The influence that a retail environment can exert over the perceived free will of the consumer disrupts our sense of absolute consumer choice and ability to see ourselves as individuals. The absolutism of the individual is disrupted, as one can be coerced into acting and interacting with commercial spaces in the way that an architect has intended for you. I am interested in how these manipulations manifest themselves within the mind of the individual, and how the experience of the shopping centre as a destination relate to its ‘unique’ sense of highly designed space.
My work was focused on an investigation of the average colour of four different shopping locations within the South of England. I carried out my investigation by travelling to each of the different locations and engaging with the spaces, acting as a shopper, tracing the steps that were intended for me by the directors of the retail space. I documented the retail environments by taking photographs in each location, which I then analysed to find the most prominent colours of each image, combining these to find the average colour of each retail environment.
I wanted to explore colour as a means of analysing the perceived successfulness of the space by the shopper. Colour has an intrinsic tie to emotion, and therefore by quantifying the experience of the space to an assigned average colour, one can experience an emotional account of my travelling investigation purely through colour, without needing to experience the space physically, as it becomes a unifying device of measurement.
I was influenced by the writings Walter Benjamin, in particular ‘The Arcades Project’ (1927-40). Benjamin used this literary collage to describe the full scope of the experience of the Parisian Arcades, from their history, to the merchants and characters that occupied them. Benjamin wrote, “The arcade is a street of lascivious commerce only; it is wholly adapted to arousing desires”; this concept of a romantic place being intrinsically tied to the system of commodity seems an antagonistic binary, however the liaison of desire and commerce still conquers today, as we stroll through our contemporary shopping centres. This prompted me to investigate this relationship between how the form of the space is manipulated for the creation of commodity exchange.
Sharon Kivland’s work has also greatly influenced my practice; ‘La forme-valeur’ (2006) explored a particular shade of pink used for the scent ‘Allure’ by Chanel, as a background to printed quotes from Marx’s ‘Capital Vol. I’. This work debates the fetishism of colour and its ability to entice the viewer and illicit an emotional response, in order to facilitate an exchange of consumer goods. This inspired me to investigate colour myself, using colour as a means of identification and classification, but also of seduction, exploring why colour is chosen within commercial contexts to illicit fetishist responses to the commodity.
Furthermore, I was influenced by Susan Hiller, in particular her work, ‘Dedicated to the Unknown Artists’ (1972-76), as she catalogued postcards of the British seaside through a distinct table format. Inspired by this classification of data through the form of a table, I decided to use excel to conglomerate all of my data, and form a table which shows how the vary between images. I like the format of a table to display data, as its inherent duplicity between ease of use and overwhelming wealth of information at once captivates and consumes the attention of the viewer, hoping to transform their understanding of the data into a perceived experience.
My work’s method of final display was inspired by Mel Bochner, and his ‘aesthetic of administration’. To view the work, one must sit in an office chair and watch a presentation on a laptop featuring screenshots of the excel document. Within this space, the colours of each shopping centre were printed out and displayed in order to contrast the subtle differences in colour between each retail environment. The colours appear very similar but on closer inspection, the differences between one being slightly red, or slightly green suggest the experience of the space to the viewer.
In my future practice, I would like to continue with this method of collecting data and analysing it through colour, and build upon my modes of display in order to recreate the experiences of the investigation through a type of material practice.