While I have been previously exploring retail environments, and the methods they use to enhance visitor numbers, sales and the overall shopping experience, I have become interested in the idea of the ‘mall’ as a whole. After becoming interested in Benjamin’s ‘Arcades Project’ and the comments he makes not only on the architecture of the arcades but of the characters, politics and intricacies of visiting the arcades. I am interested in the way that this overall experience is what lasts in the memory of the shopper, primarily the space and how one interacts with it, but also in the way that the shopper experiences the space as a person interacting with objects and other people, which are uncontrollable by the large firms, yet still remarkable shape ones memory of the shopping experience.
I am interested in the way that the space, as the unchanging factor, can be the defining factor in the shopping experience. If the space is older and less interesting architecturally, perhaps the shopping experience becomes dull and old-feeling too. I aim to quantify the experience of each shopping centre through a form of colour analysis. I am interested in recording colours as experienced in different views of the shopping centres, as colours are intrinsically attached to emotions, so can relay an experience of a place subtly to the viewer that will allow the viewer to understand the experience of the place without travelling there.
In order to complete this experiment I completed actions as follows:
- Collate a data group of images from the inside of the shopping centre. These shall be the first 20 images that come up when the phrase ‘Shopping Centre Interior’ is uttered. The only reason not to use one of these photographs is because it features mainly a store front, rather than the specific architecture of the space.
- Run these images through a program which finds the most prominent hex values within the image and record these in an Excel spreadsheet.
- Find out what colour on average each shopping centre is and understand what this means about the experience of each space. Find trends and averages within the data set.
Firstly, I set about collecting the images from Google image search as detailed above. Below are some of the sample images I collecting when investigating three shopping centres – The Oracle, Reading, Westfield, Shepherds Bush, and The Bullring, Birmingham. I chose to investigate these well know centres as I was interested in whether the colours changed depending on footfall, location or just the general experience of the space.
Sample Images from The Bullring, Birmingham
Sample Images from Westfield Stratford City, London
Sample Images from The Oracle, Reading
After collecting these images, 20 from each shopping centre, I ran them through some online software in order to find the most prominent colours in each image.
From each image, I took the most prominent three colours and entered them into my spreadsheet to document the wealth of colours in each image, and aim to find an average colour. I measured the colours in Hex values, as this was the easiest way to recreate specific colours uniformly across different programs, and different ways of displaying information.
My spreadsheets had several categories to sort the information, and thus be able to draw out differences and make conclusions based upon the information shown. Firstly, I categorised the image by using a descriptive title of whereabouts in the shopping centre the picture was taken, then the location of the shopping centre. I then took the image URL, so the viewer would be able to view the source image that colour information was taken from themselves. I then displayed the colour information of all the images next to one another.
Link to Completed Spreadsheet – Colours of the Shopping Centre
After inputting all the information, I wanted to find the average most prominent colour for each shopping centre, assigning a shopping centre a personality and sense of feeling through this colour grading. I found the average by running all the hex values for the primary, secondary and tertiary colours of each image through some software to find a combined hex value for each shopping destination, on http://www.colorhexa.com/.
My results were as follows:
The Oracle, Reading
The Bullring, Birmingham
Westfield Stratford City, London
Although arguably very similar shades of brown, the nuances of each colour, being darker or lighter, more green or more red are really highlighted when they are contextualised amongst each other. I am interested in colour as a form of classification for the experience of the shopping centre, and enjoyed the process of the research, data wrangling and investigation that procuring the data entailed. Overall, I am very happy with the outcome of the spreadsheet, and would like to explore the use of investigating the colours of retail environments further, including more locations.
Perhaps one of the artist’s practices who I take the most inspiration from is Sophie Calle. Her practice which involves very personal take on investigation and surveillance adopts a rigid set of rules, combined with the beauty of chance in order to create works which explore themes of of stalking, personal relationships and the distance between friend and stranger. Calle’s works are always an intervention in the own outcomes of her existence, and her works are confessional in that they always begin or end with a deeply personal connection to the artist.
In her work, ‘The Gotham Handbook’ (1999), Calle was challenged by writer and earlier collaborator, Paul Aster, to create and maintain a public amenity. She began to create an amenity in a pre-existing phone booth, adding flowers, cigarettes, newspapers and snacks, and restocking and cleaning the booth once a day. She would spend one hour in the booth each day, recording the interactions of passersby, how many people smiled back at her and the number of users of her public amenity. She photographed these passersby, and noted their actions down, forming a detailed photographic report which acts of evidence of the work within an exhibition context. I am interested in how she demands the participation of the wanderer on the street, whether authorised or unauthorised, and makes people her investigation – their interactions and experiences becoming the data that she logs, photographs and works with. Her investigative impulse into human behaviour requires a certain rigidity, a set of rules, and the variable that is measured becomes the aspect of chance – whether or not the wanderer chooses to interact with the phone booth, or whether the wanderer chooses to walk past.
