"And as society is made up not only of men, but also of things and events, we perceive how sacrifice can follow and at the same time reproduce the rhythms of human life and of nature; how it has been able to become both periodical by the use of natural phenomena, and occasional, as are the momentary needs of men, and in short to adapt itself to a thousand purposes."592
When Hubert and Mauss originally published their study on sacrifice in 1898, they did not perhaps consider applying it to the seasonal sale. Although it may well be only one of its countless purposes, the seasonal sale is an important festival today. When Evans-Prichard edited the study in English in 1964, he pointed out in his foreword that the findings have "general application to all sacrificial acts - or at any rate all blood sacrifices - everywhere and at all times"593 Is the seasonal sale a "blood sacrifice"? In ancient Greece, animal sacrifice was the most important basic rite for more elaborate festivals beside
591 Nietzsche (2000:50).
592 Hubert/Mauss (1981:103).
593 Evans-Prichard (1981:viii)
the procession.594 If Barthes is right in his assumption about the ancient Greek myth of the god Dionysus who resurrects from the darkness of old time, in the context of the change of fashion, then perhaps a sacrifice is also involved in the fashion festival. Hubert and Mauss addressed the myth of Dionysus in a chapter dealing with a special case of the sacrificial system, of the sacrifice of the god. Based on Frazer's idea that the agrarian sacrifice is closely connected to the sacrifice of the god, Hubert and Mauss showed how this form of sacrifice is linked to the very mechanisms of sacrifice. The first step involves finding a victim who represents the sacrifier.595 In an agrarian sacrifice, the sacrifier is the field. The victim has to be in close relationship with the sacrifier. The incarnations of the life of the corn and the wine are the bull and the goat of Dionysus.596 The victim in the agrarian sacrifice always symbolically represents the fields and their products. The next step is to sacrifice the victim. After the communion, the god resurrects, and this gives new power to the fields and their fruits.597 In the case of the sacrifice of the god, the victim and the god sacrificed are a homogeneous unity. If we apply this mechanism to fashion, then we have to imagine that the sacrifier is fashion instead of the field. This is not so difficult as there are also many fruits (brands, styles...), and there is a parallel to the seasons as well. We will, for the time being, not change the name of the god in adherence to Barthes' concept. Thus, the sacrifier is fashion and the god is Dionysus. For the next step, we need a victim who stands in relation to the sacrifier. Going by our observations during the seasonal sale, let us assume that this is the seasonal collection. Although it is still linked to fashion, the relation is already weakened because it will be going to be out of fashion very soon. We have found several indications of the "symbolic death" of the past fashion during the dramatisation of the seasonal sale. The seasonal sale has the character of what Baudrillard described as a "collective theatre of death" 598 The haute couture collection and the mass-market garment are all equal in the face of death (the seasonal sale). It is a collective exchange of the symbolic death in a commonly shared festival celebrated in the shopping streets of the city. In his Flesh and Stone, Richard Sennett examined two ancient Greek festivals
594 Bremmer (1999:39).
595 The sacrifier is the subject to whom the benefits of the sacrifice accrue. See Hubert/Mauss (1981:10)
596 Hubert/Mauss (1981:79).
598 Baudrillard (2004:146)
Death of and their effect on the city.599 The rituals were performed in close interaction with a spatial setting in the city. This dramatisation helped in supporting the experience of ritual practice.
"Ritual meaning is thus based on the interaction of the ritualised body with conventions inscribed within the social body. Such interaction implies a place in space and time, or architecture."600
The seasonal sale dramatically changes the appearance of shopping streets. What was once beautiful is now ugly, what was expensive now costs only half for a certain period of time. Sennett points out in his analysis of the Adonia that women shaped a certain environment where they created meaning within the context of the city in an interaction between body motion and architectural space. He compared this performance with poetry and the use of the metaphor. The metaphor combines different words into a new word, whereas the new meaning is detached from the individual meanings of the words used. Sennett explains "metaphorical space" by using the example of Adonia:
"In the ritual of the Adonia, space made the metaphor work. Normally, fertility and childbearing legitimated women's sexuality. That a person should feel free while on a roof in July at night surrounded by dead plants to speak to strangers about her intimate desires is a bit odd; to combine these unlikely elements together was metaphor's spatial power. A 'space of metaphor' refers, in a ritual, to a place in which people can join unlike elements."601
For a certain duration of time, the order of the city is invalidated. The myth replaces the logos. The storyteller is no longer responsible for his words because he is just retelling something he has only heard. This creates trust in a climate of distrust. The shiny façade is transformed into darkness.
"The spaces of rituals created magic zones of mutual affirmation. And all these powers of mythos affected the celebrating body,
