‘If we push it too far, we run the risk of forgetting that there can be alienation in leisure just as in work (and alienation is precisely in so far as the worker is trying to “dealienate” himself!’ Michel Trebitsch
*MODERN REVOLT, BUT NOT REALLY*
Meet the club-goer. Today he woke up thinking that, compared to the typical weight of his miseries, the day feels quite light. Upon waking up, he suddenly decided to go to the club tonight. Prior to this happening, he makes a pact with himself to do his duties: deliver to society and eat his meals. Perhaps even go for a little run? The thought of running charms him immediately, and the next thing we see is him running. As he runs by the secondhand shop, his thoughts begin shuffling the colors of classic logos: Hip-Hop, happy meals, all MTV channel extensions, Vans shoes purchased every six months. Although he is not a big fan of retromanic gestures, the club-goer wouldn’t mind wearing a logo – or two – in the club tonight. Just like before, he could commemorate his teenage years with someone who would empathize with the logo. Having thought what he thought, a worried expression shines on his face, and his thoughts are the following:
Why are evils of cool still cool? Why am I consuming towards being consumed? And why do I need to take this to the club? It’s not like I’m going to manifest these doubts and battle them on the dance floor until they’re gone, is it?… Wait, more rays of doubt are entering my mind space, shaking my ground, and signing up for forgetfulness tonight:
Work Suppression Happiness forever on arrival-mode A trendy Sadness
For more information about our club-goer’s state of mind, listen to this song:
Our contemporary crisis is that we are bored. We are bored when we have to do a lot of things, as a lot of things we have to do are not the things we want to do. We are also bored when we do the things we want to do, because at some point, we feel enslaved by having to keep on doing them.
Doing is a deed of action: running, working, pro-active buying, and consuming. It has been wrapped as a consistent, global human need. We are always doing something. For a very long time, doing is related to feeling good. That’s why many people, when asked how they are, answer with: ‘Today I finished this and this and this’ or ‘Today I went here and there’. Any other answer directly linked to an activity is a valid one. However, amongst many other things, doing is boring as well.
Doing nothing is a deed of different action. It has no pre-defined endpoint, nor intention to be finished. We all do nothing in our own unique way, because nothingness has a different connotation for each and every one of us. Drawing and laying halfway under the couch for a few hours, could fall under the category of doing nothing. Basically, all activities we perform when we don’t have to do anything (for anyone) are of the same sort. This is why such deeds are of a very personalized nature, and not a customized one. Doing nothing, however, is not as popular as doing is. Most of our precious time is invested in doing (something for something/someone) and our spare time is spent (or, wasted) on the improvement of doing the things we have to do, simply because we lost touch with how to do nothing in our own way.
When we think that we are doing nothing for ourselves, we are actually fully participating in the preservation of the economy of everything, which keeps on selling our desires back to us. What happened to our spare time? It got commodified too!
This mini-analysis is not meant to be shocking, nor unfamiliar.
‘…capitalism as spectacle turned to the desires of the soul. It turned upon individual men and women, seized their subjective emotions and experiences, changed commodities, placed them on the market, set their prices, and experiences out of themselves - to people who, as prisoners of the spectacle, could now find such things only on the market.’
Today has turned into tonight, and our club-goer is already anticipating his entrance to the club.
After successfully purchasing his presence, he started to read the extras which his ticket came with. Entitlement to feelings of heroism, comradeship, narcissism, and self-pity is included. No sexism, no racism, guaranteed. By the smile on his face, we can tell that the purchase was worth it. Will this smile later expand to over-flow? This is what we want to discover… Meanwhile, a movie is starting to screen in our club-goer’s head. In it, he is the main character and the movie is about his life. The narrative takes on a documentary style: while sitting in his favorite café, the club-goer is describing his childhood fantasies to the camera. In later scenes, he is accompanied by other characters, who are only there to populate the background image of his life and represent the fashion in which our club-goer interacts with other humans. Thanks to this sequence, we can assess the club-goer’s association with others, and with himself. Before the ‘everything was great, but…’ -scene, our club-goer decides to end this self-pleasing euphoria, and switch to the present moment in which he is in the cloakroom.
