The Gateway: In With The New, Out With The New.

Aarthi and I were once going to make a zine about the South Campus Gateway which, at the time, had just opened. This is a version of that text, unedited for non-clarity and replete with a sort of half-baked political rumormongering. But our naysaying has been thoroughly vindicated through the years. Today, the Gateway is a mess that is currently relying on "The Arts" to bail it out and keep it populated. The movie theater has changed hands annually, people have been killed their annually, and businesses seemingly close monthly. Their current roster of business can be summed up as tanning salons and bars for the people who love them. Some of the storefronts - smartly - never even opened. And, yes, the houses directly across from it on 9th still lay vacant. Without further ado:



James y Lux

In 1995, The Ohio State University and the city of Columbus created Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment to “revitalize” the southern section of High Street in the University District between 9th Avenue and Chittenden.  (///) The South Campus Gateway was set into motion—a supposed safe-haven for the college market directly adjacent to the area. The existing bars that lined High Street were to be replaced by “student-friendly” drinking spots, along with other various businesses that would draw a more acceptable clientele. The bar district and residents that once inhabited the unattractive Southside of Columbus’ University District were made to disperse, their premises vacated and gutted, and construction began in 2004. The South Campus Gateway was opened for business in the fall of 2005, and immediately became an all-inclusive entity: where one could eat, live, and play—and never have to leave.

Manicured Conformity:

The South Campus Gateway structure was a project planned around the belief that to sell products you must sell the environment. From the streetlights and restored sidewalks to the graphic design of their business cards and the self-advertising that adorn it’s a walls, a brand is created by the willful lack of variety. Every inch of The Gateway follows a strict aesthetic code which residents and franchises are instructed to follow. On the Gateway’s website, the media package pdf was created so that no deviation from these rules would occur. /

And this carefully conceived code is clearly evident in the graphic aesthetics of The Gateway—tantalizing hints at youth sexuality, pop-savvy, graffiti-like graphic design, and “hip” language—that appeals to the target market that The Gateway was explicitly created for: middle class college students. This visual conformity acts as a sign that speaks to its prospective patrons, saying that The Gateway is a safe area where they can “escape, blend in, or be somebody else,”1 all while being guaranteed that there will be no intrusion of the real urban culture that exists outside The Gateway’s walls. Those who maintain The Gateway refuse to let even the weather soil the premises—earlier this year, while the whole of High Street and the adjoining residential areas were trapped in many inches of snow and ice, The Gateway was the first to have the snow polished away. It seems evident to the residents of Columbus that all busy roadways, especially the city’s main street, could benefit from a quick-responding and thorough emergency snow service. Unfortunately, throughout the city, most streets were left for the snow to just melt, while, if you couldn’t reach your house, The Gateway was open, and ready to offer you refuge—if you could get over your resentment.

The Façade of Capitalism:
  1. The front of a building, especially an imposing or decorative one.
  2. A superficial appearance or illusion of something; a misrepresentation intended to conceal something unpleasant. 2
    The South Campus Gateway is a façade of urban living, an idealized utopia of culture. It is not an organic community built up over decades, incorporating a variety of individual ideas within its walls, but a monolithic and hegemonic social space that was the vision of one group of designers, for one specific purpose. As a space designed explicitly for students with money, and not for the community as a whole, The Gateway is a projection of what these creators believe urban living should look and be like, while behind this projection are vacant houses, monoculture, and the newly homeless. Juxtaposed with The Gateway’s high-end apartment complexes are the remnants of the now tenant-less decaying homes that were condemned to demolition at the beginning of construction. And this façade continues within The Gateway as well—observable throughout The Gateway’s premises is the superficial notion that only hyper-consumption will satisfy one’s every desire: stop everything else you are doing and “buy it—all day, everyday”.

But is this accurate: are people only happy once they have engaged in the exchange of goods for currency at the Gateway? Are the regular ambulances and bar fights often witnessed at the Gateway, the murder and disappearances, symptoms of happiness, or is this a demonstration of the façade that is implicit in such spaces—grandeur concealing the ills of the capitalist system?

The Spectacle of the Panopticon:
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes.”
(Who watches the watchmen?)

  1. As envisioned by Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century, the Panopticon was the design for a prison in which all the inmates would be kept in cells that circled a central tower so that whoever was in the tower could see into the cells, but the reverse was not true: “As the watchmen cannot be seen, they need not be on duty at all times, effectively leaving the watching to the watched.” The idea was then rendered into metaphor by Michel Foucault, who said in his book Discipline and Punish, “Panopticism is the general principle of a new ‘political anatomy’ whose object and end are not the relations of sovereignty but the relations of discipline.”

The South Campus Gateway is an area under heavy surveillance at all times, but is also an area where young consumers seek out entertainment. These seemingly contradictory elements are actually mutually dependent on one another due to the installed, artificial nature of The Gateway. Since the existence of The Gateway interrupts the natural social flow of the city by the extreme juxtaposition of people with money and people without money, a Panopticon of security cameras, Gateway-employed security guards, and often, real officers, become a necessity to ensure that everyone does everything in accordance with expected social norms, while simultaneously excluding undesirables. Such an environment has the effect of making enjoyment highly regulated and conformed to an ideal that relies on consumption. This habitat of surveillance, or as OSU says incredibly succinctly—“24-hour eyes and ears”—is sought out in the entertainment of the present.

