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new clothes





escalator in the new south china mall, which opened in 2005. its leasable space remained 99% vacant for several years before renovations in 2015 finally began to attract retailers and customers. 


plasticitythe quality of being moldable.

an escalator is in principle designed to be so functional that it becomes in a way invisible, unobtrusively mediating the flows of human traffic in and around a space. if the escalator breaks down, we see a fissure in the design: people are suddenly walking up its steps instead of standing on them, or redirecting themselves entirely to elevators or staircases in different parts of the building. the failure of the escalator to perform its covert function generates a flurry of diverted pathways and physical interruptions, and in the process it undergoes a transformation of sorts: it becomes noticeably mechanical again, its materiality inviting consideration where it was once abstracted into a smooth and discreet non-form. still, this type of transformation is a detour,

not a reroute; the change may provoke a different kind of physical engagement for a finite period, but it does not work against the systems which made it. damage and repair is part of its life as a capitalist object, and this type of disruption is accounted for within the matrix of its design. the escalator as it currently functions is flexible because it ultimately works to snap back to its original, invisible form. this is perhaps all well and good in isolation, but problems arise when the broader social discourse of transformation as a whole is shaped by capitalism to the degree that flexibility becomes its modus operandi. flexibility grasps “only one of the semantic registers of plasticity: that of receiving form” (malabou), and

thereby does not work to construct new worlds, but rather adjusts to that which has already been constructed, and only in ways which are not constitutionally threatening to its authoring institution (capitalism). the flexible quality of snapping back also subjects form to “endless polymorphism” (malabou), which in capitalism amounts to erasure, as form is most valuable when it can be erased and replaced at any time. this, perhaps, is the most fundamental of the capitalist processes of transformation: eventually, the escalator will be demolished to make way for something new. erasure is its final act as a flexible form. the bodybag, then, is an instance wherein a form which was built to be flexible became something different, not only in the

circumstances of its creation, but in its utilizations by tertiary agents thereafter. the bodybag didn't have the chance to function as the escalator that it was supposed to be, and was thereby not subjected to the same processes of damage and repair—in other words, transformation—as it would have been as a fully realized flexible form. it also couldn’t be a “disruption” to any preset pathways, as those pathways had yet to emerge in the first place. it had no form to which it could flexibly “snap back”, because again, its form hadn’t come into fruition. still, it was suspended in time and space in a manner which suggested that it might represent some capital value, even if that value was ultimately its subjection to erasure. in other words, the bodybag is not a plastic form simply

because it represents a bad investment, as bad investments are par for the course in capitalist structures, and are themselves not threatening to capitalism as a whole. however, its suspended form as a bodybag is one of far more variable potentialities than that of an escalator in a bustling shopping mall, and thus it offers an opening for a methodology which allows space for these potentialities to flourish and build anew. it is thus in form itself that the dissonances and violences of capitalism become most apparent, thereby underlining how a methodology which thinks “with and through objects” (blake) may offer a material lexicon for understanding and reorienting those capitalist processes which self-obfuscate by design.


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