The cloakroom is where PPI (Pseudo Party Intellectual) started working, way before she approached the topic of clubbing from a theoretical perspective. Her tasks were to exchange the club-goers’ items with numbered tickets, charge money, and make sure that tonight will be a memorable night.
Besides being the care center of items, the cloakroom is the club’s primary meeting point where the following styles of club-goers mash discreetly:
CLUBPERSONS-CLUB NATIVES-CLUB IMMIGRANTS-CLUB EXTENDED DANCERS-UNIVERSAL CLUBBER-LOCAL CLUBBER-PASSERSBY-REGULARS-AMATEURS- SPICE GIRLS + NIRVANA-WORKERS-BERLIN-H&M-CREATIVE CLASS-STAFF- WEBDEVS-PERFORMERS-MAINLY STYLISTS. . .
In the cloakroom’s space is where PPI was always reminded of Lil Peep’s ‘Star shopping’ song. She’d automatically sing it before the opening of the club’s doors.
‘I know that I’m not that important to you
but to me girl you’re so much more than gorgeous,
so much more than perfect
right now I know that I’m not really worth it
if you give me time I gonna work on it…’.
She said she wouldn’t necessarily get married to this song – or call it a masterpiece. What spoke to her was the contained sadness breathing in its background, and something she could see breathing through the walls of the cloakroom. This feeling made all the hanging jackets look like Lil Peep. And as she was star-shopping out loud, she had often questioned whether she was trying to get heard by someone in particular. PPI found out later that she was dedicating the song to herself, as if asking: What am I doing here? Feeling trapped is what she got out of her regular engagement in self-piteous singing sessions, while others were dancing undistracted by the fear of losing their possessions. Tips and thank yous for that were indeed flowing in.
Like all the other club-goers, our club-goer desires liberation from his belongings too. He scans other club-goers’ fishnets, neck chains, see-throughs, leather-everything, boots for after 5 AM, gym outfits, Hello-Kitty backpacks loaded with apples and candies, lollipops and flasks, no-chewing gums, blue hair, rainbow hair, natural hair, tracksuits from H&M, pierced septums and lips, polished nails, non-existent bras, netty tops, strictly forbidden white shirts, and sunglasses; the finest collection of sunglasses. He scans himself from head to toe and wonders what kind of persona his gadgets describe.
Not really in the mood for getting all existential, our club-goer pressures his thoughts with some extra positivity:
‘I guess… I guess, we are all appropriate for a different context, each in our own way.
Everyone is individually a follower of preferred and imposed codes of conduct. We choose them according to our affinities, because we lack personal authenticities to follow. Our non-existing authenticities make us equivalent, and our various preferences make us different. We came here for similar reasons, so why bother further deconstructing who we are? Before the morning light, we will all belong to one same design: of oblivion.’ Although he felt god-like for being able to assemble such a speech, his thoughts appalled him too.
Where our club-goer is moving next (the hallway) is the most confusing area of the club. It often happens that aspiring dancers come back to the cloakroom right after leaving it. Sometimes quite angrily, they ask for the directions and react unhappily about being directed to the hallway again. They come here for darkness, but the darkness pushes them back to the light, as if asking: ‘Are you sure?’ This suspense is a good feature of the clubbing product. Anyhow, in order to reach the next level of the club’s space, one needs to open the door. Once through the door: yet another hallway of a more romantic character: floor candles, ceiling lights beaming through the thick smoke, and shadows of other species. Somewhere in the far away, there are more tunnels blinking through the darkness. Our club-goer expected to see castles growing beastly above him, but all he faces is another queue. ‘Fuck,’ he thinks to himself, ‘the castles must be waiting in line to enter the club’.
