Film Commons



This project takes inspiration from the critical theory of the Frankfurt school of philosophy. In the 1930’s Philosophers such as Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno were in the process of developing critical theories on Capitalism and Modern culture. Under the threat of Nazi persecution, Adorno and his contemporaries emigrated to Los Angeles where he developed his theory of the Culture Industry, a critique of the homoginization of mass produced culture in the mdorn era. Hollywood stood at the epicenter of cultural production in the United States at the time, and an important focus of Adorno’s critique was focused on filmmaking.

The 1940’s were a crucial point in the history of Los Angeles. The LA river flooded in 1938 and resulted in the Army Corps of engineers pushing through the channelization of the river in order to mitigate floods and accommodate industrial production. The result of this decision was to extinguish the natural riparian flow of the river. At the same time, suburbanization was beginning to take off in the areas surrounding L.A. effectively straight jacketing of the river and extinguishing the hope that it might provide vital public space in the increasingly dense urban area. The next several decades of growth would produce a significant amount of urban sprawl and along with it, sheet the LA rivers water table in Concrete. The new channel became the signifier of blight in the cultural imagination and a slew of films would be released over the century that projected the social anxieties of the city onto the world.

This thesis will be focusing on LA because of its development alongside the American culture industry throughout the 20th century. The proposal will pool the collective resources of the city's cultural capital as it relates to the film industry and build networks of common infrastructure in order to empower those citizens on the forgotten end of the river.  
Faculty Advisor:
Gina Reichert