The striking paintings of Wal-Marts we featured this morning are not alone. Michelle Muldrow targets, among other supermarkets, Target. She calls these
photographs paintings “Cathedrals of Desire.” Cathedrals used to function as a way to transcend desire into love, the worldly into the unworldly. Now these new consumer cathedrals make the worldly sacred and turn desire into a virtue.
I have to say that Target in particular engenders in me an instant version of what some hyper-lefty Germans called Konsumterrorismus: a total panic caused by the option of limitless shopping. (The definition is not undisputed). In my case, this phobia is compounded by the lighting – especially in Target. Aaron took me there once and I could not really get past the doorway. It was just horrifying. If I go to Hell, I will not have my ankles licked by fire. And I will not be lit from below. I will be subjected to giant, constant, overhead fluorescent lighting – what Michael Cunningham once called less lighting than the “banishment of all darkness.”
That gets it right, I think. All darkness must be banished to promote and encourage the purchase of things. This is what a huge amount of our culture now rests upon: the purchase of things. I guess you have to banish the literal darkness to disguise the shallow yet impenetrable darkness our shopping civilization represents.