Window Licking / Cinematic Shopping
The French expression for window shopping, le lèche-vitrine, literally translates into English as ‘window licking.’ Such intimate interaction with the shop window is reminiscent of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and his “illusion window”.
In his treatise on window display, The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors, Baum recommended that stores should have live models in their shop windows, seductive temptresses adorned with the garments of the season, appearing and disappearing behind a screen.
All are invited to participate in this cinematic spectacle. The consumer gaze transfixes on this peep show. Look but don’t touch. Consumer lust crystallises a longing that can only be quenched by the act of purchase.
Nineteenth century filmic shop windows gradually stopped in their frames, as live models were replaced by static objects. In this cyclical world of fashion, interactive shop facades are once again in vogue. This time, it’s thanks to technological advancement. Touch me, move in front of me and I will respond. This modern day window of commerce is an interface that mimics the cinema screen. In The Malling of America, William Kowinski declared, ‘The mall is a theatre’. People flock here to be part of the show.
Architectural space encourages the promenade and is regarded as a series of sequences rather than compositions of a set of images. Moving within a covered centre of commerce is almost like being in your own film, where shop speakers provide the soundtrack to our lives.
We’re in the shopping mall, Kansas City. Generic scandi-pop is playing so loud it can’t be described as in the background. Everything is black and white. The buds of our tongues touch the tasteless glass of the shop window. Inside the mall but outside the shop, we are in a threshold, a space in-between. We can see the stage; the shop windows. They demand that we stare, and we are willing. The ecstasy of promised consumption takes hold. We have been drugged. We gurn to the rhythm of the uppers - transfixed on what lies behind the glass.
Until we’ve passed the threshold and immersed ourselves behind the transparent yet solid surface, the goods are inaccessible; our desires unsated. We’re beyond the screen now. A rainbow hits our retinas. Colour gushes, bleeding out on the canvas.
Dorothy has arrived in Munchkin Land - and so have we.