De Antwerpse wereldtentoonstelling van 1894 als ambigu spektakel van de moderniteit | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 125, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163


This article discusses how in the late nineteenth century the modernity of the world exhibition was an extremely ambiguous phenomenon. The world exhibition is not only the place par excellence where unbridled belief in the future is celebrated, but is also the place where tension and alienation can be observed. Here the notion of the spectacle has exceptional heuristic potential. On the one hand the spectacle alienates man from his social reality and encloses him in an endless circulation and consumption of images. On the other hand the spectacle attempts to neutralize the tensions that modernity brings, by expelling everything that does not fit within the image. The Antwerp world exhibition of 1894 well illustrates this ambiguity. In realistic mises en scènes, such as the Congo village and the Oriental neighborhood, the audience was invited to step into the image and take it as real. This immersive strategy was used to its greatest extent in Old Antwerp. In this highly accurate reconstruction of a sixteenthcentury quarter the visitor imagined that by plunging into history he could escape all the commotion and exhaustion of modern life.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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