Employee Entrances and Emergency Exits:
exposing the invisible imagery of consumer culture

David Michalski
University of California, Davis
michalski@ucdavis.edu

 
 





an exit camera


















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1. ) Entering the mall on a warm summer day in Sacramento California.
The entrance is clearly marked with text and architecture.














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2.) The sunrise mall consumer entrance is crowned.
Flowers and the Bank of America ATM guide shoppers inside.


 



 







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3.) Waldenbooks is open wide and balloons welcome the consumer.



















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4.) For the worker, however, Waldenbooks is right here,
 just beyond the grass embankment and shady pines.













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5.) An acutely angled sidewalk takes the
Waldenbooks employee into the shadows.





















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6.) Dumpsters and dark brown doors are Signs for the employee.








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7.) The staff entrance to Waldenbooks.








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8.) This picture of the mall at Arden Faire shows the how architectural details
are used to indicate restricted space within the consumer environment.










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9.) These emergency exits seen from outside are camouflaged, as are the pipes.
The brick color makes them seem impenetrable.





 


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10.) This employee entrance or deliver door contains a number, a security lock, a peephole and a buzzer. It can only
be opened from the inside. For the employees' convenience a bike rack has been built.












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11.) Stairway #6 at Arden Faire. The beige color blends the door with the wall,
but the fire engine red sign draws attention.






 




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12.) On the street, on the curb, and on the sign, we see actants written in the formal visual aesthetic
of municipal infrastructure. The white block on the parking garage door interferes with this system.
It indicates a place where an intervention was removed.










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13.) This employee entrance is done in a worker grey, and twice labeled.
The 'steelness' of the door, the peephole, the san serif font, and the red letters indicate authority
surveillance and security.








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14.) This delivery entrance is secured by both its camouflage and its mechanisms.
ADT is a security/alarm company.








 
 

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15. ) This door, while almost identical to the previous door, was located miles away.








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16.) This door is done in maintenance blue. An unauthorized poster or script was
removed from the left door.  The design of the door deflects the attention of  the consumer
but attracts the attention of others seeking to post messages.









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17.) Here also, in a space neither public nor private,
the door becomes a medium for contesting parties.







 

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18.) This door, with its neutral color and ambiguous functionality
communicated to someone that it might be a good place to use as a impromptu bathroom.
 





 


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18.) This brightly colored and decorated door nonetheless blends into the architecture.









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20.) The previous door is located to the right of the Tuxedo Den.









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21.) The purple color disguises, while the red line and yellow guards
draw attention to this attractive emergency exit.










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22.) Intercoms are frequent accouterments of the employee entrances.
They validate or invalidate users.










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23.) Emergency exits and fire safety equipment coexist and share aesthetic qualities
with the service worker infrastructure.










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 24.) The emergency equipment shows the building to be a organism of
networks.



 



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25.) emergency exit in brown







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26.) emergency exit in white







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27. ) Rather than hiding the these pipes, they are painted an aquamarine.










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28.) The large purple garage shelters and hides the beige HVAC unit inside.
This structure may also shield consumers from its noise.









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29.) Behind these portals, garbage dumpsters.








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30.) This door leads to a courtyard filled the support
apparatus for shopping center.







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31.) The ecosystem of the plaza is evident among the shrubbery.








 

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32.) Beige, or this "skintone" has become a signifier of neutrality.








 




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33.) This portal to the work environment is left open.








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34.) This heavily used door is market by the traffic passing in and out. 
Again the door is hidden by its color, yet the pylon protects it from being obstructed.











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35.) Inside the mall, employee entrances are also disguised.
The entrance is below the reflection of the red neon.










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36.) A public pay phone and a maintenance closet sit side by side.
The red, white, and blue bunting indicates security.







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37.) These visual signs are meant to signify an Italian village.











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38.) The wider angle brings in signs of corporate safety.















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39.) This upscale shopping plaza in Eldorado Hills
is landscaped to hide signs of the infrastructure.











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40.) The plaza becomes a piazza, conjuring romantic ideas of craftsmen.
 
 









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41.) The mark of 21st century global capitalism is hidden in its alleys.







 



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42.) The ancient stone yields to security steel (painted rustic brown).








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43.) At the edge of this "Italian village", marked by the utility gauge,
one finds the service entrances.










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44.) Employee entrances and air conditions are visible only from behind.
What from the front looked like communal workshop, (40)
is revealed as a bank of separately owned and operated businesses.











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45.) This electrical room and fire alarm panel is marked twice.
 







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46.) The font on this door is extraordinarily large.









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47. ) Herbert Muschamp in his "Office's Subconscious" (NYT 1/18/1998)
considers the mess to take over the function once performed by decoration. 







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48.) A decorative dumpster and a camouflaged electrical box.










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49.) The minimalist art of 1960's rehearsed this contemporary sculpture.






 



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50.) These two boxes, in dumpster blue, are actually offices.
Fifteen minutes before this photograph was exposed, the left box contained
a table, a chair,  and a man doing paperwork.









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51.) Here, dumpsters indicate the approach to employee space.










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52.) Break place with two chairs and cigarette butts.
The visual culture of this employee entrance has demarcated
a place beyond the gaze of the consumer.









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53.) A place where employees don't have to be "on".









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54.) Consumers and service workers are often the same people performing
different roles in accordance with different visual signs.








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