Discuss the exhibition in relation to the spaces and subjects of modernity

For many people, World Fairs evoke images of crowds, food, entertainment, and fun. For others, fairs were places where new technologies and consumerproducts were unveiled, and for others still, these expositions exposed them to architecture, art, design, and a range of foreign cultures. The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London, 1851, was the first international exhibition of manufactured goods and it had an immeasurable consequence on the course of art and design during that time period and beyond (Ross, n.d.). “For most visitors, the stars of the show were the machines which were powering the world’s first industrial revolution: cotton looms, telegraphy systems, printing presses and, best of all, steam engines” (Barbrook, n.d.).
The overriding theme in the New York Fair of 1939 was the "Building the World of Tomorrow with the Tools of Today." Many new technologies were presented and popularized at the New York fair, including developments in “radio, television, color photography, labor saving electrical devices, home building materials, and most importantly, transportation” (Nee, 2004). Exhibits on the newly emerging mode of air travel were popular, and the rail and ship industry had sleek buildings and exhibits. However, the exhibit that stole the show was the "Futurama" exhibit, sponsored by General Motors (Nee, 2004).
Both of these cities, already steeped in a diverse culture, looked to future developments as the cornerstone of the world-class fairs. As in most large expositions, both contained various ethnic offerings of food, entertainment and religious exhibits. Social influences were bound by these fairs in two ways. Diverse cultures integrated which expanded an individual’s thoughts and knowledge outside of their own small world. “The fairs also introduced many inventions creating methods of making the world smaller electronically. Inside the Crystal Palace, new technology became the icon of modernity… Machinery was materialised ideology” (Barbrook, n.d.). Despite differences regarding the ideological meaning of new technologies, defining the symbolism of machinery meant owning the imaginary future.
These fairs merged cultural ideals and dreams and made distances between them seem less so. Subsequent to the London Exhibition, other countries swiftly organised their own industrial festivals in order to showcase their own idea path to the future. Within only two years, New York had held its first Worlds Fair and, a couple years later, Paris had hosted its inaugural exposition. Like the Great Exhibition, these fairs were spectacles of modernization that merged many cultures of thought and sculpted world vision of the future. “The 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition had more than 21 million visitors and the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition attracted nearly 48 million spectators” (Barbrook, n.d.). Great masses of people from many different nations and cultures came together at these events.
World’s fairs don’t have the same impact that they used to as the technology and our access to it is such a given in modern life – the modern life promised, if not factually, by world fairs of the past. It would take a lot to impress us and to travel to foreign lands to interact with its culture or view its latest technology. We now have a 24-hour informational exposition of sorts on our desktop in the form of the internet.
Barbrook, Richard. (n.d.). “The Future is What it Used to be.” Debaliedossiers. Accessed 15 January, 2006 from .
Nee, Brendan. (November, 2004). “Fair and Square: The Legacy of World’s Fair Planning.” Accessed 15 January, 2006 from &lt. http://www.bnee.com/research/worldsfair/worldsfair.php&gt..
Ross, David. (n.d.). “The Great Exhibition of 1851.” Britain Express English History. Accessed 15 January, 2006 from .