In contrasting spectacle with carnival, Susan Stewart in On Longing exposes the psycho-dynamics of the spectacular:
[T]he viewer of the spectacle is absolutely aware of the distance between self and spectacle. The spectacle functions to avoid contamination: “Stand back, ladies and gentlemen, what you are about to see will shock and amaze you.” And at the same time, the spectacle assumes a singular direction. In contrast to the reciprocal gaze of carnival and festival, the spectacle assumes that the object is blinded; only the audience sees.
In exposing a rather willful assumption, Stewart invites readers to dwell upon how that particular blindness is constructed not out of distance per se but rather out of how the directions crossing any distance are imagined. In short, viewer-readers are implicitly asked to consider that their own acts of looking and reading are open to observation by others. Every voyeur, as opposed to every spy, is a wee bit of an exhibitionist. And conversely good festival requires a smidgen of voyeurism on the part of the performers.
Watch what happens when this lens is applied to reading Laura Hatcher’s opening sentences in “Full Frontal Beauty” in Spacing (Winter 2006)
Front yards are private spaces, but very public displays of personality. If you have a front yard, you have a visible way to insert yourself into the urban landscape.
The “yourself” bifurcates. Those that have no front yards have other visible ways (and invisible ones too) to insert themselves. In a more fundamental way the figure of the yardless questions, for some readers, the collapse between personality and self. Where’s the distance? The vital distance.
The elephant in the room is the elephant on the page. One of the properties described has in a smallish front yard a big fibreglass elephant. The resident and caretaker of the elephant reports
[…] strangers have left notes at the base of the elephant, and other times he has found offerings of jewellery and flowers. People feel a personal, or even spiritual, connection with the space he has created.
You got to love the pronoun reference ambiguity: the elephant and the resident co-create. And the description of the depositing of respectful traces of passing indicates that “insertion” may not be the dominant mode of spatial relations in the urban landscape. Not being in public but of the public.
Differently attuned to the evidence of reciprocity, it is not so difficult to avoid making a monument synonymous with a spectacle. Monuments can function as mirrors; spectacles, never.
And so for day 14