online: 3 february 2004
modified: 3 february 2004

31 january 2004 self-storage

[noted in an industrialised self-storage - a place or zone in which you can put surplus belongings for safe-keeping in rented storage units - a domestic version of the multi-storey car park and perhaps the ultimate example of profitable non-productiveness - or some such reversal of value. A way of escaping from 'things' (or 'stuff' as people now disrespectfully call it).]

4:55 ...very lonely here, in a grid of identical metal corridors (as in a film such as 2001: a space odyssey or Blade Runner) - is this a sample of the future as machine-dominated and bleak, with everything reduced to numbers.

As I enter the industrial lift with a numerical password... open a storage unit with a standardised key and padlock... and begin to measure the remaining storage space (for some rescued copies of my 'remaindered' book the internet and everyone)... I become aware of continuous music (or muzak as it used to be called) on which is superimposed the sound of the staff intercom... I feel like a stranger here, or a prisoner.

Very lost feeling - is this the rear end of consumer society - storage of what sooner or later will be junk - but while it's valued but unused it's been made into an efficient and profitable business by admitting us, 'the users', even more deeply into factory processes as unconscious unpaid labourers (who pay to put their excess possessions 'in store' and out of use... *)

(...this provokes memories of research into domestic storage - in the 1950s.**)

...then suddenly I see that this is a live forecast of the global future, and even of work and habitation on the moon and other planets, already realised here in this most empty of non-worlds, ugh...

...what's most wrong and most threatening is the total reductionism of this abstract world - in which people can operate only as rationalised economic units...

Here is our collective self-destruction!...

Where is the reaction, the antidote?...

(and can this digitised writing, itself in the form of industrial commodity, embody what's missing ?...

Yes, I think it can, for digitised words can still be used to question ends and means, the terms of reference... and also to imagine and describe something better!

...and why is that? Because the digitising process operates at a minute physical scale - not at that of reading and writing.)

zero zero learning zoning

*Ursula Huws describes this phenomenon as 'commodification'(in her recent book the making of a cybertariat: virtual work in real world, Monthly Review Press, New York and The Merlin Press, London 2003, pages 17-18, 24-34).

**At The Regional College of Art, Manchester, UK, during the late fifties when I initiated and supervised research into domestic storage(by Alan Worsely, Nigel Gough and others). We explored storage in the home and a possible future for it.

What I recall of this research is our inventories of every object to be found in prosperous households and our finding that some people had things that they almost never used, had several objects of the same type but sometimes could not find any of them (and sometimes went to buy another) and that it is often cheaper to throw away unused objects than to pay the double cost of floor space and storage furniture in which to put them - while reducing the space available for living... how much of the space in your house is for people and how much is for storing objects?

Later, with the help of Ray Gray, we designed some future storage furniture. It took the form of single-layer storage units on castors, with shallow removable trays and small adjustable table surfaces with built-in waste disposal containers...

I still use some of these components - and in this room I am surrounded by orderly filing cabinets and book shelves - yet I am still immobilised by piles of unsorted papers... yes I have difficulty enacting the findings of this research... though I still think it's central to understanding and rising above the systematic disorder that we endure as consumers/producers... of what? of natural materials continuously transformed into utility, luxury and then nuisance.

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