Cathedrals of Consumerism
‘The schoolteachers show the children
a marvellous light coming from the mountain;
but what arrives is a junction of sewers
where cholera’s nymphs scream in the shadows.
The teachers point devoutly to the enormous domes
filled with burning incense;
but beneath the statues there is no love,
no love beneath the final crystal eyes.’
From the poem Cry to Rome by Federico Garcia Lorca
The rise of consumerism as the dominant paradigm of social and economic order during the postmodern era has seen society become increasingly obsessed with purchasing products as a means to create a sense of self and find fulfilment. The reliance on chronic consumption to provide these deep human needs has seen consumerism likened to a new religion, with shopping malls the new places of worship. Sociologist George Ritzer coined the term ‘cathedrals of consumption’ to describe these places of hyper-consumption, designed with the anticipation that people gradually develop a passion for acquiring products they do not necessarily need after experiencing the spectacle, drama and theatre of these spaces. The series examines these themes around the shopping malls of Johannesburg and explores the imitation of religious iconography that reinforces the idea of consumerism as a new religion.