spacer
Pravda spacer The Vacuum - Issue 18 - Waste
Pravda - Citylife
by Neal Alexander
spacer
'As anthropological places create the organically social,' writes Marc Augé, 'so non-places create solitary contractuality. Try to imagine a Durkheimian analysis of a transit lounge at Roissy!' Or, for that matter, Belfast City Airport. Like the Sydenham bypass off which it lies at the lip of Belfast Lough, the City Airport is a non-place given over to the solitary purposes of travel, and is apprehended chiefly through its barrage of signs and textual markers ('Turn Left Ahead'; 'No Smoking'; 'Security Control Zone'; 'Have a Safe Journey'). Having penetrated its new glass and chrome exterior the visitor/customer will encounter a series of airy spaces which combine the functions of corridor and waiting-room, studded here and there with consumer nodes (World News, juice bars etc) and pockets of upright payphones. Escalators climb soundlessly to unspecified upper levels while automatic doors inhale and exhale gusts of passengers wearing softly crumpled clothes. Others in smart suits or blousey summer-wear perch uncomfortably on perforated steel seating, their luggage piled in mounds about them like upturned beetles. Every few minutes the tannoy system barks into life and a man's or woman's voice pre-recorded, faintly mechanoid announces something which cannot quite be made out. Screens blink quietly in corners. Like any other airport, Belfast City is inoffensive, banal, a non-place which is there to be passed through on the way to somewhere else, somewhere the twin characteristics of what Augé calls 'supermodernity' solitude and similitude have not yet colonised.
spacer
For the moment, though, we're still in the limbo of the airport lounge. Our budget airline flight has been delayed and the wait is stretching ahead like an Ohio cornfield. Time yawns and demands to be filled, so we take up a copy of CityLife, the magazine of Belfast City Airport, which, it might be hoped, will extend an intellectual life-line to those passing through this strangely benumbed non-place. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, CityLife bears the same characteristics as the institution to which it belongs: it is inoffensive, banal, a non-text which is intended to be passed through on the way to somewhere else. Its super-slick, ultra-glossy format allows the reader's eye to slide through the pages without ever arresting the attention, glancing off articles which fail to offer the slightest friction of interest. Advertisements cluster like polyps, proffering hotel accommodation, fine cuisine, conference facilities, and shopping opportunities in newly opened boutiques.
spacer
Features cater to the current vogue for celebrity, profiling 'teen star' Lindsay Lohan and including interviews with both Dermot O'Leary (Big Brother's Little Brother) and 'Avid Merrion' (Bo Selecta). Not forgetting the airport's staple of 'business flyers', CityLife also incorporates a substantial number of articles dealing with management issues, performance rates, office politics and such like. Thus a piece on 'Resolving Workplace Conflict' stresses the importance of 'using 'I' statements instead of 'you' language', and Dr Rachna D. Jain offers 10 ways for businesses to increase their profitability. (Dr Jain is pictured dropping a huge quarter marked 'Liberty' and bearing the head of George Washington into an equally massive piggy-bank) Intermittently, the idiom shifts to that of a local newsletter, reporting the restoration of Ballymoney Town Hall and the final of Europe's Strongest Woman, held at Glenarm Castle in July. At other times, the pretence to objective writing is dropped altogether and promotional articles for 'cultural heritage' centres or city centre bar/restaurants begin to proliferate, choking any remaining semblance of informative intent. With this mish-mash of anodyne fare CityLife aims to be all things to all men, pandering to the more bovine interests of a wide spectrum of readers but also acting as a sort of intellectual anaesthetic which allows the disoriented traveller to drift woozily through the supermodernity which enfolds her. As Augé affirms, however, 'supermodernity is not all there is to the contemporary', for spaces of resistance tend to reconstitute themselves within the 'immense parentheses' of non-place. Similarly, if CityLife were all city life had to offer us we would be in a very bad way indeed.
spacer
spacer
home | information | issues | artists & writers | columns | reviews
spacer