Spectacle is a dynamic visual essay that celebrates public performance worldwide.

David Rockwell with Bruce Mau


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About the book

This book is a visual essay documenting the notion and history of spectacle, those public performances and happenings that galvanize hordes of people and, if only for a brief moment, express the culture of our time in mass participation. From the dazzling opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games to the surreal circus atmosphere of performance troupes like Cirque du Soleil, from holiday parades like Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to religious events such as the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela, which drew millions of pilgrims in 2001, this volume is a tribute to the art of celebration and ritual. As design impresario David Rockwell notes in the book's interview, "the focus of this book's journey is the value of being there. It's not about something happening to you, it's about participating...This is looking at things that are temporary and the power of something that can burst and happen and go away."

As editors of this book, Mau and Rockwell bring together eye-popping photographs, interviews, and brief essays that examine the art, evolution, and cultural impact of spectacles old and new and around the globe. The book is divided in six thematic sections, each expressing an aspect of the ritualistic event: Big, Bold, Brief, Connect, Transform, Immerse. Each section documents three spectacles, ranging from the Kumbh Mela celebration in India to Carnival celebrations to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona; from the glitzy mass appeal of Las Vegas to the historical reenactment of the Calcio Storico in Florence, and ephemeral events like fireworks displays and flashmobs. Each featured spectacle includes several spreads of stunning colour and archival photographs, a brief description, selected statistics, and an interview with a noted cultural figure, among whom are art critic Dave Hickey, architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, prizefighter Muhammad Ali, and music impresario Quincy Jones. Illustrated sidebars profile historical figures and events, such as Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games, and Cedric Price's Fun Palace in London of the 1960s.

Spectacle presents an unprecedented collection of dynamic images that convey the palpable buzz, sheer beauty, and often bizarre fascination of man-made events worldwide. And, for those readers with a desire to get closer to the scenes as spectators or participants, the book includes a listing of 40 events with factual information (where, what, when); among these are the Dakar Motor Rally, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan, Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, the New York City Marathon, and Ibiza raves.


About the author(s)
Bruce Mau is the Chairman and Creative Directer of Bruce Mau Design, which has gained international recognition for innovative multidisciplinary work. He is the author of Life Style and Massive Change, both published by Phaidon, and designed and conceived the award-winning book S, M, L, XL with Rem Koolhaas.

David Rockwell is the founder and CEO of Rockwell Group in New York, an internationally acclaimed architecture, planning, and design firm specializing in restaurant, cultural, educational, theatre and film design.

Benjamin Britten
Directing a Play