The Automat, an architectural/gastronomical site of barrier fetishism

Wikipedia says that one of the main attractors of rubber fetishism is ” …perhaps that the garment forms a “second skin” that acts as a fetishistic surrogate for the wearer’s own skin. ”

This has many parallels and relations to technoculture and the myriad forms of mediation that it provides.

The Automat is a particularly fascinating materialization of this behavioral pattern, because it claims to serve “BAMN! provides American comfort food that just makes you happy.” The food is not prepared automatically, its made by a chef directly behind the little glass boxes containing the food. But it provides a sterile skin in between the consumer and the restauranteur, and allows us to engage in a dance of technically mediated food obtaining. It exists solely for the facilitation of said ritual.

I was going to observe interactions at the Bamn! Automat on St.Marks place, but to my great disappointment, apparently it has been out of business since March 2009. I have partook in it’s ritual for the two years that it was on St.Marks however, and so will write up this blog post from memory.

People come up to the Automat at all hours of the night drunkenly dropping quarters in its eagerly awaiting, ever ready gapping little change collectors.
They always seem to be happily surprised to receive their food. It’s like a little game, a little dare, drop your change in the hole, push the button, will you get the corn dog?

It has happy blinky lights, a seemingly mechanical interface and the promise of fresh food on the other end. It’s an arcade like interaction between consumer and producer.

There are clear borders, consumers on one side, a wall of glass bricks with doors full of food, and the producer on the other side. We don’t even see them. Our money goes directly to the machine of the institution, the architecture. Everything is divorced and clean cut. It’s safe in a way, no pressure to behave in a sociable manner, we each have our boxes, and in our boxes we are free.

The most shocking moment I had at the Automat, was one night, in between parties, when a giddy group and I stopped there for a snack on the way. As sounds of chatter and lights of the arcade like place blurred and whizzed around my consciousness, I turned away from the warm faces of my friends to get a croquette. I happened to have turned into a nose to glass position with the croquette box, and at that precise moment, a giant (out of scale with it’s environment), unmistakably human, hand popped into the enclosure, placed a croquette there, and promptly removed itself.

There are some nice images from the movie dark city of the hand in the automat. The whole scene that is comes from is worth watching, as it is using the spacial politics of the automat to expose the feelings of urban instability and metaphysical instability of the main character.

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It was like a moment of experiencing the sublime, or the uncanny, or realizing you are having a lucid dream. It upset my entire world to see that hand, it implied organic relationships I was totally not ready to accept as reality at that moment.

The Automat creates a beautiful, organized technologically controlled world, that not only provides an environment that harkens to arcades and caissoes, but also rewards you for playing, with home cooking.


The Croquette:

October 26, 2009 | | Tags: , , , , ,

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