Gentrification as Globalization:
  1. Gentrification, or urban gentrification, is a phenomenon in which low-cost, physically deteriorated neighborhoods undergo physical renovation and an increase in property values, along with an influx of wealthier residents who often displace the prior residents.

  1. Globalization refers to increasing global connectivity, integration and interdependence in the economic, social, technological, cultural, political, and ecological spheres. Globalization is an umbrella term and is perhaps best understood as a unitary process inclusive of many sub-processes (such as enhanced economic interdependence, increased cultural influence, rapid advances of information technology, and novel governance and geopolitical challenges) that are increasingly binding people and the biosphere more tightly into one global system. The advantages and disadvantages of globalization have been debated and scrutinized heavily in recent years.

Gentrification can be seen not only as a local metaphor of the new economic relationships that are a result of global free trade, but also as a product of the new trade climate itself. In order to lower manufacturing costs, the production industry is relocated from within the borders of the United States by outsourcing labor to foreign companies in the developing world where US labor laws are not in place and do not apply. In America, this old industry is being removed and replaced by a new one that accompanies the influx of product: the service industry. Thus the polarization of new class schematics is created: low-skilled, low-income workers arrive to cater to the needs of the new high-income urban elite. // While products are increasingly traded more and more freely (i.e. less expensive labor costs and more profit return, less obstacles to trade and more freedom for corporate initiatives), Western society, who buy and sell these products, is isolating itself from the human element of the developing world because of the economic disparities of these countries, and the refusal to acknowledge or remedy these inequalities. While supporters of globalization espouse international unity and the benefits to the developing world, government, corporation-friendly bodies, such as the Group of Eight (G8), the Internal Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank (WB) effectively stifle fair trade (a global movement in compliance with a socially and environmentally responsible trade for all workers, i.e. fair wages, health care, labor unions) agreements or discourse, enforcing trade laws on the side of the corporate enterprise and effectively silencing the worker. Similar to how border walls and immigration restrictions are designed to shut out the people and poverty of the developing world, The Gateway can be seen as analogous to this isolationist technique, or a gated community, barring out the poverty that so often plagues inner cities.

The Predictably Ridiculous:
“Pas de replâtrage, la structure est pourrie.”
(“No replastering; the structure is rotten.”)

The Predictably Ridiculous refers to the fallacy of individuals believing aspects of a system can change while keeping the system intact. Inherent in the capitalist institution is what necessitates racism, sexism, homophobia, undue representation, classism, exclusion, intrusion, (etc.): profit.  Profit creates competition rather than cooperation, therefore capitalism relies on oppression to create hegemonic divisions which inevitably increase profit through hierarchies. The laissez-faire approach to economy on which capitalist society is based, or what is commonly known as “free market” and “free trade”, relies on the theory that private initiative and production are best when free from outside intervention. This leaves the burden of the law on the shoulders of those individuals with who an economic interaction is taking place, with the Capitalist theory that finances, economic justice, and inevitably, the community as a whole, are best left to their own devices. The capitalist consumer is plagued with the belief that “whoever has the most things when he dies, wins.” // Not only is profit unrestricted and ‘limitless’, but there is no necessity of accountability: corporations can pay foreign workers 18 cents an hour, dump waste into our oceans, or silence unions by assassinating union leaders and no one is held responsible.  At Ohio State University, intellectual academics offer classes and lectures, books and studies, in an effort, it seems, to assuage these crises by merely discussing them. What is disconcerting, however, is that The South Campus Gateway was a project endorsed, planned, and funded by the Ohio State University (OSU). The ridiculous and hypocritical aspect of the situation is that while OSU provides students with professors and course material to learn the aspects and results of how capitalism is harmful, the school is engaged in capitalist endeavors that have grown increasingly grandiose and excessive by the year10.  The diversity OSU purports to attain is that which they repress and hide; the sensitivity to issues and ethical concerns of capital and consumerism they declare to have is pathetic lip service.  The university’s political correctness (i.e. reactionary liberalism) acts to reassure the university that they are not contradicting their perceived ethical responsibilities while glossing over their inner, subconscious prejudices and paranoia at non-white, non-affluent society. // The Gateway is a symptom that exacerbates the problem of poverty and inequality in our city with its excessive display of capitalist aesthetics and ideology. The Gateway is Predictably Ridiculous (Prediculous) because to continue to allow these spaces to be created is humorous—it’s funny that we as a society have arrived at a state of conscious cognitive dissonance in order to avoid thinking on how to resolve these problems. Individuals don’t want to deal with the unbelievable amount of poverty that our hyper-consumerist society has led to, so they ignore it—or, as in the case of The South Campus Gateway, they uproot it and it merely relocates.

1 comment:

Lux said...

we're so didactic and pretentious.