30 September 2010

Dystopian Kaiser celebrates 20th anniversary of the end of the Kaufhalle with enchanting gobo light show


Crap Supermarkets ∕ Interiors ∕ Nightlife ∕ Place Making ∕ Shopping ∕ Signage

Reunification KaisersReunification Kaisers – black red gold

I’ve come to lament the prevailing mediocrity of my re-adopted country, the Bundesrepublik Durchschnitt, where the news seems to only deal with fractional changes in percentage points up or down from a compromise or an average. This averageness has made steady inroads into PB, where I still live, somehow finding expression in a surge in Geox shoes as the hallmark of practical averageness. I am hoping that at some point the gentrifcation carousel will catch up with itself and place me back at the cutting edge, marked by a good mixture of migrant workers and the next version of the flat white, though I hope Cafe CK will stick around, that bastion of excellence and decadence.

Which is why I am so proud of our relatively recently upgraded Kaisers as a place to spend your additional 5 EUR social security per month, because it certainly isn’t average, more Running Man goes shopping. First, they didn’t fall into the glaringly obvious trap of removing the old GDR Kaufhalle aluminum modules that adorned all Kaufhallen around here, communicating “Kaufhalle” to everyone in a nice example of meaningful ornament. Thank you Kaiser, for the sensitivity of sparing us another mindless act of effacing any historical trace of the class enemy with the ephemera of globalized consumer culture. Second, the shit they pulled off inside is absolutely first rate, absolutely daring, something beyond the wildest imagination of anyone daydreaming the future into a void of Tempobohnen (parboiled, freeze dried “speed” beans) in this former Kaufhalle 25 years ago.

P1030520 900Kaufhalle ornament

An array of ceiling mounted, rotating gobo lights and computer controlled strip lighting daube the aisles in pulsating hews from chartreuse to mauve. A weird Ballardianate mare, shopping unsuccessully for arrow root amidst a pop-up border patrol carneval in the flood light zone of the death strip. Background music: The Great Escape, whistled, muffled only by the slightly crude humming of the rotating gobo lights. And in the end, the cashier’s recurring question, a bold pretense of normality: “Sammeln Sie die Herzen?” (“do you collect hearts?” – Kaisers’ reward program). I think they should add the sound of helicopters and the odd bomb whistle. I can see the next stage. Shoppers are handed laser price scanners and shoot down bar codes of sales prices that pop up randomly around the market. If you make it to the cashier without stepping into one of the rotating gobo light cones, you receive double the amount of Herzen. After a few attempts, advanced shoppers master the parcours on Segways and peyote in just under two days.

And it really has an effect, though I’m not sure it’s the intended one. I’ve spotted Incidents of open displays of schizophrenia, a suspiciously skinny, scruffy man in very short red shorts giving his best rendition of an opera overture in the snack aisle, seemingly mislead by this environment to open displays of madness. In the evenings, after the few remaining nice old ladies in PB have cleared the aisles, the show starts, the gloves come off and the most frenzied, primordial shopping experience this side of spear hunting a mamooth begins, for organic avocados, biodegradeable tensides and increasingly, Sternburg Export.

(The clips were shot just after the show starts at 19:00 every day. It picks up after, when hungry shoppers abound. It’s a bit long, but I was really trying to get the sound of the lights rotating.)

back in the day
Back in the day