Picture Window | Worlds Away

Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes


Walker Art Center,
February 16 - August 17, 2008

Carnegie Museum of Art,
October 4, 2008 - January 18, 2009

Yale School of Architecture
March 2 - May 10, 2009

Because suburbia occupies a dominant presence in so many lives—a place of not only residence but also of work, commerce, worship, education, and leisure—it has become a focal point for competing interests and viewpoints. The suburbs have always been a fertile space for imagining both the best and the worst of modern social life. more

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Drawn Here: Sean Griffiths of FAT
Target Free Thursday Nights
Thursday, March 6 7:00 pm

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Free First Saturday
Saturday, April 5 10:00 am to 3:00 pm


Next Exit: The Shifting Landscape of Suburbia
Target Free Thursday Nights
Thursday, April 24 7:00 pm

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All essays are originally from the companion book for this exhibition, Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes. Some essays appear in excerpted form where noted.

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We asked people to make a video telling us about the suburbs and put it on YouTube. Selected videos are showing in the gallery at the Walker Art Center during the run of the exhibition.

Selected Videos

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Original Submission Call

See YouTube video call

Do you live in a suburb? Do you work or go to school in one? What is your experience of the “burbs? ”…

Whether you love them or hate them we’re interested in your thoughts on the phenomenon of the American suburb. We invite you to make a 5-minute video about strip malls, cul-de-sacs, office parks, and green lawns or whatever suburbia means to you. A select number of videos will be chosen to screen as part of the exhibition Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes in the Target Gallery from February 15 to May 18, 2008.

To participate, upload your video to YouTube and add the tag “walkerworldsaway” or post it as a response to our video above. We’ll feature all videos on the Walker’s YouTube page. To be considered for gallery screening, entries must be 5 minutes or less and be online by January 18, 2008.

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Picture Window


1: A large window, or grouping of windows, designed to frame an exterior view in a house A picture window dominates the wall or the room in which it is located.

2: A metaphor for suburbia

The term gained in popularity during the post-war period when it was used by author John Keats in his 1957 novel, The Crack in the Picture Window. Writes William S. Saunders, “Keats’ novel so railed against the disfunctionalities of suburban lifestyles that he compared suburbia to the urban nightmare of George Orwell’s 1984.”1

“His characters were John and Mary Drone, who lived in Rolling Knolls, where ‘For literally nothing down, you too can ind a box of your own in one of the fresh-air slums we’re building around the edges of American cities . . . inhabited by people whose age, income, number of children, problems, habits, conversations, dress, possessions, perhaps even blood types are almost precisely like yours.’”2

The picture window as literary device makes another appearance in Benjamin Cheever’s novel The Good Nanny (2004). Aileen Panetta writes, “The reference to the picture window is telling. Critics ofthe suburbs were ready to assert that the physical environment, the house itself, could have a debilitating effect on the inhabitants—destroy their personalities. The picture window became a contested object. Builders maintained that, besides being cheap to install, it allowed maximum access to light and to nature; critics decried its ubiquity, its charmlessness, its negation of privacy, and its enforcement of the display of virtually identical status objects. For its detractors, the picture window became synonymous with the ills of suburbia itself.”3


1 William S. Saunders, Sprawl and Suburbia: A Harvard Design Magazine Reader (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). (↑)

2 Rosalynn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen, Picture Windows: How Suburbs Happened (New York: Basic Books, 2001). (↑)

3 Aileen Panetta, “Westchester: The Suburb in Fiction” from Westchester: The American Suburb, ed. Roger G. Panetta (Bronx, New York: Fordham University Press, 2006). (↑)


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