Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

In my personal version of hell, there would be malls.

Erghh. The climate-controlled, suburban American sprawling consumer wasteland that has come to supplant public and community spaces of the past in the interest of consumerism. No fresh air. Teenagers wandering around for hours on end chatting (loudly) on glittery pink cellphones. Middle-aged ladies pumping their arms in mid-power-walk wearing white sneakers and matching capri-cardigan sets. Young mothers aimlessly pushing screaming babies in strollers. The same Bath & Body Works, Victoria's Secret, J. Crew, Abercrombie, and Pottery Barn you can find anywhere from Boise to Boston. Bad muzak. Worse food. Fluorescent lighting. And did I mention no fresh air??

That's not news to you; I've mentioned this before in relation to Carolyn Merchant and her work on commodification and nature (which you still need to read if you haven't yet picked her up). But did you see this article in Salon over the weekend? This couple - a scholar and an artist - decided to squat in a mall in Providence, Rhode Island, and they managed to do so, on and off, for some four years.

The two strike me as silly and serious at once; check out some of their quotes for bizarre and subversive thoughts on malls, public space, and performance art. I love the fact that, after being sold this aspirational lifestyle that we so often see in Pottery Barn and IKEA and Williams-Sonoma glossies, they twisted the "demands to hyperstylize" by building an ironic version of that lifestyle right within the very walls of the mall.

This is the kind of art that makes me grin. Relevant, whimsical, serious, subversive, defiant, with a definite social agenda, while at the same time the artist lampoons himself in the process of creating it. I'm flying to Minneapolis this weekend, and I will most definitely not be spending any time even close to the Mall of America, but I didn't realize that we also have some Minnesotan dude to thank for creating the modern public consumeristic gathering place that is the mall. Mr. 1952 Edina, um, thanks fer nothing.

The Couple Who Lived in a Mall (Salon)


Popular Posts