In addition, I am also interested in her commitment to the pursuit of investigation that informs her practice. For example, she has followed people from city to city, photographing them and fully immersing herself in situations that would otherwise be alien to her. She bridges a gap between whereby consent becomes a tricky subjects as she makes no interventions into people’s lives but rather investigates them in a manner which is intrusive and difficult to define morally. Her investigations take the form of photographic reports, diary entries and records which obsessively relay to the audience a full picture of the surroundings that Calle has immersed herself within. For example, she has acted as a hotel maid in order to photograph people’s items, as well as following gentlemen across countries to photograph their comings and goings within these spaces, as such her rigid documentation and rules on following the subjects allow the magic of the investigation to fall into the elements of the investigation that have become coincidental and strange.
In my own work, I would like to employ a form of rigid discipline in the style of Calle when investigating and collecting my own data. Although the subject of my work is nowhere near as personal as Calle’s, her methods for collecting data are very interesting to me. The way that she takes photographs to document, and the way that these may be beautiful photographs, but need not be is very interesting to me. The photographs become an illustration of a position, of the investigation as seen through Calle’s eyes; as such, I would like to explore using photographs more effectively within my own data collection on retail spaces, and worry less about creating ‘aesthetic’ images, and rather just record for the sake of recording. Much like Calle’s investigations, my investigations are essentially futile, as the result of such will not change the outcome of anyone’s actions per say, but rather record behaviour as I find myself as the wanderer recording my own steps and adventures throughout different retail environments.
As well as taking inspiration from the way she records information, I am also interested in how her interventions allow her to travel and create experiences which inherently become part of the art, yet is invisible and almost unimaginable to the viewer, as they can be experienced through descriptions, and imagined through photographs, but they are also deeply personal and inherently tied to the choice of the artist themselves. As such, I want to experience my investigation as a rounded experience, rather than purely a data collecting exercise.
Chapter 1: The Commodity
“The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind.” – p125
“Exchange-value appears first of all as the quantitate relation, the proportion, in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of another kind. This relation changes constantly with time and place.” – p126
“… exchange-value cannot be anything other than the mode of expression, the ‘form of appearance’, of a content distinguishable from it.” – p127
“As use-values commodities differ above all in quality, while as exchange-values they can only differ in quantity, and therefore contain no atom of use-value.” -p128
“A use-value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because abstract human labour is objectified or materialised in it.” -p129
“…the greater the productivity of labour, the less the labour-time necessary to produce an article, and the greater its value.” -p131
“Labour, then, as the creator of use-values, as useful labour, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself.” -p133
“Lining both sides of these corridors, which get their light from above, are the most elegant shops, so that the arcade is a city, a world in miniature” p31
“Years of reckless financial speculation under Louis XVIII. With the dramatic signage of the magasins de nouveautes, art enters the service of the businessman.” p34
“Shops in the Passage de Panoramas: Restaurant Veron, reading room, music shop, Marquis, wine merchants, hosier, haberdashers, tailors, bootmakers, hosiers, bookshops, caricaturis, Theatre des Varietes. Compared with this, the Passage Vivienne was the “solid” arcade. There, one found no luxury shops. Dream Houses: arcade as nave with side chapels.” p37
“…attributed Louis Phillipe the saying: “God be praised, and my shops too.” The arcades are temples of commodity capital.” p37
“Arcades as origin of department stores? Which of the magasins named above were located in arcades?” p37
“The main character, the General, has in peacetime become an industrialist and indeed a great manufacturer. “Here manufacturing replaces, at the hghest level, the field worked by the soldier-labourer. The praises of industry, no less than the praises of warriors and laureates, were sung by Restoration vaudeville. The bourgeois class, with its various levels, was placed opposite the class of nobles: the fortune acquired by work was opposed to ancient heraldry, to the turrets of the old manor house. This Third Estate, having become the dominant power, received in turn its flatterers.” Theodore Muret, ‘L’histoire par le theatre, vol. 2, p306″ p39 – A2a,6
“Evidently people smoked in the arcades at a time when it was not yet acustomary to smoke in the street. “I must say a word here about life in the arcades, favoured haunt of strollers and smokers, theatre of operations for every kind of small business. In each arcade there is at least one cleaning establishment. In a salon that is as elegantly furnished as its intended use permits, gentlemen sit upon high stools and comfortably peruse a newspaper while someone busily brushes the dirt off their clothing and boots.” Ferdinand von Gall, ‘Paris und seine Salons’, vol. 2 <Oldenburg, 1845>, pp. 22-23″ p41 – A3,9
