Thursday, August 22, 2013

The party goes on behind elevator doors
While the elevator plummets from the 69th floor

Behold the Life-shaft to Nowhere, an icon of this fair city and beloved among the population, symbolising as it does our revered traditions of business failure and architectural shite.

Now oddly enough, "The Role of the Elevator in Contemporary Culture" was the topic of last night's public talk in the Wigglesworth Lounge at the Old Entomologist. Scheduled by head barmaid Evangeline van Holsterin on short notice instead of the regular evening of 'Pentastomidae reclassification and spilt beer puddles which look like political caricatures'.

"It will be educational," she informed us; "you loonies might learn something. At any rate there will be less bad language and broken glass."

"The S-word is hardly bad language these days," Another Kiwi vouchsafed.

"He who lives by the s-word will die by the s-word," tigris opined, staring pointedly at Swearing Bob.

"Excitement in the cause of invertebrate taxonomy is no crime," I said.

"Neither is charging interest on the Riddled bar tab," said Evangeline, and upon reflection we decided against pursuing the point any further.
In fact it was an interesting talk; speaker Greenish Hugh had certainly done his homework. He soldiered on like a trouper even when his computer and Powerpoint presentation reverted to an overhead projector and a stack of acetate slides respectively.* As Keats once remarked to Chapman, "He who acetates is lost".

So we learned that elevators are a key component of Modernity. Without them there would be no highrise apartments or offices or vertical distance between corporate headquarters and hoi polloi. Their status in culture is central, valorised.

"That must be why there are so many horror movies with lifts as the setting or the antagonist," I suggested during the subsequent discussion. "There must be at least half-a-dozen -- "

"Schindler's List doesn't count," tigris argued.

"Usually there are muffins after these things," said AK.

" -- versus approximately 0.00 horror movies about escalators."

"Thomas Disch wrote a story..." AK remembered.

"Shut up," I vouchsafed.
Hipgnosis cover art doesn't count
But this central sacral status means that however playful you get with architecture, you cannot have non-functional, purely aesthetic elevators without the function-fetish technocrats getting all pissy as if you have called into question the deepest rationales of their existence. So there are stairs and doors but no elevators in the Great Chaotic of Rome**... some transgressions even Borges could not get away with.

And now, heaven forfend, the technocrats have found an excuse to demolish the Life-shaft to Nowhere! They claim it is an earthquake risk!
Also they are worried that non-building-related elevators will go into earth orbit and come into contact with Vermicious Knids.

Fritz Leiber has reviewed another episode of one technocrat's crusade against purely ludic architecture (in the cause of efficiency and mental hygiene). Reassuringly, events close with Carrsbury's departure to a peaceful place far away where he will be no danger either to himself or to others:
"I am confiscating the key to the Morphogenic Flux Intensifier," said tigris. "I do not want you two programming it with horror movies about killer elevators just to see what happens when they become a tradition, or an old charter or something."

"The thought never crossed our minds," I assured her, slipping the spare key to AK.

* AK had been running the Morphogenic Flux Intensifier programmed with P.K. Dick's "Ubik", with the wholly predictable outcome that technology in the neighbourhood underwent an entropic degradation to earlier and simpler forms.

** "This noble edifice, which to some seemed a sphere, to others an ovoid, and to the reactionary a shapeless mass, and whose materials ran the gamut from marble to cow dung, consisted essentially of truncated bridges, of spiral staircases that gave access to impenetrable walls, of balconies to which entrance was impossible, and of doors than opened either into pits or into high, narrow rooms from whose ceilings soft armchairs and comfortable double beds hung upside down. Nor was there any lack of concave mirrors."


Helmut Monotreme said...

I applaud the kiwi dedication to adaptive architecture, in which uncompleted structures respond to environmental stimulus by changing from pointless to dangerous.
I only lament that the wellington authorities seem reluctant to allowing the experiment to progress at it's own pace.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I'm stuck on the fact that Naomi Watts was in a movie named "The Shaft". I think I shall retire to my bunk.

Substance McGravitas said...

Once it's known that a killer elevator exists the movie gets very boring as all the characters go elsewhere.