Realism and Illusion: Catherine Wagner Photographs the Disney Theme Parks

Exhibition, Octagonal gallery, 17 June 1997 to 28 September 1997

Realism and Illusion: Catherine Wagner Photographs the Disney Theme Parks presents a visual essay of the Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, and Paris. Fascinated by the importance of illusion in the design and layout of the parks, Wagner aspired “to add yet another layer of deception to this already simulated world, our world, where illusion is now more real than life.”

Known for her photographs of sites in development (the George Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco), classrooms (American Classrooms), domestic interiors (Home and Other Stories), and laboratories (Art and Science), Wagner has shown a special concern throughout her career for “fabricated” environments. The first work by Wagner to use a colour process, Realism and Illusion was created through a photographic commission by the CCA. Visiting the Disney parks for the first time, Wagner saw them as “the contemporary landscape par excellence, archetypes of American culture.” From the start, she chose to photograph the parks when closed to the public, hoping to encourage viewers to project themselves into the images, at the same time intensifying the ambiguities of the sites.

The photographs are also included in the exhibition catalogue Designing Disney’s Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance, edited by Karal Ann Marling.

Curators: Paolo Costantini and Nicholas Olsberg, CCA.

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