Times Square Ikea (Rough Post)


12/21/07 06:11:58 AM

SO I slept late today and I have not particular interest in writing, but I’ll just update things. I guess that there is a lot of news. And if I get my flow on I’d like to write about the profound alienation that I felt shopping yesterday. First I was struck by how shopping at Ikea is like going to Disneyland designed for or by Martha Stewart. There is something comforting about going to Ikea. It is like the video section of Costco: the symbolism supplants the reality. The reality is that there are dozens of Hollywood movies of dubious merit there for vaguely affordable prices. The semiotic or symbolic value is that each of these DVDs represent two hours of sitting around and doing nothing but consuming ideas (of wealth, love, revenge, and power). In Ikea all of our houses and apartments, our living spaces recede to the semiotic, where they can be clean, safe and convenient with the purchase of some trifle or another. The prices, individually, are cheap, but the bill is always huge.

So the shoestand that will tame our jumble of shoes at the entryway represents, symbolizes, effects a tidiness that will never exist. When we look at the dishdrainer that is so under-priced and cool we never see the dishes that must be washed to make it functional heaped in a greasy cold sink. We don’t imagine the roaches that might run behind it (none spotted in our new house yet). And we certainly don’t imagine the underpaid third world worker who assembled them around dangerous machines at a dizzying speed. What we see is the affect that the cool Swedish showroom puts these gewgaws, trinkets, and gizmos in. When I buy a curtain rod from Ikea I hope that my house will get the “windowtreatment” of the Ikea showroom. I am not buying something to hold the curtain in front of the window I am buying the feeling of neatness, cleanliness, tidiness and service that the blue and gold of the Swedish standard (and helpful employee shirts1) represent.

Ikea becomes a virus that I hope will infect my house. I want to catch the Martha Stewart cooties from the clean consumer experience. I don;t just want things, I want order and clarity. I want a domestic situation that will make me feel good when I am in my home. I want to live in this world where the dishes are always washed, the clothes always folded and people are always welcomed to come visit (and are duly impressed when they do).

Second, I hate the M&M Store. The M&M Store is branding and consumerism run amok. It is like Scott’s comments about the early MTV, it’s all commercials. Commercials for bands (Videos) mixed with commercials for products. Times Sq, in that regard, has become solipsistic; only the brands and chains are provable (or can afford the rent). I guess that in that regard Times Sq. has followed in its long traditions. First, it is the “crossroads of the world” as it was after WWII when it became institutionalized in the world consciousness (V.E. Day Kiss Photo). Second, it was always a party area, where the young folk would go out and eat, drink and make merry. Third, related to 2, is when it became a red-light district in the 70s and 80s; young people partying can often get seemy (remember the kiss photo had a sailor, a profession whose like to the “oldest profession” is legendary). I am sure that there are pierceling tatooine young burlesquers that will someday be respectable Kansan grandmas clicking their tongues at the behaviors that pleased them so much when they were young running around Times Sq. (or The East Village or Williamsburg). (OK, so I got on a little role here, but this is a great essay that has been free-written, but not really written.)


On Sunday the Bhatia Lin’s will be coming to NY for 4 days before a month in India.

1 a marked contrast to the red jerseys of underpaid Target workers, who seem the rawer and redder face of the globalization game.


9 responses to “Times Square Ikea (Rough Post)

  1. So…sleeping in makes us a little cranky, does it? (Wanna feel really bad about your situation? Read a little Greg Grandin, as in Empire’s Workshop.) And what’s Kiko getting for Xmas?
    But, of course, all in all, many of us have to agree with what you say. Then on the other hand, look at the bright lights in your eyes and in the eyes behind you. Life is worth it.

  2. Glad to hear more of Kiko. Sometimes get lost in your blog. It is a good learning experience. New words in the bike clothing department. Would use them but afraid I can’t find my way back.

  3. I love the IKEA shopping experience until you bring the stuff home and try to set it up and realize it looks nothing at all like in the store.

  4. hallowmas unexotic fluid glimmer unbraved sabbathism parricided mandatory
    Yo Pop Etc.

  5. Hello!

    I am contacting you because I am working with the authors of a book about blogs, and I’d like to request permission to use the photograph you have posted in this book. Please contact me at matt@wefeelfine.org, and I’d be happy to give you more information about the project. Please paste a link to your blog in the subject field. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.



  6. I’ve just got a pair of spectacles, just like yours. 🙂

  7. Hey. I dont know who you are… nut thought Id comment. Im doing a project on Ikea- thats how I came across your blog in a search engine. You mentioned that you dont imagine the people building these appliances in third world countries at dizzying speeds- but its good to know, being that I also am a fan of Ikea, that they do ALOT to protect workers in underdeveloped countries and to ensure the working conditions of the employees. It is duly noted that of course this cant be 100%, but it is still something that I actually believe Ikea has committed to improving in the countries where their products are made.
    Very Swedish 🙂

  8. Yeah, I get it, but even better than other factories is still factory work

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