It starts with the rhythm of 80s pop: a shiny soundtrack of energised hits to match the consumerist glitz around us. We are in a Glasgow shopping centre – the location kept secret so as not to upset the high priests of this temple of Mammon – where we have arrived in teams of three and been given headphones. The cheery beat of drivetime radio sets our pace as we trot past boutiques and toy shops, listening to a reassuring voice pointing out the sleek surfaces, the permanent brightness and the lack of clocks in this materialist casino.
Our mission is to find the ghosts that lurk behind the sparkling façade. But despite the game format, this is no spooky Most Haunted rip-off. Rather, the spectres that dwell just out of sight are the world’s exploited, who make all this commerce possible.
We split up to browse the clothes rails, indistinguishable from the regular shoppers except for the way we keep stopping to update our teammates. We tell them what we have learned about conditions for cotton workers, undisclosed perfume ingredients and children’s gender stereotyping. Thanks to ZU-UK’s whizzy technology, our phones relay recordings and images taken by our team elsewhere in the arcade.
Of course, most of us don’t need writer-director Persis Jadé Maravala to tell us of the ills of the capitalist system, but there is something audacious, subversive even, about being reminded of them here, at the very shelf-face of consumerism. Radio Ghost makes the familiar strange. The more so as the beat slows – and slows some more. We slacken our pace, relax our shoulders and come to a standstill. It feels like an act of resistance.
July 17, 2022 at 10:27PM Mark Fisher