Kiril Kobrin


The shopping mall welcomes us with bright lights, it is spacious, clean, filled with people, who come here to experience joy. The shopping mall is a place that contains everything (or almost everything) that is absent in our everyday life, which is dull, monotonous, full of fear and deprivation. There is a lot of space here – unlike in our urban dwellings. It's bright, unlike the sparsely lit streets of the neighborhoods we inhabit. It's beautiful here, it's oddly cozy, it's fun, and, despite the monotony of the stores repeating from one shopping mall to the next, it’s even diverse. The things that surround us here are better than at home, the food (most of the time) is tastier. Even the toilets, despite the conveyor belt of visitors, make the uncomplicated procedure of freeing ourselves from processed food and drink somehow elevated, solemn, and aesthetically significant. It's not for nothing that so many selfies are taken int the shopping mall toilets.

It turns out that shopping malls are Paradise, but this Paradise, unlike the Christian or Muslim one, consists of the things of our world. There is absolutely nothing in it that would not exist outside its walls. It’s all fair. What our world currently has to offer to its residents is what the shopping mall has. No mysticism, no fantasy. The shopping mall contains things of reality, ready for consumption. And yet it is a true Paradise, because the time in it is the Eternal Present.

There is no past here – and there cannot be one. Only new items are on display in the shopping mall; new, but already known for their qualities. That is, these are new current things. Once old – models of smartphones, jars of yogurt, blouses of the year before – they are expelled from this world. There is only what is here and now. The counterculture that fifty-odd years ago demanded that we throw away all the old junk and embrace modernity, eagerly listening to the psychedelic music of the present moment, won. This victory is here, in the shopping mall. The shopping mall is the main temple of the victorious revolution, and, at the same time, the only religion tirelessly worshipped tirelessly in this temple. The shopping mall is a triumph, the apotheosis of the late modernity that insists on its universality, an ontology, which excludes the very shadow of the possibility of the existence of anything other than itself. Shopping mall: Temple of Modernity of the Almighty, of Pantocrator. Temple of Almighty Capitalist Realism.

In 2009, in his book Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher coined a formula, from which our world has been trying but failing to escape for nearly 15 years: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” Fisher borrowed this formula from Frederick Jamieson, but it acquired its powerful meaning and sound only in Capitalist Realism. The global financial crisis of 2008 shook the capitalist system but did not visibly or invisibly harm it. Some have less money, some have more, and that is all. The world order itself remains the same. Thunderstorms, hurricanes, and earthquakes can greatly impact the existence of certain parts of the world, but they do not touch the world – Nature - itself. Nature is indestructible, for there is nothing but Nature. Late capitalism stands on the idea, or rather, on the feeling of its infinity, its timelessness. Capitalism is the ground we walk on and the air we breathe. It has always been before us and will continue after us. Everything that has happened to the world before it, capitalism wraps in cellophane and sells in the shopping mall as something that matters only here and now. The past exists only insofar it brought us here, to the shopping mall. There is no future, for we are already in Paradise. No imagination is enough to conceive of something beyond present-day capitalism, beyond the most authentic reality, the reality of the shopping mall.
Families come here on weekends, just as families used to go to church. In the Middle Ages, the church was a place of magical ritual and profane entertainment at the same time. It was the place where people turned to God for support, comfort, and joy, where they flirted, gossiped, and socialized. The everyday social life, becoming a festive weekend activity, took on a sacred meaning. After all, it was the churches that were the most beautiful buildings, admirably decorated; their beauty set off the squalor of life for most parishioners. Today, a shopping mall is built for this purpose. Yet the shopping mall is even more important than the medieval church, because it is a direct embodiment of the social order of our world. The Church either set this order or sometimes even challenged it. The Shopping Mall already represents the social order by its design. This is Paradise, but it is a modern Paradise, woven from a myriad of social contracts.

Above all, and especially in Europe, the shopping mall, in contrast to the old churches, is indifferent to its exterior. It is separated from the outside world by glass and iron of completely neutral architectural forms, “none at all”. In fact, the shopping mall is transparent, its walls are permeable, as if they did not exist. Paradise is within. The surrounding parking lots, traffic stops, road junctions, warehouses, etc. are simply a preparation for Paradise. The shopping mall is often accused of being architecturally ugly – but this is a delusion. The shopping mall is indifferent to what is around it, because it insists on its own being and the nonbeing of anything else. After all, even in the Middle Ages no one made any aesthetic pronouncements as to the shape of the clouds, in which, as the priests and theologians claimed, Paradise was located. Shopping mall is the triumph of content over form; but at the same time, the "content" of the shopping mall is revealed to us in the ideal "form" of an eternal holiday and an endless abundance of goods.

Finally, there are no hierarchies in this Paradise: what can be found on the fourth floor of the shopping mall is no more important than what is located on the ground floor. The vertical here is a pure technicality: in the shopping mall, the horizontal reigns supreme. For Paradise there are no classes, social, gender, ethnic, or religious groups – its doors are open to everyone, indiscriminately. Even the contents of your wallet are of no significance – anyone, rich or poor, is welcome to walk into the shopping mall. As it should be in Paradise, the shopping mall is crowded with individuals, not collectives; in fact, everyone here is a piece of Paradise, just as important as any other.

Goods in the shopping mall are also arranged horizontally, even if some of them are placed above others – this is not a hierarchy, no, just a way of organizing horizontal space. Accordingly, choices are also made horizontally in the shopping mall; the visitor’s money is poured into the boundless ocean of money in which our shopping mall island floats.

The shopping mall is an island of Utopia, absorbing the whole world, becoming it, cancelling all times except the present. The island of Omnitopia. It is as unthinkable to trade in the future here as offering prayers to the Antichrist in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Vatican. Unless artificial intelligence rebels against this world order, like Lucifer did.