Choiceless, he waits in front of the bar and starts anticipating his first drink. That’s also where PPI used to work and where 1) debit and credit cards were shoved in front of her face, 2) demanding that she reaches out for the pin machine. Bip once, bip twice, and 3) she’s on a mission to deliver the drink. This mechanism well defined at least six hours of her work, punctuated by minor conversational interruptions:
1) 2)3) 1)2)3) 1) 2)3) 1)2) 3) 1) 2) 3) 1) 2)3) 1)2)3) 1)2)3) 1)2)3) 1)2)3) 1)2)3)
The club-goers who were waiting in line for her service, followed a similar mechanism. Theirs had a different route however, and probably 4) 5) 6) to it. Each time they’d come back, they looked as if it was their first time there.
The more PPI engaged in sometimes short/sometimes long conversations with the club-goers, the more she could see the importance of them experiencing oblivion to contrast their working lives, which they are very much keen on forgetting. At first, she felt proud to serve her duties in the economy which reduces the weight of heavy things in life. In the latter phase of her bartending service however, PPI felt like she was missing out on her youth, while making sure that everybody else’s was well spent. The truth is that she was not missing a thing, but rather stopped feeling like a part of this thing. Having a job in the club, later appeared to her as a sign of clinging onto a long-lost importance of the scene. As if extra working dedication to it would compensate for the void. A few months later, faces in the club started to look alike. Sweat, wet hairs, slightly bloated lips, eyes zooming in and out radically changing their direction, as if wanting to leave the skull and become independent. PPI didn’t want to live in this bar forever.
To the same bar, our club-goer is leashed. He notices that: the bigger the consumption of liquids and flowers, the smaller the differences between other club-goers. If he would be accompanied by PPI, she’d tell him that losing one’s control over the impression which one wants to leave on others, is highly effective for a successful clubbing experience. To better understand what an outstanding clubbing performance is, here are some risks for unsuccessful clubbing experience:
*Risks for unsuccessful clubbing experience:
1. Meeting someone you’ll later start calling an Expert. An Expert will give you free flowers to eat in the toilet, until you enter an existential crisis. When you do, an Expert will navigate you through the crisis until you fall in love with him.
2. Remembering everything tomorrow.
Our club-goer’s current state of mind: It’s good to moderately not feel like oneself.
With such a state, he goes to the club’s smoking unit. Someone in the background is singing: ♫ Where there is smoke, there is a conversation; where there is a conversation there is again, the design of the seeeelf… ♫ What he sees is a room filled with white, self-made pedestals of different heights. Each smoking speaker is standing on one, and pinging the words, and ponging the words. Words which fall under the themes of upcoming ceremonies; political scandals; music knowledge; networking; complaints about not living in Berlin; and nothing in particular.
‘While the party had its private adjuncts, people primarily remember the clubs that were its public face. Having fun was all very well, but what really mattered was to be seen doing so.’ Luc Sante
Forced (by chance) to witness what he is witnessing – the choreography – our club-goer is getting slightly paranoid. He feels his chakras trying to deliver a message, but they’re not opening. However, the doubts which he suppressed in the beginning of the night are coming back to the surface to show him what his reason to be here is. They’re telling him that next to the music is where he needs to be. And it’s true, he remembers that he wanted the music to be louder than his thoughts. He wanted to bang to the noise, while silencing the inner
Work Suppression Happiness forever on arrival-mode A trendy Sadness
Determined to put an end to un-matching life expectations and The Choreography on White Pedestals, he fiercely runs to the dance floor. What he’s faced with there, is a shadow formed by bodies full of turmoil, dancing their way towards the oblivion. They are jumping, sliding against each other, without ever touching. The spectacle looks exactly like what our club-goer needs right now. He throws himself into the midst of a collective shadow and starts mimicking the dance from inside the shadow. His sweat is a mimicry too. When he closes his eyes, he starts deleting the imagery consumption of today:
the latest billboards about which it is hard to tell if the market is focused on what’s worn, or who’s wearing;
…people running on treadmills, in the gym located on top of KFC;
…‘skippable’ views of empty internet cafes;
…the tram’s new design, with uniformed employees smiling hard in the pictures covering the sliding doors, as if forcefully telling you to come on in…
He starts deleting the emotional labor of imagery consumption too: the weight of always hunting for a better view, the fear of missing out on today’s information, and the unwanted feelings of nostalgia that follow.
