BEHIND THE SUPREMARKET

The limits to Growth report by the Club

of Rome was published in 1972. In 1988, the

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

was founded by the UN, and NASA researcher

James Hansen testified before the US Congress that the

climate is rapidly warming because of human actions. In

1991, the environmental crisis and its prevention became

central in the platforms of all major Finnish parties.

In 1973 there were three hypermarkets in Finland. The

expansion of the Prisma chain began in 1988, and in 2014

there are 64 Prismas in the country. Their average commercial

floor area is 10,000 square meters, and the largest

Prisma shopping centers are 46,500 square meters, with

a height usually of 10 meters. There are over 400 new

S-Markets, the average size of which is estimated to be

1,000 square meters and their height 5 meters. There are

118 ABC service stations, which on average are 500 square

meters in area and 4 meters in height. All these spaces

belong to the same chain. The total area of the rest of

Finland’s shopping centers is 1.76 million square meters.

When including all of the spaces built to cater for

retail after 1988, the growth of the entire area can be

estimated to be approximately six million square meters

and thirty million cubic meters. Over the past twenty-

five years, for an average town of 30,000 inhabitants,

approximately 32,000 square meters and 180,000 cubic

meters of hypermarket space has been built. On top of

these figures one can add the area required for parking

and other traffic arrangements. Since 1988 humankind

has consumed half of all of the oil ever used.

Nowadays human existence takes place mainly in

huge halls, in various office, shopping, restaurant, gym,

wellness, and entertainment modules which are separated

from each other by set-like constructions. In these

new living environments it is not possible to voice political

or social opinions; it is not suitable to spend time

in such spaces if you do not buy or consume something.

There is no art in these halls, and architecture has not

been taken advantage of in their designs. There are no

windows to look out of: if there happens to be a glass

wall, it has been taped shut with lurid advertisements.

The markets resemble—both inside and out—those

Asian manufacturing plants whence their goods come.

What on earth has happened to us?

 

 

NATURE, A FRAGMENT

AMONG OTHERS

 

Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Manifesto (1915) begins with

these words: “under Suprematism I understand the supremacy

of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist

the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in

themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling,

as such, quite apart from the environment in which it

is called forth.”1 In 1921 Malevich wrote to his comrade

Osip Brink: “the earth’s surface is not organized. It is covered

with seas, mountains. Some nature exists. I want to

create instead of that nature, a Suprematist nature, build

pursuant to laws of Suprematism.”2

In the 2010s, such extremely avant-gardist madness

has become everyday mainstream thinking. We do not

need art in hypermarkets, because they are in themselves

manifestations of suprematist art. Our society, economic

system, and industrial production are being planned in

the spirit of suprematism with no interest in the qualities

and limitations of the natural system which maintains

it. Life and its goals have become mere abstractions.

Ninety per cent of Finnish forests have been harnessed to serve the

wood processing industry. Out of the iceless land area of the globe, 75% is

molded by the human hand. Through global warming, all of the world’s

ecosystems are exposed to the influence of humankind. You can set the

Google Earth view to a height of about a hundred kilometers and let the image

move slowly across the surface of the earth. From Helsinki to SodankylaÅN,

from Tallinn to Istanbul, from Moscow to the Crimean Peninsula, from

Copenhagen to Madrid, from Beijing to Mumbai, from New York to Colorado,

you see thousands of kilometers, entire continents, a rectangular manmade

construction made up of fields, road networks, houses, and clearings,

which is only rarely interrupted by a few forests and mountain ranges.

Outside the walls of shopping centers, discount stores, factories, and

homes there is no forest or nature: only more discount stores, parking lots,

and motorways. Nature and culture are outmoded concepts for describing

the scenery around us, and the way it develops.

What do good suprematists do when the concrete reality around them

turns suprematist? They will not notice it. Suprematists are not interested

in the environment, not even in the suprematist environment. They will

keep looking for ways to express the purely artistic visions inside their heads.

When the suprematist project is almost complete, nature is an idealistic

abstraction, instead of boringly concrete. This situation again arouses the interest

of the suprematist. Thus begins the last phase of suprematism: the idealisation,

abstraction, and finally the destruction of the concept of nature.

 

A family is putting on a performance in the furniture exhibition at IKEA.

The customers have come to see furniture, accessories, and interior design

ideas. They do not notice the play—and even if they do, they do not understand

what is going on.

IKEA is supposed to be a new self-directed and participatory theatre with

expensive tickets. Instead of watching other people and their stories on

stage, or on the small or big screen, people turn their own lives into a performance.

It is possible to script a play of one’s life by using a few basic

modules, to choose one’s role out of those that best fit, and to find props

from the IKEA halls. One can go on with the play as long as it is amusing,

and afterwards the script, roles, and settings can be refreshed.

A home is a picture of a home. Outside the home there is a picture of

nature. Real nature, climate, and the ancient forests of Karelia are appurtenances

waiting for action. The ancient forest turns into boards of chipboard

and glulam, and further into consumer culture. We play house for guests,

the majority of whom are imaginary. When will this end, and how can we

imagine this to end?

We can trace the problem to its roots. The Western ideological and idealistic

worldview has been created in artists’ studios, both in the revolutionary

Russia and postwar United States. Artists had a considerable role in the

construction of modern (and postmodern) society and also in the assuming

of a consumer culture. What is the role of the artist in the stopping of the

runaway avant-garde?

Building the modern and postmodern society took huge effort. We are

facing perhaps even greater changes in the future. To survive, we need to

counter suprematism: we need a love supreme. A great outside other is

coming into our warehouses, dreams, lives. It is coming: are you ready? <<

 

 

1. Malevich, Kasimir. The Non-Objective World: The Manifesto of Suprematism.

Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2003.

2. Lodder, Cristina. “Man, Space and the Zero of Form: Kazimir Malevich’s

Suprematism and the Natural World.” In Meanings of Abstract Art: Between

Nature and Theory, edited by Paul Crowther and Isabel Wünsche, 47–63.

New York: Routledge, 2012.