Published in Paulette Singley and Jamie Horowitz, eds. Eating Architecture (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2004).
Konsumterror is a concept coined by Ulrike Meinhof in defense of the Red Army Faction’s use of terrorism. For Meinhof, the real terror is late capitalism’s constant demand that we always consume more.
Pac-Man demonstrates the relentless logic of Konsumterror. Like the late-capitalist subject, Pac-Man feels no hunger but can’t stop consuming. Pac-Man opens and closes his mouth insipidly, eating everything in his path. Everything tastes the same for him; his mouth is his only organ. The point of Pac-Man is to consume enough that the game never ends.
Urban Konsumterror is a critique of the condition of architecture in the contemporary city. The use of signature architecture to draw in tourist dollars is nothing more than a game of architectural Pac-Man. Signature architecture begins by consuming the museum: in order to build more and more, funds for exhibits or even routine maintenance are cannibalized. When buildings fall apart as a result, they can be torn down and new ones can be built. Cities also become consumed. When you say “Bilbao,” you refer to a building by Frank Gehry. The city’s identity no longer matters. All imaginative and financial capacity for real urban interventions is consumed by signature architecture.
Konsumterror creates a perpetual crisis both for the individual and for architecture: like Pac-Man, the game can end only when you lose. You can play again, but you will lose again. Eventually you run out of quarters or get bored and give up.