‘Clever images of the everyday are supplied on a day-to-day basis, images that can make the ugly beautiful, the empty full, the sordid elevated – and the hideous “fascinating”. These images so skillfully and so persuasively exploit the demands and dissatisfactions which every “modern” man carries within himself that it is indeed very difficult to resist being seduced and fascinated by them, except by becoming rigidly puritanical, and, in rejecting “sensationalism”, rejecting “the present” and life itself.’ Henri Lefebvre
He continues dancing for a long time, dancing off the previously mentioned work suppression, happiness forever on arrival-mode, and his trendy sadness.
This is how the dance culture became a commodified performativity: everything that bugs the mind can be confronted on the weekend long dance on the dance floor.
Let’s let that sink in, with this song playing in the background:
On the dance floor tonight, there is a TV channel idealized by me, reporting a special conversation with PPI. She also happens to be me.
I: Let’s start from the basics, PPI. What is the dance floor?
PPI: If we look up on Google/Wikipedia for a simple definition, before trying to make anything out of it, we will read that the dance floor is an area of uncarpeted floor in a nightclub, disco, or restaurant reserved for dancing. Tonight in this club, it’s more than that. It’s something I like to call a critical space, designed to host a specific perplexity of every individual club-goer. During my research, I discovered that all these shades of perplexities are a consequence of the club-goer’s lack of time, and of how the distraction economy plays out in personal lives.
I: Mmm, Okay. Does that mean that, outside of this dance floor, one is generally trapped in a confused state of being?
PPI: Yes, precisely, but subconsciously.
I: How can you be so sure, PPI?
PPI: Well, we are the workers who live to avoid the inner vastness, and therefore work to afford the consumption of that which eventually becomes a bore. Since the market has grown so big and diverse, the abundance of choices slows down each product’s boring effect. To calculate the longitude of a product’s boring effect, it’s useful to ask: how long until I get bored of this purchase? Yes, I am saying that all products come with one. New bore replaces the current bore. The most popular distractions are on sale: ideologies, gadgets, digital companions, virtual realities, and excellent lifestyles. Now, if we look at the info-sphere of our modern cities, exploring the streets means reaching the pinned locations where one performs the consuming. Whilst exploring, visual perception is lead by the sensations from the ever-changing information bred in the environment. So, we can conclude that our eyes are tricky, and powerful organs. Consuming optical information of a product provokes the bodies to wait in lines, in order to obtain the product. For some it’s ice cream, for others a European passport.
And now, the average waiting time of 4-7 minutes is already a bit too long for our current attention span. What does that tell us about us? Our willingness to wait, means that the quality of the product is decent, quite or very high. Waiting in this case, is worthwhile. When the waiting is worthwhile, reexamination of the subject we are anticipating almost never happens. Abandoning the guaranteed product, is of the same rare nature. Unless, of course, the guarantee is passed onto a similar product, and preferably a better one. (i.e. French fries with Belgian, Albert Heijn with another Albert Heijn, Crafts with Theory, and so on…)
Let’s say that…
I: Sorry to interrupt, PPI, but can we get to the point?
PPI: Yes, I am getting there. Let’s say that this speculation inspired the contemporary design of queues in modern cities. If a human is constantly found in the anticipation of [insert a product], all possibilities for a human to doubt are lost. For a doubt to become accessible, it would have to become a part of the design. For instance, were we to find public signs which show the location’s average doubting time of a human, then one would indeed start doubting. When one’s behavior gets molded by the product’s design, one doesn’t need the product any longer in order to continue the behavior molded by it.
Let’s analyze the city’s night-time waiting. Night-time queues are similar to daytime queues. The difference is that they demand a higher level of consumer’s endurance. The world’s best night-time queue is that of a club. We’ve all been there once and so have our friends. In most cases, following the crowd is a reason to go to the club. The second legit reason is to have a break from life’s imperative to consume. By saying that, we are confronted with the following question:
How can a club, where everything is so exotic and sexual and exciting and mesmerizing and hyper-juiced-up, be a place for a break? Some pieces of the puzzle don’t fit here.
