Ode to Retail

I don’t usually do color photography as I find it hard to “coordinate” the colors alongside the action in the frame. But the environment in this case seems to call out for it.

This was the beginning of a trip to Festival Walk, a shopping mall. My son wanted to pick up a few books at Page One. We sat at the front of a mini-bus.

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For those not familiar with Hong Kong: Festival Walk is a gigantic shopping mall with a skating rink and cinema. I often got lost the first few times I was here.

There are so many escalators and reflective surfaces. There is a fun house mirror effect every time we are on the escalators:

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We forget which way is up and which way is down…

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I think this is the point, that the design of malls are slightly disorienting so that the shopping experience feels slightly unreal. Our ability at making rational choices are somewhat incapacitated – we lose track of time and spend more than we had originally intended.

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I am reminded of a hotel called “Lotus Casino” in The Titan’s Curse, a novel in the Percy Jackson series, in which the characters were trapped. They were reluctant to leave the hotel because it was so fun. (The environment of casinos, of course, are meant to be unreal so that the chips [money] you’re losing look inconsequential anyway because you are just playing a game of Monopoly.) I’m thinking of those casinos in Macau now, especially the Greek Mythology Casino, complete with a gigantic statue of Zeus…

Here, the literary scholar in me is reminded of Fredric Jameson’s discussion of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, about how the postmodern architecture is tied in with the (totalitarian?) logic of late capitalism.

It’s so easy in the mall. We look and point and buy:

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Everything is on show and so very photogenic, and the unreal becomes part of the experienced reality we consume and hence take for real:

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I almost forgot to leave.