I keep thinking about this picture ever since I first saw it.
It was taken at a closing-down Borders store in Chicago. I believe the true subject of the sign, which may well have been unintended, reaches far beyond this short and humorous comment.
It really depends on how you read it. It might be the work of a young, devoted, innocent anger. Like my own, only a bit younger. It might be pointing their last customers towards the closest functional restroom facilities. According to one Boing Boing comment, Google Street View shows that a thematic restaurant, named Amazon, is just around the corner.
Sadly, those comments can no longer be seen, and a Google search for “closing+borders+sign” doesn’t return many interesting reads. One mostly learns about convenience and price advantages on the one side, and bad management on the other. And toilets, of course. But somehow, I really doubt this is about toilets.
To me there’s something in this picture. Some kind of logical error. Something that, like an arrow, points into a direction yet unknown to me. Into a direction I might not be skilled enough to think about.
It asks. It poses a question. Like all good art (and that is how I understand the above sign), it poses a valid question. It relates our reality to the realm of the unreal yet possible.
It reminds me of Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs:
In my view, they both explore different levels of reality.
Maybe it points towards a future in which styrofoam eventually replaces stone.
Maybe it is about the difference between neighborhood and network.
Maybe it points toward Singularity in which digital restrooms replace the real ones, and we never ever have to worry about our real neighbors, our real needs, our real relationships. Red or blue pill?
Of course, maybe it is all just my imagination. You see, I find it hard to think about possible futures and not to think of George Orwell – one retailer, one publisher, one customer database.
I prefer diversity. I like to be able to choose where to get my cup of coffee. I prefer diversity buying croissants, zucchinis, books or shoes.
I believe we should continue to develop, cultivate and think about our networks. But we must not ignore the danger of them smoothing the way towards an overwhelming power to but a few strongholds.
I think our networks should not endanger our neighborhoods. They are here to enhance and improve our lives. To widen the realm of possible, not to narrow it.