Forget the Flock (On Wallpaper)

By William Shoebridge, 10 January 1997

What do Wallpaper magazine and ecstatic clubbing not have in common?Lining the walls were many people.

I managed to establish a space above a small climb of stairs overlooking the crowd and took flight. Life was good. Pounding sound emulated an internal pounding. My eyes were wide open and scorched by the salty sweat from my forehead. Occasionally the horizon shifted and changed colour, the lasers peaked and dropped across my body. Light refracted and teased me while my mind began to think of the way tropes did similar things, but seldom hit with enough force to take hold. One, however, sprang to mind as a useful analogy for a magazine I had flicked through some hours before.

Lining the walls were many people. I was joined at the helm of this great craft by another, joined by an 'entheogenic'<1> counterpart, another navigator, a brother. Our arms flattened the air into small low-pressure zones which in turn were quickly filled with rising feet, kicking at the sound and light. I noticed how the casualness of these bodies, the apparent complacency of their clothes was in fact highly conscious. They were assembled with the same pragmatism I had seen employed to co-ordinate the rooms of some heavenly apartment in some great property left over from some more industrial time. Details - leaving certain buttons undone, slung crutch jeans, no visible shoe laces, all reminded me of the precision a Japanese gardener might bring to bear upon his work. Trying to conceal the orderliness of the placement of a rock so as to give the idea it couldn't have been any other way. I thought of that trope again, it was nasty.

Lining the walls were many people.

I sipped from a small yellow bottle which had a hybrid fruit-cocktail juice in it. This released my tongue from the gridlock with the roof of my mouth. I pounded more. My sensory apparatus assimilating and assessing information from the others, then from the room, then from the amalgam of both bodies and context. I felt like the room couldn't possibly exist without us. I felt like we couldn't exist without the room. In the rush of excitement and mayhem something had happened; an irreparable fusion. Our bodies were locked into the room's essential parameters. In the fashion of a key and its lock we had hiccuped over the laws of physics, we had merged with the inanimate. I clutched at air and thought again about this trope and then the magazine. Both slipped in and out of my mind, mapping out the course for this pageant of memories. The dark experience melted into a wave of fake happiness and my mind was plundered by its intensity.

Lining the walls were many people.

At least I remembered that much when sitting in the living room of my high-rise abode some 12 hours later. I leafed through a magazine I had left on the carpet the night before. I smiled at its title; Wallpaper, subtitled 'the stuff that surrounds you'. I looked around the room and felt nauseous - my room didn't look much like the rooms in the magazine. Worse still, I did not complete the syntax correctly. My outfit matched nothing in the room. Nothing co-ordinated that well, but I glowed from the satisfaction that the final conclusion of 'styling' hadn't had its way. I hadn't disappeared against the serenity of Calvin Klein's Home Collection. I thought about the insane prospect of a future governed by these meisters of styling running riot over every aspect of our everyday experience as well as ourselves. Styling that breaks down the divisions between our skin's surface and the things we touch. I thought about history, well, the past 17 years. I considered other magazines; ID for the things we wear and then Vogue Interiors for the things we use and move between. What must have happened for us to now be styling the gaps that distinguish animate and inanimate? I looked at Wallpaper again and dropped it back on the floor. This was nasty.

Lining the walls were many people.

Maverick wallpaper, its repeated pattern made from the vacillation of their arms and legs, held in view by the persistence of vision. A cannibalistic vogue, darling!! I quickly scribbled down my ideas from the night before. As entertainment I thought, brain damage aside, collapsing into what surrounds me isn't too bad. Imagine though what it must be like for those loft livers. 'Entertaining'? In a fit of paranoia I tried to stuff the magazine into the space behind an old chair I had found in a skip. I looked at the sad chair. Is that "ethno mix, somewhat 70s-college student"<2>?. Aaaaaaaaaaaagh! This magazine isn't safe there, I thought, so I put it under the mat outside the front door. That way, I thought, some poor dustman wouldn't find it and go AWOL about his Bethnal Green flat and persuade his wife it was a good idea to chuck out the chintz and start again using the family holiday money.

Lining the walls were many people.

None of whom seemed to mind this merger. In fact, everyone seemed to find being the room sedative. I then remembered what I was trying to forget. I remembered that, in the process, I had managed to bring upon myself the very thing I tried to escape; the trope.

"Defined as a disturbance in the relation between self and surrounding territory, psychasthenia is a state in which the space defined by the co-ordinates of the organism's own body is confused with represented space. Incapable of demarcating the limits of its own body, lost in the immense area that circumscribes it, the psychasthenic organism proceeds to abandon its own identity to embrace the space beyond. It does so by camouflaging itself into the milieu. This simulation effects a double usurpation: while the organism successfully reproduces those elements it could not otherwise apprehend, in the process it is swallowed by them, vanishing as a differentiated entity"<3>

Lining the walls were many people.

And I was one of them.

William Shoebridge

FOOTNOTES<1> The word 'entheogenic' is used by followers of Alexander Shulgin, psychonaughts and chemical visionaries who side-step the baggage associated with the word 'psychedelic'.

<2> The Making of Miss Minimalism, Wallpaper launch issue Sept/Oct, 1996. pp.19 - 21

<3> Celeste Olalquiaga, Megalopolis; Contemporary Cultural Sensibilities, University of Minnesota Press, 1992. pp. 1 - 2.