Thursday, June 24, 2010


The following text is a part of project titled Metro and its Panoptic Modernity


Dictionary says an Escalator is a moving staircase. But a discourse of the Escalator would expose that it is not a staircase at all. An Escalator is a machine that carries people, from one floor to another; instead of people having to carry themselves (so does the elevator).

This is how its experience ascends onto the user. Knowing what an Escalator does, or figuring it out by giving it a quick look is the precondition for a ride on it(in a sense discovering it, in its form, location and meaning). Then comes the motivation (which will be discussed the end of the discourse) pressing us to take an affirmative decision, on how would we like to consume the escalator. By getting on it obviously, whether with excitement or indifference(and hence associating with it as a cohesive whole-affirming with its form, location and meaning) alternately, repelled by it, choosing to take its no-tech closest- the steps, and thus consuming it(with an even greater force) only in its visual and intangible(in a relationship of disagreement). Boarding the escalator is the next, which comes with statutory caution signage. Whether one reads it or not in the less than little time he/she would spend at this point, the signage would still be credited to press upon the user didactically the machine-ness of the Escalator- that it comes with a possible death beam and hence is a controlled form of extreme power so one must behave properly. It is in a way the first telling experience that this machine is only in its looks like the staircase but functions differently. The quintessential reductive form language (sum total of signs) of the signage system would also perpetuate the myth that motivated us to ‘Escalate’. Then the next moment is when after a brief horizontal stride the escalator rises with the user. This could seem to some to be a synergetic wonder moment, almost like fulfilment of a dream after long virtuous labour of cautionary compliance. By then the railing has been gripped as it moves coordinated with the escalator steps and now the user as well. Then there is the mundane monotony of the flight itself which exhibits a dilemma.”If I am on the stairs why am I not physically climbing...then how is it that I am still ascending/ descending?” So in a way the mind thinks me to be on a sort of a staircase but my bodily actions reject and so corporeally I am elsewhere. This would imply that the staircase is only a sign and the user is significantly distanced from it. The signifier of the sign is the Motor, Gear and Conveyer belt technology wrapped with the appearance of a staircase. This clearly renders its materiality in a lame light of dishonesty. Notice, how the height of each of its step is in a way a negotiation, nevertheless only highlighting the intent of the machine to pass off as a staircase. Height of each step of the Escalator is rather odd, that is, to comply with its technological bare bones and still visually remain a staircase.

After the steep rise and another horizontal stride is a clue waiting to reemphasize the dilemma. Getting off the Escalator is a peculiar experience and requires training one’s mind to adjust to its inertia. The fact that the body is actually moving has to be made evident to the mind otherwise de-boarding could be jerky, like a realisation of sorts. A realisation of a disjoint with the regularity of life.

The Escalator is a certain mechanical technology in the excuse of ‘the staircase’. The overlap of form between the escalator and the staircase is its only attempt to redeem itself from being trivialised as a fetish. Technology’s (gear, conveyer belt and motor system) meaningless (demeaning) emptiness serves as a container for a myth to be created. The signified staircase, in one word ‘the escalator’ is a foretaste of the future. It speaks about how life is going to be from now on-free from the hardship of physical labour, comfortable, subliminal and almost spiritual. It is a projection of a technological utopia accessed through the Escalator as portkey . The myth of technocratic modernity is carefully cultured and most mundane in the architecture (not even a spiral staircase-a transient element clearly less important than the facade or the sanctum but metaphorically full and apt to depict the transcendence from now to modernity) is chosen to be the artifice. Only to be decoded as an obscene exploitation of the ultimate power of myth to distort reality and project the signification of progress-Modernity.

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