Dive into the allure and madness of the American dream in Barcelona

by admin

In Barcelona you can learn about the allure and delirium of the American dream until September. The Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) organises the interesting exhibition ‘Suburbia, building the American Dream’. It´s about the influence of the North American middle-class suburbs on the artistic and cultural imagination.

Half of the US population lives in suburbs. Such a suburb is often a mixture of urban and rural life. It embodies both aspirations and contradictions and shapes values and images. The new exhibition at the CCCB in Barcelona explores the history and cultural impact of these middle-class suburbs from the late 19th century to the present. The complex reality of the American dream is beautifully exposed, with all its nuances and complexities. Inspiration for the title ‘Suburbia’ came from the photo book of the same name by Bill Owens from 1973,

The evolution of suburbs

The development of these American suburbs is explored. Starting with the introduction of rail transport. That made the creation of Brooklyn possible. That was the first suburb for the upper class. The expansion of the suburbs continued with the extension of tram lines. This peaked in the 1950s with car ownership becoming more widespread. Post-war families also looked for more space and moved to the suburbs. The visitor is guided through the “bourgeois utopia”, the “democratisation of housing” through prefabricated houses. The illustrated history also sheds light on challenges faced by housewives and fears of social unrest that led to heavily armed households.

From ‘Disturbia’ to ‘McMansion Hell’

The ‘Disturbia’ part of the exhibition highlights the fear of suburban life. The “Colour of Paradise” section provides a glimpse into the struggles of non-white families moving to the suburbs. The “McMansion Hell” section illustrates the excesses of wealthy homeowners who built extravagant, oversized homes. These homes cost millions and can be up to 16,000 square feet. They are often built without professional input, resulting in kitchens that resemble TV sets and living rooms that look more like hotel lobbies.

Cogesa Expats

A rich collection

The exhibition includes a wide range of items. From 19th century paintings to modern sculptures depicting the collapse of the model of suburban living. It contains paintings by Sevillian artist Alberto Ortega. He captures suburban night scenes in oil. TV series from the 1950s to the present can also be seen. It also includes historic advertisements promoting homeownership over renting, and vintage lawn mowers, washing machines, blenders, refrigerators and toasters. Furthermore, there are several books and magazines, such as a Life magazine edition with tips for surviving a nuclear attack on the cover.

Reflection on our cities

CCCB director Judit Carrera celebrates the 30th anniversary of the cultural centre. With Suburbia she wants to emphasise the role of cities in the current cultural discussion. She sees the exhibition as a reflection on our cities and their social impact. Upcoming programs from the CCCB include American voices, discussions about Catalonia, and a film series in August.

Suburbs in Catalonia

After the American part, the exhibition also presents perspectives on the phenomenon of suburbs in Catalonia. This is done in collaboration with geographer Francesc Muñoz. From single-family homes near Barcelona for weekend getaways to semi-detached houses, the challenges of suburban sprawl are evident everywhere.

Also read: Experiencing nude art in a museum in Barcelona

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