The Venetian, the luxury hotel and casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the famed examples of postmodern tourism.
Costing about $1.5 billion, the hotel was one of the most expensive resorts of its kind when it opened in 1999. The resort includes replicas of–among others–the Palazzo Ducale, Piazza San Marco, Piazzetta di San Marco, the Lion of Venice Column and the Rialto Bridge. But some twenty years after its opening, the simulacrum seems quaint.
In The Venetian, gondoliers still sing for their customers as they happily float on the canals, woozy from the free rum cokes they ordered while playing the slots. The real Venice doesn’t have many singing gondoliers in its canals–most are cursing tourists behind their backs as they remain glued to their screens, as updating our social media accounts about real cities is more enticing than being present in them. In the Venetian, one can be present: the views are as constructed as the images we post of it on our Instagram accounts. Reality isn’t as overwhelming.
In that sense, the hotel is still as postmodern as it gets. But on the other side, the Venetian is now outmoded by actual postmodern cities that do not refer to any reality at all anymore. Dubai is a desert mirage built from designer brands and five-star hotels lined up on an artificial archipelago. Singapore has its squeaky-clean streets, litter and homeless folk removed from the equation by design.
These faux-Venetian streets, by contrast, are nothing but endearing. They pose no threat. The throngs of tourists in its belly are hammering away at the slot machines, surrounded by random jackpot horns. This place was never meant to live in.