Amazon Landscapes


In 1934, Lewis Mumford was one of the first and most prominent voices to argue that mechanization and regimentation were not new phenomena in history but what was actually new at the time was the fact that these functions had been projected and embodied in organized forms which came to dominate every aspect of people's existence [1]. Today the embodiment of this mechanization, as reflected in machine automation, has already become banal; instead, what fuels the everyday urban life and and its imaginaires is system automation which ultimately aims to decrease the time needed to circulate information and commodities across the global urban landscape.

The major difference between machine and system automation is materiality or, more precisely, the ostensible absence of it in the latter. For the public consciousness, system automation is a function without a body; highly immaterial simply because all the infrastructure that supports it has been ostracized at the urban periphery. Yet agents of system automation remain highly physical while being among the top consumers of raw material and energy in the global market. Today, one of such prominent agents is Amazon. As Matthew Steward notes, Amazon so far has been operating in the abstract spaces of logistics and anonymous warehouses [2].

By being safely confined away from the public eye, Amazon has managed

to successfully build its empire on the constant oscillation between being completely invisible and very actual, quietly shaping not only the way the urban environment operates but how it looks and feels as well.

This visual project wishes to relocate Amazon's invisible operating mechanisms into a speculative urban scenario by using the company's own visual language of imagining the future: the patent. The characteristic visual insipidity of a patent has the power of flattening everything it depicts into a single contextual surface of utility, bridging a problem to its proposed solution. Through the negation of any specific visual style in its attempt of achieving pure objectivity, it creates its own universal aesthetics of "timeless-ness" and "placeless-ness". Additionally, it functions as a showcase display, presenting the object of interest as a unique artifact in the most unoffensive, almost sterile manner, obsessing over its scale and dimensions, while purposefully failing to depict the core premise of its future existence: its success at multiplication and distribution. Ultimately, by employing all of the above qualities of the patent, subverting and stretching their inherent purpose to the extreme, this visual project aims to explore the materiality of an automated urban futurism through the creation of small stories of places where promised objects of future innovation become mundane urban props.

[1] Lewis Mumford,. Technics and Civilization. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD, 193), p.4

[2] Matthew Stewart, “Amazon Urbanism: Patents and The Totalizing World of Big Tech Futures.” Failed Architecture. May 23, 2018. Accessed December 17, 2018. https://failedarchitecture.com/amazon-urbanism-patents-and-the-totalizing-world-of-big-tech-futures/.