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The Vacuum - Issue 14 - Media spacer The Vacuum - Issue 14 - Media
Thread of Knowledge
by Donnchadh MacFearghas
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[Factoid: The deepest man-made hole in the world is in Russia. It descends for one mile and was excavated during the era of the Soviet Union. During the final stages of the dig workers reported hearing ghastly screams emanating from the ruptured crust surrounding them.]
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The alcoholic beverage outlet (bar) industry is a good example of how society both externalises and attempts to suppress its innate psychosis. There is money to be made by encouraging altered states (externalisation) on a massive scale through the licensing and distribution of alcohol yet the industry needs to create pseudo-scientific structures (suppression) in order to control and reap profit from the resultant animalism. A form of low-level social sado-masochism is the result with the corporate sponsored reverie of wasted punters mediated/repressed by hybrid behavioural constructions such as 'merchandising', 'hospitality studies' and 'bar management'. Chaos is both encouraged and denied.
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[Factoid: Smirnoff is not a Russian brand. It was created during the `twenties in the US by Pierre Smirnoff, a Russian émigré, in response to market demand for a 'colourless, odourless whiskey' for use in cheap mixed drinks.]
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The specifics of bar merchandising are many. Compare Bar Bacca's Mock-Asian veneer with The Crown just a pint-glass throw away. Bar Bacca has essentially the same vernacular design features as the latter hostelry. The Thomas Cook travel brochure transparencies that adorn Bar Bacca for instance:- these are merely a contemporary manifestation of the Orientalism present in The Crown's 'Riches of the Empire' psychedelic décor. The connection between the modern lifestyle bar and the traditional pub goes further: In the former, vaguely ethnic, rhythm-heavy muzac is secreted from covert speakers in an attempt to synthesise the hypnotic effects of the Bodhrán. Fire and/or alternating light levels are retained as motifs in the theme bar, a nod to the pivotal role of the hearth as heat source and mesmerist. Light levels are kept low in both pubs and they're both, er, painted dark brown. A final connection exists in the contrariness implicit in both establishments: Buddhists don't drink alcohol and the people from whom the Edwardians stole never got to drink in The Crown.
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[Factoid: The designers of contemporary 'lifestyle' pubs deliberately limit the extent of available flat surfaces within the bar in order to prevent standing punters from resting their pints. Evidence shows that the erect drinker finishes their beverage quicker than the seated, thus ensuring more units consumed per session. Example: Note the use of slanting surfaces in the Northern Whig as an effort to foil any vessel 'sit-down']
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The contrivances of recent bar design provide a link to wider issues of managed recreational spaces. Of particular note would be the evolution of governmental culture in regard to providing amenities to maintain social 'health'. Beginning in the nineteen-eighties the United Kingdom government believed water-based fun was the answer to perceived cultural tension and sloth. Thus many towns were given a swimming/sports centre wherein the residents could channel their natural rage into neutral and non-threatening leisure activities. The policy was misjudged however as vernacular activities such as football hooliganism and mass drug-use rose in popularity to provide levels of thrill way beyond that offered by the flume. As the leisure centres became redundant however, and as the governmental mantle changed, it became apparent that the phenomena of the state-sponsored socio-cultural building was to mutate in line with the authorities opinion of the state of the nation. The vanity, selfishness and one-upmanship that typified governmental culture in the eighties was exemplified by the narcissism implicit in the leisure complex. Our modern equivalent, the Contemporary Arts Centre, is just as indicative of current governmental culture as its predecessor. Thus it would appear that introspection, obsessive self-analysis and passive observation are what the powers-that-be feel are lacking in modern society.
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[Factoid: The purpose of the extensive use of mirrored surfacing within modern indoor shopping centres is to confuse and disorientate shoplifters making fast exits.]
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One building that has traversed the Tory-New Labour baton swap is the shopping/entertainment centre: a synthetic microcosm combining all the above mentioned zones of activity under one polarised glass roof. As we step out from the Warner Village after a screening of the remake of 'Dawn of The Dead' we can now enjoy a bottle of pasteurised lager in the 'local' theme bar before entering a prize draw for a plasma TV, pick up the kids from the science-based infotainment plaza and finally head to the secure parking facilities for transportation back to our gated communities. Future plans for such buildings include incorporating them into 'sites of conscious' such as the disused Maze prison, where leisure/activity seekers will be also be encouraged to reflect on recent history and emote accordingly
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[Factoid: Leaked governmental documents suggest the possible future use of Art Colleges as therapeutic hospitals for the low-level mentally ill.]
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