“Rainshowers annoy me, so I gave one the slip in an arcade. There are great many of these glass-covered walkways, which often cross through the blocks of buildings and make several brachings, thus affording welcome shortcuts. Here and there they are constructed with great elegance, and in bad weather or after dark, when they are lit up bright as day, they offer promenades – and very popular they are – past rows of glittering shops.” Eduard Devrient, ‘Briefe aus Paris’ (Berlin, 1840), p. 34″ p42 – A3a,4
“The arcade is a street of lascivious commerce only; it is wholly adapted to arousing desires. Because in this street the juices slow to a standstill, the commodity proliferates along the margins and enters into fantastic combinations, like the tissue in tumours. – The flaneur sabotages the traffic. Moreover, he is no buyer. He is the merchandise.” p42 – A3a,7
“For the first time in history, with the establishment of department stores, consumers begin to consider themselves a mass. (Earlier it was only scarcity which taught them that.) Hence, the circus-like and theatrical element of commerce is quite extraordinarily heightened.” p43 – A4,1
“Signboards. After the rebus style came a vogue for literary and military allusions. “If an eruption of the hilltop of Montmatre happened to swallow up Paris, as Vesuvius swallowed up Pompeii, one would be able to reconstruct from our sign-boards, after fifteen hundred years, the history of our military triumphs, and of our literature.” Victor Fournel, ‘Ce qu’on voit dans les rues de Paris’ (Paris, 1858), p.286 (“Enseignes et affiches”).” p51 – A7a,3
“The importance of good professional standing is magnified in proportion as consumer know-how becomes more specialized.” p51 – A7a,4
“…the male employee, who replaces the seduction of man by woman – something conceived by shopkeepers of the ancien regime – with the seduction of woman by man, which is psychologically more astute. Together with these comes the fixed price, the known an negotiable cost.” …” p52 – A8,3
“Sales clerks: “There are at least 20,000 in Paris…. A great number of sales clerks have been educated in the classics… ; one even finds among them painters and architects unaffiliated with any workshop, who use a great deal of their knowledge… of these two branches of art in constructing displays, in determining the design of new items, in directing the creation of fashions.” Pierre Larousse, ‘Grand Dictionnaire universel du XIX siecle’, vol. 3 (Paris, 1867), p. 150 (article on “Calicot”)” p53 – A9,1
“Street salons: “The largest and most favourably situated among these [street galleries] were tastefully decorated and sumptuously furnished. The walls and ceilings were covered with… rare marble, gilding,… mirrors, and paintings. The windows were adorned with splendid hangings and with curtains embroidered in marvellous patterns. Chairs, fauteuils, sofas… offered comfortable seating to tired strollers. Finally, there were artistically designed objects, antique cabinets,… glass cases full of curiosities,… porcelain vases containing fresh flowers, aquariums full of live fish, and aviaries inhabited by rare birds….” p54 – A9a,1
“Our epoch will be the link between the age of isolated forces rich in original creativeness and that of the uniform but levelling force which gives monotony to its products, casting them in masses, and following out one unifying idea – the ultimate expression of social communities.” H. de Balzac, ‘L’Illustre Gaudissart’, ed. Calmann-Levy (Paris, 1837), p.1.” p58 – A11a,7
“On Baudelaire’s “religious intoxication of great cities”: the department stores are temples consecrated to this intoxication.” p61 – A13
“Here fashion has opened the business of dialectical exchange between woman and ware – between carnal pleasure and the corpse. The clerk, death, tall and loutish, measures the century by the yard, serves as mannequin himself to save costs, and manages single-handedly the liquidation that in French is called revolution. For fashion was never anything other than the parody of the motley cadaver….” p63 – B1,4
“A definitive perspective on fashion follows solely from the consideration that to each generation the one immediately preceding it seems the most radical anti-aphrodisiac imaginable” p64 – B1a,4
For our group screening today we watched ‘La Jetée’ by Chris Marker, from 1962. The film is shot in black and white, with a running time of 28 minutes. Rather than using a fast frame rate in order to give the illusion of movement, as with most films, Marker assembles this film from still images, which linger on the screen and tell the narrative in an interestingly paced way. ‘La Jetée’ is set in the aftermath of World War III, where survivors live underground in a ruined Paris. In order to sustain their survival, scientists have begun to experiment with time travel, in the hope of asking the past and the future to come to their aid. They need a person with a very strong mental image of the past in order to project his consciousness into the past, and so they select ‘the Man’, as he has clear image of a man being killed on an airplane pier from his childhood. The cyclical nature of the narrative means that this very image is in fact the scene of his own death, and the Man occupies two times within the same moment.
Research into Chris Marker
Research into French New Wave
Critique of Hollywood
Research into French Historical Memory
Thoughts on the role of memory and the form of the film
Personal Thoughts and Opinions