Imogen Adams

MA work

Title of Dissertation: ‘Lost in the ’50s’?: Mythology and Metamorphosis in the Revival of the Diner

Driving through America, it would seem the whole country has gone ‘Back to the Future’. Listening to the radio, you hear commercials for ‘retro’ ice-cream flavours; visiting an electrical store, you browse the ‘Nostalgia Electrics’ range; shopping in the supermarket, you can choose a Retro 7up or Pepsi Throwback.

The diner is no exception to this retro-fuelled profit generator. Reinvented in the 1980s, the ’50s diner became a key theme for restaurateurs seeking a competitive USP. The diner came to symbolise milkshakes, teenagers and the ‘good old days’, portrayed in celluloid by Grease and Happy Days. Customers’ hunger for the experience proved insatiable, from Australia to Cyprus, Moscow to Dubai.

The ’50s themed diner promises to transport customers to another time. Yet, is it really the 1950s customers return to, or an imagined Utopia? Myth has transformed a problematic history, including racism, sexism and fear of atomic fallout, into halcyon days. ‘Lost in the ’50s’, reads a sign hanging in Dale’s Diner, Long Beach, an archetypal ’50s themed diner with checked-floor and booths modelled as Chevrolets. The sign exemplifies the loss for the 1950s we currently espouse. 7up Retro and Pepsi Throwback are termed ‘retro’ for their use of ‘real’ sugar, exemplifying the equation of the retro with the real. With this in mind, I reconsider whether this yearning for a perfected version of the past, worryingly deemed authentic, is healthy. Does nostalgia compel us to be dissatisfied and alienated from our present?

Info

  • Imogen Adams profile image
  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Fine Art

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2013

  • Title of Dissertation: ‘Lost in the ’50s’?: Mythology and Metamorphosis in the Revival of the Diner

    Driving through America, it would seem the whole country has gone ‘Back to the Future’. Listening to the radio, you hear commercials for ‘retro’ ice-cream flavours; visiting an electrical store, you browse the ‘Nostalgia Electrics’ range; shopping in the supermarket, you can choose a Retro 7up or Pepsi Throwback.

    The diner is no exception to this retro-fuelled profit generator. Reinvented in the 1980s, the ’50s diner became a key theme for restaurateurs seeking a competitive USP. The diner came to symbolise milkshakes, teenagers and the ‘good old days’, portrayed in celluloid by Grease and Happy Days. Customers’ hunger for the experience proved insatiable, from Australia to Cyprus, Moscow to Dubai.

    The ’50s themed diner promises to transport customers to another time. Yet, is it really the 1950s customers return to, or an imagined Utopia? Myth has transformed a problematic history, including racism, sexism and fear of atomic fallout, into halcyon days. ‘Lost in the ’50s’, reads a sign hanging in Dale’s Diner, Long Beach, an archetypal ’50s themed diner with checked-floor and booths modelled as Chevrolets. The sign exemplifies the loss for the 1950s we currently espouse. 7up Retro and Pepsi Throwback are termed ‘retro’ for their use of ‘real’ sugar, exemplifying the equation of the retro with the real. With this in mind, I reconsider whether this yearning for a perfected version of the past, worryingly deemed authentic, is healthy. Does nostalgia compel us to be dissatisfied and alienated from our present?

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History of Art, University College London, 2011
  • Experience

  • Researcher, Reform Gallery, Los Angeles, 2012; Assistant, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 2010
  • Awards

  • Bard Graduate Center Scholarship, New York, Exchange Programme, 2012