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The shock of the now: Retail space and the road to nowhere


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Campbell, GR 2011 , 'The shock of the now: Retail space and the road to nowhere', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The project is focused on my interpretation of my workaday experience, my attempt
to navigate the many layers of the retail space of the supermarket, and the enigmatic
landscape of the suburban environment. My premise is that retail and suburban
environments can have a dehumanizing effect on the individual. Elements such as
alienation and dislocation move beyond their supermarket and suburban associations
to permeate my observations. My work is reflective of this process. The paint appears
bleached, having a sterile quality reflecting the effect of the supermarket and suburbs
on my emotional state. The fluorescent lights of the supermarket and the white
concrete of the suburbs reach out and become part of my imagination, sapping colour
and forcing me to rethink the relationship between the built environment and my self.
During my time as a worker in the retail environment of the supermarket, I began to
experience a questioning process that led me to this investigation. Mentally I had to
occupy an expressive space in parallel with my workaday experience. This dual
existence of working and observation and interpretation of my workplace, helped me
to make sense of the issues around alienation and desolation I experienced in the
supermarket. The project allowed me to occupy a point of observation. I realised I had
an opportunity to maximise my investigation by developing my ideas in an academic
context, and voice my experience and outcomes through painting and writing.
Through my art I attempt to make sense of environments that I perceive as being in
opposition to my sense of humanity. These spaces challenge my ideals around the
relationship between human beings and their environment and I therefore see them as
an ideal subject to develop my ideas around sense of place.
I believe contemporary urban spaces can affect a sense of dislocation from society.
The products of many modernist artist and writers such as Walter Benjamin’s Arcades
Project, John Steinbeck’s Hour of Pearl in Cannery Row and George Orwell’s utopia
under Big Brother in 1984, Albert Camus’ The Rebel and John Paul Sartre’s Nausea
have been inspired by this experience of dislocation. I find parallels to these ideas in
the abstract expressionism of Mark Rothko, and the eerie, melancholic environments
of Paul Nash and Andrew Wyeth. The social commentary of Richard Hamilton and
Andy Warhol anticipate the absurdist turn to postmodernism, which is further filtered
through the social positioning of critics such as John Ralston Saul, Christopher Lasch
and Paul Virilio and mediated through Jacky Bowring’s writing on melancholy. I
refer also to the social irony of artist Jeff Koons, selected enigmatic landscapes by
Bill Henson and the washed out paintings of Luc Tuymans, Fiona McMonagle and
Jon Cattapan. My own work is positioned in this reductionist style to comment on the
alienation I have experienced through contemporary consumerism and my transition
from passive worker to active observer.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Campbell, GR
Keywords: alienation, materialism, supermarket, suburbs, contemporary, commodification, utopia, hyperreality, heterotopia
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Copyright 2011 the Author

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