Remembering and forgetting in consumerism

Temple, Nicholas (2021) Remembering and forgetting in consumerism. In: Transacting as art, design and architecture: a non-commercial market. Intellect, Bristol, pp. 189-201. ISBN 9781789384437


The experience of the consumerist environment in contemporary society is so pervasive and intrusive in our daily lives (through mass advertising, internet shopping and the corporatisation of civic spaces) that it is difficult to appreciate its peculiarly and uniquely modern characteristics. What distinguishes these from earlier forms of commercial activity and transaction, whether in the ancient or early modern worlds, is the manner in which consumerism today creates conditions of amnesia – situations of individual and collective forgetfulness – which are reinforced by the insularity and placelessness of its built form. In this paper I attempt to demonstrate how this phenomenon is manifested spatially through the development of the modern shopping mall and commercial street. The creation of large retail zones in cities and out-of-town mega-complexes for mass consumerism invokes a certain pathological behavior among the general public. This is revealed in the innate ‘passivity’ of modern consumerism – its tendency to be experienced as a form of ‘therapy’ in urban and suburban life - in contrast to the participatory involvement of consumers/shoppers in the civic and religious spaces of pre-modern marketplaces. In summary, the paper examines consumerism through the history of markets, with specific focus on how they have served various social and cultural functions, from Renaissance fairs (located in the heart of cities) to the contemporary out-of-town shopping mall.

submitted version for forthcoming edited book
Sites of Amnesia_BookChap.docx - Submitted Version

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