For those of us who have been hanging around Goldsmiths for a few years, it all looks pretty new and shiny after the summer break. Walking into RHB you can immediately tell what must still be in process out the front. The fenced off ex-car park can only be protecting some kind of reverse archeological excavation in which the university digs up its own brand-spanking neo-liberal future. It began, I suppose, when they dug the NAB up out of the putrescent layer of entrepreneurial crust just beneath the potential building site that management saw there. At first I thought it was a cinema complex with bowling alley attached. Strike! Closer inspection suggested to me that it must in fact be a children’s hospital, given the carcinogenically bright colours every other wall had been painted. Oddly, the children inside seemed more like 20 year olds and only appeared sickly due to the relative pallor of the complexions that they hopelessly tried to shield from the radioactive interior.
It wasn’t until the corridor on the left hand side of RHB turned cartoon vagina pink that I began to feel that these transformations warranted further investigation. It seemed as if, having instantiated itself on the backfield, the NAB was now radiating diabetes inducing ‘theme walls’ throughout the college. Soon after, the entrance of the RHB began to mutate, now resembling the banal fascism of a cut-price Mussolini drunk on bleach, then furnished with all the ‘fun’ of a rich kid’s rumpus room. Bright coloured ‘designer’ chairs = creativity. Who needs coercion when white paint and the teen section of a commercial furniture catalogue can create eternal candy coloured sterility. The library was next to succumb to the pantone™ intestinal pathogen. In response to student requests for longer opening hours, more computers and more books, we got what we had always misunderstood that we actually wanted: a café, selling overpriced sustenance approximations, and one that had seemingly vomited out a whole floor of ‘creative hubs’ in the only nerve-wracked colours our austere future could afford to imagine.
I don’t want to sound petty or unappreciative. I think those Dyson hand-hurricane things in the toilets are fucking great. But it seems to me there is a sinister logic at work in the managerial preference for cosmetic surgery and muzaked, prozacked, botoxed interiors. You have to smile. Given that every department not yet shut down is supposed to be under the whip of the profit motive as we all tighten our belts to thrive in the new (lack of) funding regime, it seems odd that so much is being spent on painting the shell while all else is left to rot. We don’t have to look far to see that managerial logic is at least consistent with itself, much like a partially digested carrot is also part of a pile of sick.
To make up the funding gap university managers have followed in the footsteps of their trailblazing comrades in the US. Universities in the UK have started issuing public bonds that they then have to pay back with interest. The problem – if you want to call it that, I’ve looked at this retina scorching yellow wall from this lime green beanbag for so long all I hallucinate is opportunities – is that based on your rating from companies like Standard & Poor’s your payments increase if your perceived inability to repay the bonds decreases. The same brilliant sort of set-up that has led to Greece’s golden dawn of Sisyphean economic servitude. The university then becomes beholden to the rating agency who can recommend streamlining and selling-off everything under the sun in order to placate the invisible hand of the risk rating roulette wheel. There is one thing that rating agencies do like universities spending their money on, though. Yep, big shiny fuck-off new buildings plastered in infantilizing colours that reflect only the luminous libidinal energies of the market.