Friday, November 25, 2011

The future is here. A future is here. Who ordered this future?

Passing by the Apple store in the mall, it looks kind of futuristic in a way between The Jetsons and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Something you can marvel at. Whenever I step inside, though, I get a sort of sinking feeling. It's a combination of business casual uniforms that announce the takeover of leisure time by commerce, the ever-present LED video screens, the sleek countertops that discourage any sales associate from tarrying.

A lot of the postindustrial landscape is like this: a machine where people aren't really necessary parts. I wouldn't really put all of this on Steve Jobs' shoulders, but I really don't think Maria Bustillos' recent essay is just a posthumous attack on the man. (Warning: By some weird irony, you may be redirected to a Chevy ad. Just hit the X and you'll be returned to The Awl.) It's more an examination of the cycles of design, how it goes from personal and democratic to impersonal and autocratic. And the Dieter Rams pieces that illustrate the former really are kind of nice.


susan said...

It's true that when architecture and design become overwhelming that it always means some autocratic power has taken effect. I don't know if you ever saw Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. It features Albert Speer's architecture in service to Hitler and it's quite amazing as well as horrifying to see just how far the aesthetic can be taken.

Not that that has anything to do with Steve Jobs but I understand what you mean about the creepy sterility of Apple stores. The products are okay but personally I prefer the William Morris arts and crafts approach to design. The best we're likely to see nowadays are steampunk mods.

Ben said...

The Hitler-Speer approach to public architecture I think illustrates the true meaning of "shock and awe." The accepted military use of that term is more like "kill people and destroy everything and hope no one is left to resist." While with actual shock and awe, you try to break down resistance first.

Steampunk mods have become more common over the years, and I'm sure some people just do them to be part of the in-crowd. Still, I have to appreciate the work that goes into some of this stuff, which can also achieve a kind of beauty.