How much did you pay today for a bit of Nothing?
Would you believe me if I told you that you spend big part of your money on “Nothing”?
That is to say we pay for “Nothing”, for “Emptiness”.
Which percentage of your spending goes into financing “Emptiness”?. No one knows it, yet
what we do know is that the value of Emptiness is on the rise.
Since some time ago the market has been integrating a current valuable good into its shop
window: Emptiness, that is, Nothing. Of course this Emptiness is embodied in different
communications, products, etc. Clearly, it spreads out in so different ways that sometimes
we do not even perceive we are looking for that: Emptiness. Emptiness, as it appears in its
different uses, effects and experiences.
I invite you to go on a tour around different ways of consuming Emptiness. Take your
calculator and add up what you are really paying for. Have a good trip!
To David Bowie for his inspiring song “Space Oddity”
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1. To experience empty space
Need of space. In the late 80s this was already emerging from the household and
The experience of space was beginning to quote. Lack of room? Pull down the
walls! The Loft had emerged.
And this phenomenon kept on increasing, developing,continuously intensifying and
permeating into several activities and ways of experiencing emptiness. For
A. To experience empty space: Cool Emptiness
Clothing stores have begun to reinvent themselves as concept stores. Nike and
Adidas are the prime referents of this. Wide stores with tidily arranged products
inside and a big portion of the room used just for one purpose: to be void space.
Entering the store to feel the emptiness, to experience the empty space.
The architectural model to follow is neither more the shop nor the market, but the
The art gallery: 90 % of emptiness for the remaining 10 %, where works of art are
placed, to highlight, to enhance it.
The space distribution and lighting in a concept store (modern boutique) is similar
to that of the art gallery. The use and sense of the empty space have exactly
the same purpose: to allow the spectator-client to circulate, to approach, to move
away from the art/product, to see it from different angles and perspectives.
The empty space experience enables that: it is the sneaker as a work of art, the
sports bag as a modern sculpture.
This is part of the experience of consuming in these boutiques: feeling the space.
Visual hygiene situation, comfort and artistic perception of the environment. And
this, of course, justifies the price.
B. To experience empty space: sophisticated expensive Emptiness
Have you ever been to a hip restaurant and spent $50 for a dish where the food
took up about a quarter of the surface? If you did it, let me suggest you the next
calculation: you have paid $12.5 for the food and $37.5 for your dish 75% to be
empty. You have not just paid for this emptiness but even visually and mentally
savoured it. You have experienced it. You have paid for that experience and for the
things it represented.
In a world so crammed with
objects, messages, shapes, as
we said, the emptiness is
appraised and it also represents
us ideologically. In gastronomy,
emptiness symbolizes modern
glamour and is a telltale sign for
In the past it was exactly the other way around. The symbol of wealth was
Abundance. You must remember the movies or paintings where the center of the
table was some tray full of fruits and exuberant vegetables, round crunchy bread
and huge turkeys for dinner as an emblem for the rich bourgeoisie. Nowadays the
symbol of wealth is exactly the opposite. Not abundance but shortage: that 75%
from the empty dish.
One of the effects produced is similar to that of the concept stores: it transforms
the architectonic form of the dish into an art gallery. A small scale art gallery on
your table. Of course there is no food any more, but works of art. There are styles
in art (impressionism, expressionism) and so in gourmet: French, Japanese, Thai
food. And if it is art what we are talking about, gourmet will not be made by a cook
but by an artist, an author: that is to say, this food shall now be called author’s
Anorexic dishes. Food now becomes aesthetic. It is not so much about the actual
eating but the value of the gastronomic work of art.
And all of this is just the result of transforming a dish into an art gallery by
incorporating an essential element into its architecture: emptiness.
Loft-planes promising space experience?
Cars without internal divisions, just as lofts?
The expansion of emptiness as a merchandise has two main causes.
1. Firstly, the ideology of our times is the lack of major ideologies.
The Great Truths have been relativized and even truth itself
became relative. The same for religions: they have lost its sense,
they have been emptied out. The Berlin Wall has vanished and
the great political ideals which were followed by whole
generations during the 60’s and 70’s began their decline, leaving
a big void. The ideology of the non-ideology: ideology of
2. On the other hand, mass media, consumer market and advertising
development has generated something we have already heard of:
visual contamination. The typical New Yorker is exposed to more than
20 000 logos a day. Each visual angle of the city contains innumerable
brands, colors, shapes, etc. It is impossible to take a
step without being surrounded by advertisements,
posters, etc. Newspapers flood us with designs,
photos, ads, slogans. That, not to mention TV:
commercials, non traditional advertising. E-mail
accounts are full of spam, to surf on the web means
dodging and closing incoming pop ups. Contaminated
World. Spam World.
A basic law of market is that shortage determines value. Will it be easier now
to understand how emptiness, nothing, begins to quote in a spam world
where the one thing that keeps running short is just that, emptiness, void?
What happens if we also take into account that the same lack of emptiness
represents the very ideology of these times?
Evidently visual contamination and lack of ideologies are two sides of the
same coin, the very coin used to buy and pay for the emptiness. Need of
2. Emptiness and body: SPA World vs. SPAM World
A. SPA World
One of the expressions of Emptiness in relation with the
body is the whole Spa universe. SPA world against
SPAM World and the ideological emptiness translated
into a New Age pseudo-ideology (the cosmic, the
immaterial, the energetic, and the mysticism).
