13 December 2010
"Bunkers have already been described as privatized public spaces which serve various particularized functions, such as political continuity (government offices or national monuments), or areas for consumption frenzy (malls). In line with the feudal tradition of the fortress mentality, the bunker guarantees safety and familiarity in exchange for the relinquishment of individual sovereignty. It can act as a seductive agent offering the credible illusion of consumptive choice and ideological peace for the complicit, or it can act as an aggressive force demanding acquiescence for the resistant. The bunker brings nearly all to its interior with the exception of those left to guard the streets. After all, nomadic power does not offer the choice not to work or not to consume. The bunker is such an all-embracing feature of everyday life that even the most resistant cannot always approach it critically. Alienation, in part, stems from this uncontrollable entrapment in the bunker.
Bunkers vary in appearance as much as they do in function. The nomadic bunker—the product of “the global village”—has both an electronic and an architectural form. The electronic form is witnessed as media; as such it attempts to colonize the private residence. Informative distraction flows in an unceasing stream of fictions produced by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and CNN. The economy of desire can be safely viewed through the familiar window of screenal space. Secure in the electronic bunker, a life of alienated autoexperience (a loss of the social) can continue in quiet acquiescence and deep privation. The viewer is brought to the world, the world to the viewer, all mediated through the ideology of the screen. This is virtual life in a virtual world. Like the electronic bunker, the architectural bunker is another site where hyperspeed and hyperinertia intersect. Such bunkers are not restricted to national boundaries; in fact, they span the globe. Although they cannot actually move through physical space, they simulate the appearance of being everywhere at once. The architecture itself may vary considerably, even in terms of particular types; however, the logo or totem of a particular type is universal, as are its consumables. In a general sense, it is its redundant participation in these characteristics that make it so seductive.
This type of bunker was typical of capitalist power’s first attempt to go nomadic. During the Counterreformation, when the Catholic Church realized during the Council of Trent (1545-63) that universal presence was a key to power in the age of colonization, this type of bunker came of age. (It took the full development of the capitalist system to produce the technology necessary to return to power through absence). The appearance of the church in frontier areas both East and West, the universalization of ritual, the maintenance of relative grandeur in its architecture, and the ideological marker of the crucifix, all conspired to present a reliable place of familiarity and security. Wherever a person was, the homeland of the church was waiting.
In more contemporary times, the gothic arches have transformed themselves into golden arches. McDonalds’ is global. Wherever an economic frontier is opening, so is a McDonalds’. Travel where you might, that same hamburger and coke are waiting. Like Bernini’s piazza at St. Peters, the golden arches reach out to embrace their clients—so long as they consume, and leave when they are finished. While in the bunker, national boundaries are a thing of the past, in fact you are at home. Why travel at all? After all, wherever you go, you are already there.
There are also sedentary bunkers. This type is clearly nationalized, and hence is the bunker of choice for governments. It is the oldest type, appearing at the dawn of complex society, and reaching a peak in modern society with conglomerates of bunkers spread throughout the urban sprawl. These bunkers are in some cases the last trace of centralized national power (the White House), or in others, they are locations to manufacture a complicit cultural elite (the university), or sites of manufactured continuity (historical monuments). These are sites most vulnerable to electronic disturbance, as their images and mythologies are the easiest to appropriate.
In any bunker (along with its associated geography, territory, and ecology) the resistant cultural producer can best achieve disturbance. There is enough consumer technology available to at least temporarily reinscribe the bunker with image and language that reveal its sacrificial intent, as well as the obscenity of its bourgeois utilitarian aesthetic. Nomadic power has created panic in the streets, with its mythologies of political subversion, economic deterioration, and biological infection, which in turn produce a fortress ideology, and hence a demand for bunkers. It is now necessary to bring panic into the bunker, thus disturbing the illusion of security and leaving no place to hide. The incitement of panic in all sites is the postmodern gamble."
–Critical Art Ensemble The Electronic Disturbance, 1993