599 Sennett (1996)
600 Jormakka (1995:22)
601 Sennett (1996:79).
endowing it with new value. In ritual, words are consummated by bodily gestures: dancing, crouching, or drinking together become signs of mutual trust, deeply bonding acts. Ritual threw a cloak of darkness over the suspicions individuals might have harboured of one and another in the ancient city, quite unlike the mixture of admiration and suspicion elicited by naked display."602
Ancient Athenians created parallel contrasts of warm and cold bodies, naked men and dressed women, luminous spaces under the sky and darkened rooms in a cave, or on the roof of a house. The modern city also acquires such contrasts through the seasonal sale. During the sales, normally full windows are empty, windows which usually display only a few pieces are full of stock, the transparency for the visibility of the merchandise is blocked by paper, subtle colours are replaced by striking reds, small price tags are now big, and so on. And the extremely emotionalised bargain hunters dig into piles of reduced ware. In cultural studies, this combination of event and space is called "topos" Mieke Bal describes the interaction of space and event as follows:
"Relations between the various elements on the story level arise because of the way in which they are combined and presented. The relations between space and event become clear if we think of well known, stereotypical combinations: declarations of love by moonlight on a balcony, high-flown reveries on a mountain-top, a rendezvous in an inn, ghostly appearances among ruins, brawls in cafés. In medieval literature, love-scenes frequently take place in a special space, appropriate to the occasion, the so-called locus amoenus, consisting of a meadow, a tree, and a running stream. Such a fixed combination is called a topos."603
The topos of the seasonal sale can be best described as the occurrence of the ugly, the Dionysian. The ugly is the metaphorical space for all activities. The topography of the ritual shapes the sense of the ritual. Decoration, costumes, uniforms, music, fetishes, insignias, all these elements are part of the ritual topography. Together with the performative presentation appears the ritual. The materiality of space and symbolic action are in close
602 Sennett (1996:82)
Death of relationship,604 the ritual space being a performative space where normal behaviour is turned upside down. Ritual space is oriented towards basic human emotions, such as pain and pleasure, danger and safety, welfare and misery.605 The seasonal sale window creates the topos for the death of the seasonal sale collection, and the window display is a threshold in urban space.606 Rituals have a long tradition in all cultures, being transformable into threshold spaces, especially on the threshold of the imagined world and the real world. Having described the topos, we now come to the sacrificial act. How has the blood sacrifice changed in consumer society? Consumer society is defined by its relation to consumption and not by previous relations such as religion or agriculture. There is a power relation between production and consumption. Social power relations create social tensions and, in order to make the power relations stable, rituals have been a way of articulating such tensions since the beginning of humankind:
"Every domination must be bought back, redeemed. This was formerly done through sacrificial death (feasts and other social rites: but these are still forms of sacrifice)."607
While Baudrillard further develops this idea in relation to the power of capital and the simulation of power compensation, Sennett puts the question into a different perspective and asks why modern capitalism has not developed rituals of asymmetry:
"When ritual binds people together, Bourdieu more largely observed, it does so by allowing them to 'mutate' material fact into some expressive gesture which can be shared - and sustained. An economic exchange is a short transaction - the new institutional forms of capitalism are particularly short-term. By contrast, a ritual exchange, particularly of this asymmetric sort, creates a more prolonged relationship [...] why doesn't modern capitalism generate them [as well]?" 608
According to Sennett the reason is that capitalism is based
604 There is a lack of discussion on how architecture or design can develop the quality of a topos in order to raise an associated action. Schuh (2003:193) points out this relationship, but she does not respond to it in her book on the relation of festivals and architecture.
605 Wiedenmann (1991:16). An interpretation of the performative space in performance studies is provided by Fischer-Lichte (2004:187).
606 Sykora (2002:131)
607 Baudrillard (2004:42)
608 Sennett (2003:220-221).
on the symmetry of exchange within a short time. Rituals of asymmetry emphasise the difference and they appear regularly.609 The seasonal sale (with its Dionysian cult background) can be interpreted as such an asymmetrical ritual. It is the sacrifice of the god (fashion) in the form of the seasonal collection. The sacrificial act involves several people. Fashion magazines not only play a passive role in tabooing the old collection but also an active one in sacrificing the victim:
"DELETE SILVER/KEEP GOLD
Silver and gold are always in battle as the currency of choice but the time has come to throw away the fairer shade."610
This command to kill the old collection is directed at the customer who has already bought it at the beginning of the season, but it is also an oracle which retailers should heed in order to choose the right victim. As in any blood sacrifice, the solemn moment of cutting the price is very brief. What follows is a phase described by Baudrillard as the "obscene phase":
"It is then, before drying out and taking on the beauty of death, that the body passes through a truly obscene phase and must at all costs be conjured and exorcized, for it no longer represents anything, no longer has a name, and its unnamable contaminaion invades everything."611
And the fashion collection is far from the beauty of death, which will bring it back in several years. So, the fashion windows are enveiled in something like a covering for a corpse. Another significant practice is the removal of decorative elements. This practice is also known from several passage rites.612 A journal from 1956 for window decorators does not tell us why, but how. In those days the last three days of the sale were highlighted in a special way:
"The three days for the sale of remainders at the end of a clearance sale should not be forgotten.The few illustrations will do.The goods predominate, there is no cause for extraordinary decoration."613
609 Sennett (2003:209-210) describes an annual ritual between an aristocratic lady and her servants as an example of a ritual in which social asymmetry is made stable through reciprocal respect.
610 Quick (2004:97).
611 Baudrillard (1990:57)
612 Gennep (1960:130).
613 Anonymous (1956:312)*
The nameless fashion is naked, and without decoration. And the shop itself seems to be dead. The way the shops cover their show windows reminds us of the way abandoned shops are treated. Everybody is invited to the common meal, even the slaves.614
<• The people gather in front of the sacrificial place, some of them have been waiting there for a long time so that they are the first to enter. Musicians are playing music. Two men guard the door. The next act is the ceremonial opening of the doors. The people are now pushing and shoving their way in.615
Inside, the orgy is in full swing. Furious bargain hunters are tearing apart the body of the victim with their bare hands. We have reached the phase of communion.616
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