Consuming Pleasures
1 November – 3 December, 2003


Reception for the artist: Friday, November 14th, 6-8pm

Spencer Brownstone Gallery is delighted to present the U.S premier of 'Consuming Pleasures', the highly anticipated concluding part of Sven Påhlsson's major digital animation trilogy.
'Consuming Pleasures (or Shopping Paradise, 99 Cent Heaven, A Search for a Better Life and the Lowest Prices Ever)' focuses on the rise of the strip mall and the mega-store, conceptually drawing together the themes and concerns of the first two installments: the reliance on the car in American culture ('Crash Course', 2000); and suburban housing development ('Sprawlville', 2002).
With its roots in the arcades and department stores of 19th Century Paris (and the birth of the dissociated 'flaneur'), the template for the contemporary shopping experience was really laid down in the U.S. in the 1950's, with the invention of the shopping center and mall by architect Victor Gruen. Technological advances such as climate control and improved artificial lighting allowed the creation of 'black-box' structures, interchangeable architectural units that could be assembled quickly and cheaply to serve the growing suburbs.
'Consuming Pleasures' represents an obsessive scanning of this architectural phenomenon, an examination of its surfaces from every possible angle in the hope of obtaining clues as to it's meaning. We are taken on a free-wheel ride through endless aisles, via random turns and frequent double-backs. We scan the floor, the escalators, the ventilation ducts on the ceiling, then the floor again. As the cycle continues and the lack of any climax or conclusion begins to induce anxiety, we are suddenly jolted by a series of violent forces that act on the shelves, blowing away the neat stacks of bottles, boxes and cans. Or in another sequence, a sinister tilting of the 'camera' viewpoint seems to act as a force on a group of shopping trolleys that accelerate and crash into a corner.
These architectural spaces are so lacking in the usual markers with which we orient ourselves in space (supporting walls, columns, daylight-admitting windows) that it is only such sudden forces that can shake us into sensing our physicality again. The periodic jolts in 'Consuming Pleasures' call to mind the sad scene we've all witnessed of someone having a meltdown in the supermarket. The space of the mall becomes the space of the mind and vice-versa. It is the cleverness of Påhlsson's project to extend this troubling psychic relativity into the fully abstracted realm of the digital, the next frontier of the limitless banal.
'Consuming Pleasures' pushes the boundaries of available technology for rendering this virtual world. As well as using 3D visualization tools that represent a significant advance over even those of 'Sprawlville', the project employs sophisticated new technology for rendering artificial lighting effects. 'Consuming Pleasures' also continues the artist's collaboration with composer Eric Wøllo, with a new emphasis on ambient sound and the integration of acoustic effects with the music soundtrack.
'Consuming Pleasures' caps a major trilogy of works that represent a milestone in the investigation of the contemporary American experience, and it's symbiotic relationship with digital technologies.