SPA as empty, visually eco-friendly spaces. Water is
one of the SPA world emblematic elements. Water as
the SPA World’s key element is the symbol of the
healthy nature of transparency. The idea of water as
origin of Life, watering nature and expressing its purity.
Spring water myth and the spring of the eternal youth.
Therefore, two elements integrate all the SPA world experience: Air (empty
spaces) and Water (emptiness in liquid state). The SPA promise is based on these
two symbols: Purification (pure water), Oxygenation (air) and Revitalization (breath
and water-irrigation/spring of youth).
Emptiness is appreciated for its shortage in a polluted world and is an ideological
sign of our times.
The SPA keeps this value perfectly: to cleanse the body of dirt and illness.
You can transfer the SPA speech to any objects within the market: from spa stores
like Marta Harff’ s to Lux soap and its transparent packs.
There are thousands of examples. Think for a minute.... All of them come from two
different expressions of emptiness: that is to say two elements that communicate
the Emptiness: Air and Water and all their myths.
SPA World: the ZEN
One of the SPA world main ingredients and its more clearly cultural referent is
the ZEN, the Japanese. The Japanese culture has worshiped the Emptiness
almost religiously for ages. Architecture of the Emptiness: empty rooms without
pieces of furniture, not even chairs. The bonsai is the emblem of the concern
about the control of occupied space
and worship of the Emptiness. The
tree must take up a tenth of its real
size to give room to the emptiness. At
the same time it reflects the idea of
Meditation: the worship of emptiness
transfers to the mind. To meditate: to
empty the mind, to make the mind go
In this sense, the Japanese, with the Zen as its cool version, is an emblematic
symbol of this entire tendency.
The Zen World as a variation of the SPA World.
SPA World: STRESS
Certainly, not everything is about the body. The need of SPA World
is a direct consequence of the effect produced on people by the
SPAMMED mind. Excess of information. Not being able to think because of too
much thinking. Googlelism (digital syndrome in these times: free access to
endless information misinforms us).
Excess of reasoning. Not being able to think for thinking all the time. Mental
exhaustion. We’ve had enough. Let’s consume SPA World! Blank mind. Think
about Nothing. Consume SPA World.
The SPA World is one of the key patterns of consumption. Think of an
example and you will see there are many others. The SPA World spreads out
in all kind of areas, fields, goods, communications, etc. From the SPA Food
(Wellness) to the SPA Home (Moderno Bazar) and SPA technology (Hi-
Think for a minute, write down your own examples...
Other aspects about the relation between Body and Emptiness:
B. The beauty of Emptiness
As we said, the SPA world is just one way in which the relation between body and
emptiness materializes. However, it can also take other shapes and meanings and
become Obsession and stereotype of beauty in our times. Obsession with
Emptiness. It takes the concept of health to the extremes, until it breaks and
Obsession, anxiety about the emptiness, put the emptiness into the body for the
body to take up less space and to be more empty space.
Bonsai bodies: ANOREXIA.
THE VALUE OF EMPTINESS
TO EXPERIENCE PARADIGM
We must take into account that the arrows of the previous table have a two-way
orientation. This is because these kind of processes are not determined unilaterally
but nourish each other, erasing threads of cause and consequence in a dialectic
A complex where all is cause and effect at the same time. A cultural, dynamic
network, always open to changes.
It is difficult to draw conclusions from something that has no end. The most
accurate conclusion we can establish is that “this is just the beginning”. If we
consider the main factors as non-ideologies or SPA world full of information, or the
Soft-Worlds paradigm, we should accept that this questions have just recently
emerged, and that as time goes by they will grow eper and deeper, and thus the
need of Emptiness will increase at accelerated pace.
To experience emptiness in a concept-store, a sushi dish, the SPA universe and all
its derivatives, soap, hi-tech, anorexia applied to all things, a new bland world, are
some of the expressions of the need of Emptiness. This will proliferate; the market
will continue to bid array of offers , generating more emptiness innovations, new
shapes and aesthetics of consuming emptiness.
Methodology and final notes
This work is an approach to one of the most important cultures of consumption of
This methodology has neither a quantitative base nor a qualitative one.
It uses semiotic, philosophic and cultural analysis skills in an interdisciplinary and
The development process consisted on:
1. We identified a SOCIAL VALUE: THE IDEA OF EMPTINESS
2. We traced which were its ideological and contextual CAUSES:
NON- IDEOLOGIES AND SPAM WORLD
3. We observed the CONSEQUENCES of this VALUE: SPA WORLD & TO
EXPERIENCE EMPTY SPACE
Thomp_scope JWTA’ s premise is to find relations among phenomena that at first
glance seem to have nothing in common. By this way we aim to observe reality in
a creative way.
What validates the analysis is the experience itself: the “That’ s right!” effect.
Let’s take into account that this analysis belongs to a creative chain within JWTA,
which is directed not to get a statistical analysis of reality but a creative approach
which can provide stimulus and insights to Strategic Planning and the Creatives.
The clients have also been involved in the creative chain, being able to think new
ideas of products and communications originated in the report.