Supermarket as a Site of Spectacul-art Pedagogy

Open Access
Wu, Dai-Rong
Graduate Program:
Art Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 07, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Yvonne Madelaine Gaudelius, Dissertation Advisor
  • Yvonne Madelaine Gaudelius, Committee Chair
  • Charles Richard Garoian, Committee Member
  • Joan Landes, Committee Member
  • Christine M Thompson, Committee Member
  • spectacul-art pedagogy
  • spectacle
  • embodiment
  • flâneuse
  • spectacle pedagogy
  • society of extras
In 1967, French cultural theorist and situationist Guy Debord published his work, The Society of the Spectacle, in which he asserted that spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images (Debord, 1994, p.12). Debord’s prophetic assertion has been realized in today’s society due to the improvement of technology and the instantaneity of Internet-based activities. No matter what the form of visual culture, we project our desires on it, withdraw fragments of desire from it, and even map our understandings of people and things through our readings of it. It is in our gazing, reading, interpreting, and even our bodily encounters such as touching, smelling, and tasting the texts of visual culture that the social relations of class, gender, race, and ethnicity are embodied. The role of Wegmans Food Markets as embodied spectacle was almost equally important to me as that of the graduate school during my six years of graduate student life at State College, Pennsylvania. To paraphrase Austrian coffeehouse poet, Peter Altenberg’s words, if I am not at home or on campus, I am at Wegmans or on my way to it. The supermarket, a seemingly ordinary place, is in fact a site where the complicated and subtle operations of the consumerism spectacle lurk. To borrow Debord’s concepts of the spectacle, I deem that the contemporary spectacle of Wegmans sophisticatedly manipulates visual culture and corporeal experiences to embody a worldview which mediates our relationships with others. Knowledge within this worldview endorses the authenticity of facts and realities re-presented in the spectacle. Situated in the nexus of visual culture and contemporary feminist studies, this research thus aims to comb the twisted roots and intricate gnarls of visual culture and to examine through a feminist methodological lens how knowledge and experience are structured in this supermarket spectacle. The flâneuse, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s flâneur, is the feminist methodological device of this research. Her perspective, which is a critical and gendered standpoint of a cultural female Other, is applied here in order to examine this specific everyday place. In addition, the flâneuse’s corporeal experiences are brought into my field research which investigates the dynamic interactions between spectacul-art (pleasant/tasteful visual culture and spectacular/lived performances) and spectator-consumers. In so doing, this research aims to answer the following questions: How does the supermarket spectacle as embodied in Wegmans make spectators consumers? How are consumers tamed by the supermarket spectacle and urged to take actions? What kind of knowledge and experiences are constructed in the supermarket spectacle through visual culture? How does the supermarket spectacle deepen learning in accordance with its ideology through exhibition strategies?