Here I am in a corporate hotel in the arse end of post-modernity with nothing to do. I'm supposed to be working at the School Games, and they asked me to come down today rather than tomorrow. So I turned up at 3 and have had literally nothing to do. As it happens, enforced seclusion (this place is marooned in a sea of flyovers, conference centres and exhibition halls) turns out to be perfect for making me mark dissertations.
The view from my hotel room
This is what postmodernity looks like.
One of them was particularly good, and most appropriate: it analyses the postmodern vacuity of 'grand projects', the damage they do to local cultures, and the privatisation of public space. Marking it in an Olympic venue was beyond irony. (And right now the BBC News is plugging the Olympic Stadium dream). Sebastian Coe's on: he's made millions from his image rights, and William Hague's a shareholder… which seems a bit weird).
In case you want a reading list on this stuff, you could try Anna Minton's Ground Control (her blog's here and the book has a new chapter on the Olympics), anything by psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, or Marc Augé on non-spaces. Coincidentally - and massively annoyingly because I'm in the area and free tonight but not tomorrow, Minton and Sinclair are appearing together tomorrow night.
They'll be talking about things like this:
The fictional master of this stuff is of course JG Ballard, the chronicler of the desperation and barbaric atavism underneath the blandness of the neglected quarters: he was fascinated by the non-spaces of consumer capitalism, from airports to service stations and gated communities to sports arenas. I'm not sure whether this place would be his dream or his nightmare. Try Millennium People or Kingdom Come, in which the shopping mall becomes the centre of a comforting, then dystopian bourgeois cult:
'The human race sleepwalked to oblivion, thinking only of the corporate logos on its shroud'.