I: That’s a good one…
PPI:Greil Marcus wrote in his book called Lipstick Traces: ‘As Debord drew the picture, these people were members of democratic societies: democracies of false desires. One could not intervene, but one did not want to, because as a mechanism of social control the spectacle dramatised an inner spectacle of participation, of choice. In the home, one chose between television programs; in the city, one chose between the countless variations of each product on the market. Like a piece of avant-garde performance art, the spectacle dramatised an ideology of freedom.’
A club, as a historically rich product, demands from its temporary occupiers to fully participate in what it has to offer.
Sit in all sitting corners,
merge with the atmosphere of the place,
drink the drinks,
dance to the music,
take the pills,
talk to other species,
use the toilets,
breathe out in the garden,
and what not.
Step by step consumption, towards the over-consumption, towards the climax point. A climax point, in this context, is the point when one is able to consume no more.
This is what I call: a consumer’s happy ending.
In the last few years, I watched the popularity of dance floors across European and non-European cities increase. This is a sign that (besides capital interest) there is a public demand for them. The skyrocketing statistics correspond to a social need. Thanks to a well planned, raw architecture (industrial and ware-housy), most clubs guarantee always the same vibe upon return. Strong aesthetics control the steady continuity of club-goers’ repetitive return. This fact allows to dive deeper into the topic and start asking questions about the states of consciousness within the previously mentioned collective perplexity.
I: You, are absolutely right. On that note, what is it about the dance floors that attracts more than a conversation let’s say, in order to address this confusion?
PPI: Well, in conversations, the personal authenticity which one claims to have (or, the cause of confusion) is usually exposed in a form of language; so, the selection of words which define one’s definite choice of state. If you don’t speak of it, verbally expose it, it probably doesn’t exist. That’s exactly why choosing the linguistic format to showcase one’s authenticity is difficult, vulnerable and debatable. Most important of all, it’s tiring; because in order to be remembered by others, it constantly has to be repeated/re-said, to the point when authenticity loses its own authenticity. This way of sharing can usually be found in the smoking areas of the club. On dance floors however, statements on authenticity and their potential misinterpretations are almost non-existent. It’s you and your body, and other bodies. In the dark, nobody can see you, discuss you, confront you. Nobody, but you. So, once you have the whole crowd of bodies address their own inner states by experiencing their physicality, at some point your own state starts to shrink. Or, better said, it merges with others. So, the body performs submission to the space. Or, docility to the space.
‘My main concern is that that’s how the bodies have been dancing since a while now.’ – PPI
I: Okay, okay, so, what’s the main concern your research poses?
PPI: My main concern is that that’s how the bodies have been dancing since a while now. When are we going to start questioning the cause of our collective confusion?
It’s already hard at this point when we are well-trained dancers of promoted resistance to something (anything). It’s clear what I’m referring to: good marketing tools keep the clients coming back to maintain the economy of the institution.
But now, picture this near future: We are bored of performing the enforced one-size-fits-all negation, and are rather hungry for a more personal performance to dance. Or let’s even say that we are in the future and dancing to negate that which has been imposed on us. Through dance, we are expressing boredom towards the participation, the routine, and the impossibility to break off, simply because we don’t know any other realities besides the ones in which we consume. The question is: While waiting for that next product to solve the issue, what does this dance of the future look like? Before answering, let’s read the following quote from George Hoare:
‘First, and most importantly, rave is an escapist and hedonic response to the individualism that pervades our lives. It stands as “resistance” only in the most temporary sense. In this way, we can see the parallels with the “Occupy” movement – a temporary sitting-in on a completely colonised capitalist space. Although hierarchies are (temporarily) destroyed, nothing is built and so rave is ultimately compatible with capitalism. This is why, today, the cultural revolt of rave has been incorporated almost in its entirety into the neoliberal hedonism industry. Anything that is not antagonistic to capital is subsumed, eventually, within it. Similarly to Occupy, rave was unable to change the rules of the game. It now seems like an artefact of a passed cultural moment and, in an unfortunate irony, a victim of the retromania Simon Reynolds has described, with teenagers wearing pork pie hats and Stone Roses t-shirts role playing the rave culture of the late 1980s and early 1990s.’
