertigo inducing, motifs ever woven. Paisley and Fleur-de-lis mashed against faux graffiti and jungle foliage in unimaginable ways. Nautical instruments and aerial views, post modern geometry, architectural and textile embellishments are all arranged in a manner that reduces thousands of years of science and art to a mélange of nothingness. You get lightheaded and feel somewhat nauseous, maybe from the heat or from the pairing of colors, or perhaps because you realize others see these horrible floor coverings as “opulence”.
The haunting question that refrains in your head is not how this was done, but why. With each photograph in this book, we have hypothesized on what may have inspired the art direction. What exactly were they going for? What were they inspired by? It’s as if you force fed someone flowers, and skittles, and tropical fish until they vomited all over the floor. It’s mind boggling. It is the ethos of excess. The same ethos that has led to other great American abominations, like the Meat Lovers Pizza, the Chevy Avalanche, Hummer limousines and Nicki Minaj. Attention grabbing spectacles satisfying the appetite for more. Las Vegas mirrors the worst outcome of the American dream; a constant wanting of more followed by a quick dismissal, endlessly repeating.
After an entire day spent surveying hundreds of these catastrophes of interior design, bloated and befuddled from the heat, you feel as if you’ve fallen down Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole. By the end, you are staggering about the strip with Grace Slick’s voice singing “White Rabbit” in your head. Except…you are completely sober.
As the sun set over the strip and the sky turned that deep blue of The Palazzo’s carpet, I am reminded of what a wise man once said about ambition; “You’ll never be taken seriously if you let people walk all over you.”
Tragic Carpet: A photographic study of every carpet on the Las Vegas strip
38 pages full color, SIGNED
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