I: Wow, that’s a tricky one PPI… Would it be a dance at all is what I’m curious to find out. What do these wonderings of yours lead to?
PPI: Another question of course: What if we were not consumers (of information, historical narratives, common knowledge) at all?
I: Huh, perhaps we can save that question for the after-party. Many thanks for your time, PPI. Do you know what happened to our club-goer?
Our clubgoer is still dancing it off. Still entertained with his eyes closed. When he opens them, he sees a familiar face dancing with her eyes closed. She was dancing for a very long time on that round pedestal, located in the middle of the dance floor. He recognizes her from the storytelling evening, where she explicitly shared the realities of her borderline disorder. Whilst all this time he was nourishing the thought that clubs are places where alter egos come to play, in her case it seemed like a different situation. Was she letting loose of all her conflicting extremes, and dancing what she dreams of being?
Slightly paranoid again, and less entertained now, our clubgoer decides that it’s not a good time to feel bored. So, he goes to the toilet. He is forced to participate in a different kind of waiting: a theatrical one. Doors flap open and close in a matter of seconds, while laughter is cracking to tears and coming from all different corners. Sounds bounce through the space and sometimes hit each other. Everything looks pumped with steroids. In the middle of the toilet, there is a huge fountain made of the finest metal. Around it, half-naked bodies wearing white sneakers and baseball socks are splashing water on each other. It’s almost imaginable that they’d start feeding each other grapes, but no. They are the ones who danced it all off multiple times tonight, and they’re not interested in having another drink. They are the ones on the verge of reaching a consumer’s happy ending. Next to this fountain is where they found hope for tonight. This image is accompanied by the sniffing orchestra, playing hard behind the toilet doors. 10+ cubicles hosting many generations, and who knows how many bodies per cubicle.
Mesmerized by the orchestra, our club-goer is thinking god-like again: ‘When the illusion is too complete, the pleasure is destroyed. So, shall we constantly question what we experience?’ He decides to stop wondering about whom or what influenced him to start dancing, whether he is a soft rebel or a true rebel, where his subjectivity was produced, if his dancing is death-driven or life-driven, if he will be able to settle for less after a little taste of freedom, and so on…
After a few more dance performances and toilet sessions, our club-goer decides to call it a night. In the cloakroom, he was happy to see his belongings again. He exits out of the door, remembering what Marcus Greil told him once:
‘…I know that one can leave a nightclub with the feeling that nothing can ever be the same…’
…but, life goes on. – He continues the sentence.
Another time he told him this:
‘Too many people had too much of everything that was on the market, and so they had the leisure to think about what else they might want.’
Having remembered that too, he starts to feel like he’s experiencing the consumer’s happy ending. On his way home, he firmly decides that he needs a break from the average-market-participation, so he begins to flirt with the idea of getting involved with some micro-economies of our society. Of the ones he knows, the Critical Boys Club with the membership cost of €12 per month sounds legit. The hope to remain there for at least three months excites him.
Maisa Imamović is an Amsterdam-based writer, designer, and web-developer who likes to draw. She graduated from Gerrit Rietveld’s Architectural Design department in 2018. She also pursued the Full-Stack Web Development certificate at BSSA. Her main research interest is the island of boredom, and the impossibility to be bored. She studies trends, cliches, and conditions of honesty experienced by many. For her design practise she creates situations of doing nothing/cutting productivity to zero. Since her web-development journey, she has been observant of how programming languages program lifestyles through user experience. She was published in Kajet, Simulacrum, Forum, and INC (Institute of Network Cultures). “How to Nothing” was her first published longform.
Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A secret History of the Twentieth Century, Harvard University Press, 2001.
Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Verso 2014.
Luc Sante, The Party, The New York Times 2003,